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I thought a good topic of discussion would be sparring

when you spar

  • what equipment do you use?
  • what safety rules do you use ?
  • how soon will you let someone spar?
  • what level of contact ?
  • how important is sparring to you ? 

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let me be first

What equipment

It will depend on the type of sparring and the level of intensity light contact ( empty hand ) might just be a pair of gloves

heavy sparring empty hand kickboxing 16oz boxing gloves , headgear , shinpads , cup + mouthpiece

for Vale Tudo type sparing lighter gloves , headgear with face protection come into play

Sticks if I use hard stick I'll wear a body protector , headgear and shin protection

padded sticks I won't always wear body protection and shin pads but will allow takedowns and ground work to come into play

the rules for sparring change based on the goals and the experience of the players as well as the level of contact as a rule of thumb I feel it's ok at times to feel a little pain in sparring but I don't want injuries ( most people have to go to work the next day )

Sparring is important as long as it's productive and a learning experience the phrase I heard from a buddy is " it shouldn't look like a couple of kids fighting under a blanket "


 1. For padded stick sparring we use macho sparring headgear/cage, gloves knee/elbow pads. we make our own sparring sticks 1 inch rattan pool foam with a ripstop cover.

For live stick we have the traditional wekaf/doce pares gear.

for Salitikan no armor (3/8 inch stick) helmet, glove , knee & elbow pad

2. we go by whatever organization rules that are being enforced.

3. usually after a couple of months they are ready to spar.

4. everything should be full contact...with enough protection & supervision to prevent injury.

5. It is a very important part of our curriculum...everybody fights. all instructors down to beginner students.

We do both padded weapon with headgear and real sticks with fencing mask at my school.  Our focus is self defense so sparring is not too important.


In bakbakan international, sparring is a key part of how we train and we start from day 1 in order to get used to learning techniques first, and then applying them under pressure in the same day. For single/double sword, the essentials are headgear (in Canada hockey helmets with face cage are the preferred choice), cup, and hockey gloves. Elbow/knee pads are optional.For knife fighting, a cup and eye protection (safety goggles). For empty hands, the usual cup, gloves, shin guards, mouthpiece, and maybe sparring helmet.

We prefer minimal equipment to keep a good amount of pain and stress to the situation, but at the same time, as you mentioned so eloquently, "most people have to go to work the next day".


I suppose sparring lies on a continuum, where one extreme involves using a LOT of padding, helmets, etc, and having it very sports-like, whereas the other extreme is essentially just fighting with sticks with no protection with bad intentions. I think most good clubs have decided what level they're willing to train at, so to each their own. I can only say we try to keep things as "real" as possible, without having to use up sick days at work to heal some broken ribs.


Mind you, there is no training that can ever truly mimic a combative situation. But, we can all do what we're comfortable with in order to approximate one, and keep true to the warrior nature of the Filipino martial arts.



I haven't tried the hockey helmets myself how well do they hold up , are they good protection ? Living in Buffalo NY I can probably find cheap ones at a use sporting goods store

Great Topic.



Safety Rules: WEKAF RULES 

How Soon:  Well at least 3 to 4 months.  But they can spar in class anytime

Level of Contact: 50% power only.  

Importance:  VERY... And I use Mike Tyson as my reason why. "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."  


I like it! "everyone has a plan until their punched in the face"!




lol. That's always a good maxim.


Here's ours (Bahad Zu'bu)

  • what equipment do you use?

Padded stick when starting out. Live stick when comfortable sparring. No "protection" at all.

  • what safety rules do you use ?

Respect and to view the sparring as application of the basics under pressurized conditions. To this end no thrusts to the eyes / balls etc. The head isn't really targeted so it's mostly the hands, limbs and ribs that get it. Around 5% power only. Thin sticks.

  • how soon will you let someone spar?

If they're doing a course with Master Yuli it comes after about 50 hours of private tuition. Some earlier, some later depending on the person.  There are certain drils first you can perform with padded sticks and of course footwork, footwork and more footwork.


