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Sparring On
A Reader Discusses Combat Performance Goals[12/7/21
© 2021 James LaFond
Thanks James, love your work. 
I Got a question for you. I've been training in combat arts for prob 4 years. Nearly 2 years boxing and kickboxing. I have had 2 boxing and 2 kickboxing fights. Should I continue to train and spar or should I dial back as to not risk unnessecarry brain damage. Being a top level pro is not my goal.
 Thank you James. 

Definitely continue to train.
Most of your sparring should be light. Sparring with power in the gym is the greatest source of injuries in all combat sports. Use the bags to work on your power and don’t spar with people who insist on T-ing off on you. You will get better skill progression sparring light rather than hard, even if your goal is elite competition!
Think about that.
The best fighters I ever knew just tapped each other in the gym, but they hit the bag so hard it made you cringe.
Kickboxing will cause less concussions then boxing. I would fight two kick bouts for every boxing bout.
Only fight once every three months, just in case you have an undiognosed concussion. Also, your fights should just be training markers. Train off that last fight all those lessons for the intervening months and you will find that you grow the most there. High level fighters retard their general survival ability in a non-ritual affair by always training for the next guy. How many times does God send us a video of the guy that is going to mug us next month like the promoter does?
The fact that you have the unusual courage to fight in bouts gives you an excellent platform for learning.
Remember that you get hurt in the ring the most when you are trying to hurt him. If you are in there with a guy you outclass, make the fight a stinker, practice controlling him, working on defense and counters. This will piss off some coaches. But, if you stay around 50/50 on wins, it will be easy to find fights for you with a wide variety of skilled and semi-skilled men, who will give you different angles and energies. Look up the career of Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss. He put his kids through college losing half his fights. The best survival boxer, is a guy like that, who can lose to a good pro without getting knocked out, and who can carry shitty fighters to pad his record without either one going to the hospital.
Such a man also makes a better coach. Who did Ali train?
Not even his daughter.
I sparred with some kids last night, and I must say that I feel proud to have you as a reader who is keeping the art alive in training and fighting. How I wished I was younger—for them—last night. This is another avenue for you to grow in your knowledge. Be honest with your coach and volunteer to spar with the novices, to help the kids with their line drills, to hold the mitts for the fitness folks, to help other fighters with their bag work when you are done with your training. You will get a lot better, without getting beat up helping other fighters improve. And, in their value for you, they will seek not to hurt you in sparring.
The above idea, if it appeals to you, places you in a position to end up training for free in the gym for the latter half of your prime.
I suggest that if you continue to fight that you “don’t be a hero” meaning don’t be a crowd pleasing fighter, but a learning fighter that operates with honor and respect. This will get you pointers sometimes even from the coach of the man you just fought, or from an old pro in the crowd.
In the kicking game, the worst injury to the brain will come from a knee. Do not train full contact with knees but use the thai pads for that.
Since your goal appears to be survival and defense, consider escrima. In the end, punching and kicking is a game unless you are being mobbed by a pack of attackers, and then you need to stab someone, and slice up his partner, and shank his wing man.
See if you can find an escrima group that actually spars as a regular training thing. This is important, because stick sparring prepares you for many more threats and survival situations than empty hand. In another sense it is important because you can stick spar without getting a concussion much easier than in boxing. Last night I sparred with a 12-year-old kid boxing, and it was much more dangerous to me than sparring with a 30-year-old man with a stick. The deal is, that boxing head gear does not protect your brain against the fist, not at all, but makes it worse. Where the fencing headgear, not even designed for stick, accidentally affords numerous protections against brain injury with a stick.
Of course, the other option is to start rolling around grappling without letting the BJJ guys ruin your shoulders.
So, don’t fight more than once every three months. If you’ve been kickboxing, you know a grappler.
Do not fight over your natural body weight. If you get fat or muscle up and then box in a higher weight class, you get a lot more brain trauma, partly because of your weight and partly because bigger people are hitting you. This realistically caps your competition age. For me, being over 160 pounds in combat increased my concussions a lot. Any time you get hit stepping in, you are eating your body weight with your brain. This is why football helmets are so bad for the brain, that it enables bull-like head clashes, with even the knucklehead brain an instrument of extreme delicacy compared to the bovine brain.
Good Luck, Sir.
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