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Matt Phillips
4/23/2009 2:16pm,
My son has been training really hard for his upcoming fight (his 1st), and he is suffering from a real lack of sparring partners. He has been forced to do all his standup sparring with adults, and this has resulted in several incidents with him getting pretty banged up. People get thrown off by his size (5' 100 lbs). The last incident involved a female coach from his main gym who is about 5' 5", 130. She, through no real fault of her own, managed to kick him square in the nuts twice, and knee him full in the face. He's only 13, and fairly tough, but he's starting to dread sparring. I have given him the "get back on the horse..." speech, and I have let him know he doesn't have to take the fight if he doesn't want to, but I insist he trains hard if he is going to fight.

Any personal experiences with transcending acquired fear of hard sparring would be a big help.

Torakaka
4/23/2009 2:39pm,
I've definitely had times where I've just consistently had my ass beat by Kat so many times that I've gotten discouraged and gone home crying, talking about how I should probably just quit because I suck so bad. Being 5'6" 120lbs definitely makes me feel your son's pain, though he obviously has it even worse. You need to have at least a few people that you can beat on or at least have some strong back and forth competitiveness with or sparring just gets very discouraging.

In order for me to overcome my unwillingness to spar Kat, we had to both agree to make a strong effort to not hit each other hard, otherwise we'd get more and more competitive, hit harder and harder, and her 20lb weight advantage would end up with me getting hurt (like a dozen times before the end of a session) and I'd decide sparring with her sucks way too much.

I think if he's getting hurt in sparring, like to the point where it's more than just frustrating, his sparring partners need to really make more of an effort to be fast and technical without using any power. It's important to keep that intensity, especially when getting prepped for a fight, but if people are hurting him then some corrections need to be made in their level of control. I know when I spar with people around my size who aren't as experienced but need to prepare for a fight, I keep the punch/kick volume at an extremely high pace, keep the pressure totally constant, but use basically no power. You also want to make sure the sparring partners are paying attention to how much they're frustrating your son. If he's sparring with such a big size advantage he's going to lose, plain and simple, so the sparring partners need to be understanding of this fact and the fact that it does him not good at all to discourage him and make him question his skills. When going into a fight, you NEED to feel like a total unstoppable bad ass, so if he's just getting beat up in sparring and walks into the ring questioning his abilities, that's going to cause some problems. I know, I've been there and it's cost me fights.

Maybe you've thought of all this, but that's just some feed back from a similarly small fighter who's gone through some similar issues :) Maybe me and your son will get to spar some time ;)

serge68
4/23/2009 2:40pm,
Have you reminded him that he'll only be stronger for it if he continues? Back when I was a yellow belt in TKD (The good school that I went to), the sparring rotation would sometimes end up with sparring someone who had the age/height/weight/skill advantage on me (I was a scrawny little bastard). It went the same way for the first tournament that I ever competed in.

Every time that I got my ass handed to me (a lot, and usually in the face), i'd come close to crying. Yes, you heard me right, crying like a little girl ( I didn't though and I maintain that I only occasionally teared up like a little girl).

The option of quitting came to me only before the thought of me simply going back to my old life of playing nothing but video games all damned day, whilst being picked on with no hope of defending myself in any matter. Sparring makes you tougher, and being weak isn't really an option most people choose to go back to.

Anyways, when I came back to the east coast, the I placed 1st in all of the TKD events that I competed in. Sparring didn't become much of a problem after I got used to it.

Anyways, you could go with the "sparring makes you tougher" speech. Or, failing that, you could always go with the "chicks dig strong guys" speech.

Hope that helped a little.

Torakaka
4/23/2009 2:46pm,
I also want to throw out there that the compromise probably needs to be made for both your son and his sparring partners to not his so hard with the majority of people, simply because most people WILL let their ego get the best of them if he lights them up with a hard shot or a solid combo and decide to show him who's boss. He should definitely be doing sparring with you or whoever else that's experienced enough teaching and helping people (like the coach) that he can just go balls out on in sparring. It just happens to be a fact of life that not everyone will willingly let a kid knock the crap out of them without knocking the crap out of him back.

Matt Phillips
4/23/2009 3:02pm,
I also want to throw out there that the compromise probably needs to be made for both your son and his sparring partners to not his so hard with the majority of people, simply because most people WILL let their ego get the best of them if he lights them up with a hard shot or a solid combo and decide to show him who's boss. He should definitely be doing sparring with you or whoever else that's experienced enough teaching and helping people (like the coach) that he can just go balls out on in sparring. It just happens to be a fact of life that not everyone will willingly let a kid knock the crap out of them without knocking the crap out of him back.
Nail hit right on the head. The problem is that he can hit hard enough to hurt you. I know from experience that if I do not keep him off me with offense, that he's just going to tee off on my head hard enough that I will start to regret it. He does tend to escalate the power exchange in an attempt to compensate for the size difference. Also his short statue creates targeting problems for his sparring partners. The shorter fighters are used to fighting up, not down. Sometimes I wonder if the constant nutt kicking from women isn't harming him in some Freudian manner(!)

