When I began training in the Chinese arts many years ago I learned many forms but when it was time to spar whether it was with or without protective gear, the forms went out the window and the participants resorted to a form of kickboxing. For years I wondered what the point was in learning forms if while fighting, the forms had no bearing on the fight. Likewise, when we train eskrima for years and learn drill after drill, why is it that when it comes time to spar, the participants throw everything out the window regarding their style of eskrima?
The way I see it is like this many school have lots of drills and drills are good for teaching you certain skills. But where is see the bridge not built for many schools is using Subrada. Subrada is supposed to bridge the gap between drills and sparring, or at least that's the way I was taught. I have been to schools and seen them teach Subrada like any other drill. You can to go from drills to the control chaos of sparring without a bridge. Anyway these tare my thoughts based upon my experience.
I absolutely agree. It's just like the hubad drill, many schools use the drill and do it well but for many, the drill leads nowhere. The connection is tied to isolated techniques but during sparring the movements are not seen. I know teachers that have put on community demonstrations doing sambrada drills with swords, swords and daggers, solo and doble' baston. They show it because it's safe and it looks like fighting to folks that know nothing about the art. It reminds me of a recent interview I saw with Guro Inosanto where he explained that when he demonstrated sparring with Bruce Lee, Bruce didn't rehearse any routines, he said just throw kicks and punches and I'll respond. That's what I do when I demonstrate eskrima or silat, I have my students attack randomly and they try their best to hit me. It's my job to defend and counter effectively. I succeed because I my drills bridge the gap to sparring or fighting. If I can't figure out a way to connect a drill to fighting I put it aside until I can make connect it. In some cases the drills stay in the closet.
I support the sport FMA community and if it were bigger in my area I'd probably participate. That being said the WEKAF style highly padded sparring is not for me. Especially the flexible padded sticks, I find they make it very difficult to execute and effective block when your own weapon flexes and crumples against another. I prefer a sparring format that more closely resembles how I'd fight in reality if I didn't have pads. I do think having a highly padded opponent can offer some benefit. Mainly to prepare for a street fight. An unskilled opponent will most likely rush you with "guns blazing" throwing all they've got. You can't guarantee that your strikes will stop them. If you have a highly padded opponent come at you, you have to work on your evasion, footwork, and other attributes in addition to striking with precision to make your hits count. On the other hand, a more knowledgeable opponent will be more calculated in attack and won't rush in, this is where we enter the duel scenario of unpadded or more lightly padded sparring. I think both methods offer their benefits. I prefer less padding. I have a friend in another state who does do the tournament sparring. He says in a tournament format his goal is to get the first hits hard and fast, what happens after is of less importance because in reality if the opponent were not padded he'd have be on the ground. Of course, one can't assume you'll always be able to hit first but I see where's he's coming from.
As for drills? I like the comments mentioned so far and I agree. Some people get obsessed with drills and aim to become drill masters. When it comes to individual drills, it seems some miss the point. It is important to aim for perfection when training but in reality not everything will be perfect and you have to adapt and move on. Some groups frown on sparring and only do drills, that's fine it depends on the groups goal in training. But you can't decry the values of sparring just because you don't want to spar. If you don't spar all you have is speculation. You assume how you'll behave in a fight but you don't know unless you spar. Even the severely padded WEKAF guys are ahead of the ones who don't spar in my book.
I think your sparring should resemble your training. I'd like to think that if you watch a sparring video of mine you can identify my system if you're familiar with it. If you can't demonstrate technique while sparring you should take off some steam and focus, you have to start somewhere. It seems a lot of drills don't adequately prepare the practitioner for sparring and this is why it all goes out the window when the pressure gets turned up. Prescribed patterns should transition to more random drills. A real fight is random and randomized training is a good way to get closer to reality.
Good stuff sir!