For me personally it'd be around 9 months - 1 year (padded stick) if I'm allowed to hit back...sooner if just doing a focus drill for them.

  • what level of contact ?

As above. Bumps, bruises but nothing too serious. i've heard of a few toe nails and finger nails routinely falling off "Back in the day" but I have been spared this experience. So far.

  • how important is sparring to you ? 

I guess around 25%. Sparring is only a game. The art is geared towards fighting applications - not tournaments. Before it was split into "Tournament fighters" and "Combat". To be eligible for the sparring team you had to be able to break a thicker rattan stick over a tire in just 3 minutes. if not you were "Combat".


It is drilled into us that as seniors we must be able to spar live stick to a high level. We have many guests come train with us here in the Philippines. They might not know the intricacies of our art but most FMA can spar. The local instructors have to spar with the GM looking on. We are expected to perform or else...before somebody has actually been kicked out of the organization for not sparring when asked. It's expected.


At the end of the day it is what it is. A bit unrealistic (as Kris points out) but an invaluable training tool none the less. It certainly is a hell of a lot of fun :)








Can you post a clip of sparring with real sticks and no protectioin?  I would like to see that.  It sounds like you are avoiding heading the head which may expalin why you do not need any protectioin.  Why would someone train not to hit the head which is the only target with a blunt object that has a chance to stop someone?


I just posted a video clip of a recent sparring with real sticksand fencing masks.

I anticipated this question so thanks for allowing me to expand.


There are pros and cons for the way we train I know but it is limited to the assumption that any form of sparring will not replicate combat.


Our system makes use of a lot of "Distractive strikes" with shots that come up to the throat and eyes. It might not crack the guys skull open but it will arrest their forward motion allowing you to flow on with multiple strikes.This kind of work is ineffective when wearing any kind of helmet / eye protection. You also have to be very careful when doing it in training too!


If you look at a lot of the WEKAF type sparring videos on you-tube you will see a lot of players just ducking their head in using the helmet to charge in like a bull. I wonder if they practice like that with the helmet off...


Also, there is an over-tendency to "head hunt" even when it is protected and the rest of the body is not! I'm amazed by the lack of solid shots to the legs I see in sparring videos.


If you look at the Pekiti sparring clip that was put up not so long back you will see that a full-contact stick fight was stopped with a blow to the hand.


We are taught that targeting the hands / limbs is a lot more difficult than hitting the head which is larger and less mobile. Put simply if you can hit those targets hitting the head when you chose to is easy. Unless you are in a fight for your life - why chose to?


Granted, you could say "Fight how you train" and over-conditioning yourself not to take the head shot is a bad thing. I accept this criticism but for me the advantages outweigh the dis-advantages. 


In this kind of thing I have to also trust my instructor. His Ilustrisimo junior Edgar Sulite went on to have a big input into the Dog Brothers. GM Yuli's students dominated tournaments here in Manila when they competed under his  "Kali Pamuntukan" group. They also did well in the WEKAF tournament until it moved to Cebu sometime in the 90s.There's also been some "unofficial" kinds of matches in Luneta... ;)


Here are some sparring vids:


All the best with your training,


Thanks for the reply.  I totally agree that sparring is no where near close to reality which is exactly why it is not empathsized at my school.  It is interesting to see the different ways it gets applied. 

We have toyed with stopping the sparring matches when the head gets hit but then what if it is a glancing blow and not a direct hit.  It can get so confusing.  Also a direct shot to the head may not stop a person so why stop the sparring match. 


We doing sparring just for fun and enjoyment.  It is like junk food - not really good for you but it is hard to resist a little.

No probs. I think (like any martial art) I would be concerned if there was no sparring at all in the system. It is great fun but I'm not sure I could do it every day :)


Raymund Suba here in the Philippines put on a few matches like you're describing (stopping the matches after a head shot).


Here is a vid from one:


Apparently fighters / judges spent a lot of time discussing whether a shot was a "Show stopper" or not and less time actually sparring!


I admire their intentions though.




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