I'm sure our paths will cross either in the BS-TD world or if you guys come back to Redline in the future.

Thanks for the advice. I will try to make sure he knows how badass he is before he gets in the ring.

Beorn
4/23/2009 3:08pm,
not entirely related, but here goes:

Back when I was real into TKD and my instructor was training us hard, sparring everyday, ect, I almost quit after several practices. I was the senior student and she pushed me harder than anyone. The problem was, I was never told I was getting better or that I was doing a good job. I was getting the **** kicked out of me by traveling instructors and my main instructor, and all I ever got was things I needed to improve on, all the while hearing compliments for other students of lesser abilities. I don't know if she did it because she thought it was the fastest way to make me better or because she wanted me to quit, but I oftentimes went home and balled my eyes out like a little girl, to the point my parents told me to quit and I really wanted to.

I ended up staying because even if she was trying to get me to quit, I loved martial arts and I knew I was becoming better, even if she refused to acknowledge it. That is what it comes down to, whether or not it is something he really really wants to do. If it is, all you'll have to say is that the beatings are making him better and he'll jump at it. If he is still afraid, maybe give him a week off and see if he misses it. That will tell you if its what he really wants to do.

Snake Plissken
4/23/2009 3:11pm,
How often has he seen you get tooled or how often have you shared stories about your ass-kickings?

He is still a kid and you are still his father and on some level he might feel as if he is either disappointing you or overly striving to please you?

Matt Phillips
4/23/2009 3:13pm,
not entirely related, but here goes:

Back when I was real into TKD and my instructor was training us hard, sparring everyday, ect, I almost quit after several practices. I was the senior student and she pushed me harder than anyone. The problem was, I was never told I was getting better or that I was doing a good job. I was getting the **** kicked out of me by traveling instructors and my main instructor, and all I ever got was things I needed to improve on, all the while hearing compliments for other students of lesser abilities. I don't know if she did it because she thought it was the fastest way to make me better or because she wanted me to quit, but I oftentimes went home and balled my eyes out like a little girl, to the point my parents told me to quit and I really wanted to.

I ended up staying because even if she was trying to get me to quit, I loved martial arts and I knew I was becoming better, even if she refused to acknowledge it. That is what it comes down to, whether or not it is something he really really wants to do. If it is, all you'll have to say is that the beatings are making him better and he'll jump at it. If he is still afraid, maybe give him a week off and see if he misses it. That will tell you if its what he really wants to do.

He has this problem too. His main coach is a very elite, but very mild mannered kickboxer. He constantly corrects every technical flaw during sparring. Apparently this really rattles my son to the point where he asks me "Why can't he just yell at me like a coach is supposed to? At least then I know its just him doing his job!" The constant correcting is getting to him, definitely.

Angry Mandrill
4/23/2009 3:17pm,
what he needs is someone he can totally thrash. if i have a session where i spar (bjj) only purples and browns and get wrecked like a newb, the next time i find some white belts and thrash them. presto, back on track. so maybe the fight he has coming up is just the thing? the bruises and soreness are points of pride when you know you've put a beating on someone.

also, the adults he's sparring need to dial it back. i've sparred standup with small women (like 5'2", 110 lbs) and managed not to hurt them (i'm 5'11" 180), not to mention my son, who's only 4'4" and 70 lbs. okay, well, i do hurt him. twerp's got a hellacious leg kick.

don't know how she could 'accidentally' knee him full in the face...

Matt Phillips
4/23/2009 3:27pm,
How often has he seen you get tooled or how often have you shared stories about your ass-kickings?

He is still a kid and you are still his father and on some level he might feel as if he is either disappointing you or overly striving to please you?
Interesting question. He hasn't seen me get totally wrecked, but he has seen me go at it with people who are clearly much, much better than I am and get picked apart. He, himself, is able to light me up after about 4 rounds of sparring just because he never gets tired, and I am old and I gas, so he knows I am human. I don't have too many "I got stomped" stories from the street, just because I have good street smarts, I defused a lot of trouble, or got lucky, or just was able to beat untrained people with n00b-jitsu. I try to let him know that he is training to have a good match, and not to "win! win! win!"

I think he worries more about losing face to his (adult) teamates. He was worried that he teared up after getting kneed in the face. I tried to tell him that it is a) Natural to tear up after taking a shot to the nose, and b) worth serious props that he kept going (he did) after he got hurt.

This is the eternal dilemma of children and sports, and it is compounded by the fact that he has no mother. I never know when I'm over doing the 'Yang' at the expense of the 'Yin' thing.

