Do I Need To Spar Every Class?
Most people on the mat are doing BJJ recreationally. It's to lose some weight, get some exercise, learn how to defend yourself, or just to stay a part of a community. So, do people need to spar every single class? Or is it enough to come in, learn, drill, maybe flow, and then leave?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the few martial arts that you can spar at full speed without as big a risk of injuring yourself or others (certainly, you can on average spar more as a grappler than you can as a boxer or muay thai fighter). You are always faced with an honest truth about your skills and your deficits. This kind of reality check is actually a great thing! It's a privilege that we get to spar and learn from each other, and without this our martial art would be in trouble. But still, even if sparring is really valuable, do I need to do it every single class?
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Unless you are injured, sick, or absolutely must sit out, you should try to spar every single time you get the chance! I don't just mean even those times when you don't feel like, I mean especially those times when you don't feel like it. You won't always feel yourself, sometimes you will be tired, emotional, or a little banged up. Those days are opportunities for you to take a step back and really improve at your fundamental grappling. Why is it important to spar on those days when you are tired and not feeling it? Let's look at three reasons.
You Can't Use Strength Or Speed
You can't use what you don't have, and if the only thing you have to rely on is your technique then you are going to find out pretty fast just how much you know. We all, especially early on, muscle and force our way through spots we shouldn't, and that holds us back in our real study. Instead, find those times when your body is performing at its minimum and really test your technique by finding a knowledgeable partner you trust and sparring tactically and technically, instead of living that porrada life every time out.
No Expectation, No Ego
Ego is a heck of a drug. We can tell ourselves all day how awesome we are doing and count stripes on our cool belts, but there's always someone out there tougher (Unless Rickson is reading this, then nevermind, sir). Once you begin to strip away those levels of ego, you start to see where you need to improve a lot easier. Maybe you are smashing everyone from top, but you realize you have a dead fish guard? What if your guard is awesome if they pass to the right, but you have no answer to the left? Getting tired and not expecting the same success can free your mind up to see these deficits a little easier.
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Self Defense Matters
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is and will remain the best, most effective way for a person to defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat. If someone wants to do harm to you, and hopefully they never do, knowing how to take them down, control them, and submit them can stop things from getting worse. But what if this happens when you aren't feeling great? Maybe you are a little sick, banged up, or injured? These bad situations can still happen and you need to be able to respond.
Don't learn the bad habit of making excuses, instead get on the mat, shake hands and start rolling! Remember, even if you can't win, learning how to survive in bad circumstances is a huge skill and a huge victory by itself!