Omega Supreme
4/23/2009 3:31pm,
Wow, my heart goes out to you. I've wanted to quit many times. I think Kid's advice is best. I would also find better adults to spar with. When I want my guys to get ready for a fight I get in the ring with them. They can wale on me no problem and I will let them know they're open to stuff. I also make sure to give them a lot of encouragement afterwards or tear them a new one if they did do crappy so they understand that the compliments don't come lightly.

Matt Phillips
4/23/2009 3:35pm,
what he needs is someone he can totally thrash. if i have a session where i spar (bjj) only purples and browns and get wrecked like a newb, the next time i find some white belts and thrash them. presto, back on track. so maybe the fight he has coming up is just the thing? the bruises and soreness are points of pride when you know you've put a beating on someone.

also, the adults he's sparring need to dial it back. i've sparred standup with small women (like 5'2", 110 lbs) and managed not to hurt them (i'm 5'11" 180), not to mention my son, who's only 4'4" and 70 lbs. okay, well, i do hurt him. twerp's got a hellacious leg kick.

don't know how she could 'accidentally' knee him full in the face...
She said she misjudged the amount of force she needed when pulling him down into a body knee. I didn't really see what happend, and thought it was another nutt shot.

I sometimes take him to a full contact Kenpo/sub-wrestling dojo. If there are smaller fighters there he can outstrike them, but the last time we went they were all 5' 8" or larger and he takes a lot of shots getting inside. It's a drag, because these are adults (or older teens) and they go full contact (Karate mentality). But when they are short enough, he can go to town on them.

There just are not any kids his age at any decent gym in town. Hopefully his opponent will turn out to be someone he can "totally thrash", but he's not counting on it.

Snake Plissken
4/23/2009 3:39pm,
Interesting question. He hasn't seen me get totally wrecked, but he has seen me go at it with people who are clearly much, much better than I am and get picked apart. He, himself, is able to light me up after about 4 rounds of sparring just because he never gets tired, and I am old and I gas, so he knows I am human. I don't have too many "I got stomped" stories from the street, just because I have good street smarts, I defused a lot of trouble, or got lucky, or just was able to beat untrained people with n00b-jitsu. I try to let him know that he is training to have a good match, and not to "win! win! win!"

It is good to have a good match and better to win, end of day you need to show up to have either.
The key to the above lies in his own comment you posted about your son's perception his coach is keying in on the wrong and not the right.

Reinforce what your son is hearing his coach noticing wrong (yeah, let's work on that), but also reinforce what your son possible ISN'T hearing his coach noticing right (Did you notice last week he was on you to not drop your jab but didn't say that once?).


I think he worries more about losing face to his (adult) teamates. He was worried that he teared up after getting kneed in the face. I tried to tell him that it is a) Natural to tear up after taking a shot to the nose, and b) worth serious props that he kept going (he did) after he got hurt.
And remind him that as adults, we have bigger bodies but also bigger pride. It fucking sucks to be an adult and not be able to completely outperform a kid at anything....but it happens often.
We adults tend to focus on the being outperformed by nature's perfect machine...and it bothers us and it festers and it manifests itself in over-compensation to spare our adult ego.
He will end up advancing in skill and maturity and he is seeing and needing to deal with things now that many of his peers aren't.
It sucks for him at age 13, but come age 15, he will be the better for it.


This is the eternal dilemma of children and sports, and it is compounded by the fact that he has no mother. I never know when I'm over doing the 'Yang' at the expense of the 'Yin' thing.
Dude, you are there with the kid.
Right there shows you aren't doing much wrong, but tons right.
Overall: Is he having fun?

omoplatypus
4/23/2009 3:42pm,
what he needs is someone he can totally thrash. if i have a session where i spar (bjj) only purples and browns and get wrecked like a newb, the next time i find some white belts and thrash them. presto, back on track.

9th grade JV football. the day before a game, we would do two quarters against the 7th grade "bandits" team. after we whipped the everliving dog **** out of them, we went onto the field the next day feeling unstoppable.

Matt Phillips
4/23/2009 3:43pm,
Wow, my heart goes out to you. I've wanted to quit many times. I think Kid's advice is best. I would also find better adults to spar with. When I want my guys to get ready for a fight I get in the ring with them. They can wale on me no problem and I will let them know they're open to stuff. I also make sure to give them a lot of encouragement afterwards or tear them a new one if they did do crappy so they understand that the compliments don't come lightly.

Thanks O. That means a lot. Again, the dilemma is size. If he were bigger, he could be sparring with Marvin, but he has to take what he can get, and that mostly means the female fighters who are good, but not as good, and used to proving how tough they are to the guys. I don't think they are used to being able to hurt anyone.

One person who has been a great help is Strikestanian. He has really helped him a lot, but he is from another gym and not available too often.

In the end, he has few options. If he doesn't spar, his gym will not let him fight. I have no problem with him not taking the fight, but he wants to do it. I think this will definitely be a case of the training being harder than the fight.

JohnnyCache
4/23/2009 3:47pm,
Well, at least your son has a good chance of getting bigger.