Sparring. Is one of those things that can be a little daunting when you start.

We offer sparring to those wanting to test the techniques they have learnt in class against some resistance. Sparring is a great tool used to develop timing and accuracy, as well as defence.

Our instructors and senior students oversee all sparring to make sure no one is hitting too hard or getting injured, and everyone is upholding basic sparring etiquette, from beginner to all the way through to our advanced senior students.

After you have been training for a while and we can see you have a good understanding of the basics, we will invite you to try some light sparring which is held at the end of the month.

For some people, they are immediately keen to get in there. For others, they might not think they are ready, or not want to spar at all – it is completely up to you.

If you do decide that you want to try out sparring, great! Just keep in mind a few important sparring etiquette rules before your first spar at The Kung Fu School.

It’s important to keep both yourself and your partner safe when sparring.

Just for the sake of clarity and safety, this guide is what we expect at The Kung Fu School when sparring.  This is not an exhaustive list, so common sense must also be used.


Training at The Kung Fu School can be quite physically active and intense, which creates a lot of sweat and bodily odour. But even despite this, you should try to be as clean as possible when you spar.  You should also ensure that your toenails and fingernails are neatly trimmed and clean and do not pose any risk of cutting your sparring partner.   This is particularly important if you are sparring with open hand gloves.  Obviously, jewellery should not be worn in lessons or sparring.

Have The Right Gear

Sparring is all about learning under a safe environment. All the protective gear is not there to make you feel uncomfortable or get in the way, but to ensure that no matter what happens, you can focus on learning without having to think about too much else.  At a minimum you must have a Headguard, Gloves, Footguards, Groin Guard and Mouth Guard.  Ideally, if you are using boxing gloves, they should be at least 14oz to protect your opponent.

Technical open hand sparring would use open hand gloves, however with this type of sparring, the clue is in the name, ‘Technical’, you are practicing your technical skills so will be much slower and with less power.

Even though you’re only sparring, blows still hurt and there’s always the possibility of taking a shot to the mouth. That’s why wearing an appropriate and high-quality mouthguard is an absolute must.  It’s not just about protecting your teeth either. A well-fitted mouthguard will also protect your jaw and help to stop you getting knocked out – something that can happen even with the lightest of blows.

If you are missing any equipment or have any questions regarding gear, just let us know, and we will be happy to assist you.

Leave your Ego at the Door

There is no winning in sparring. Sparring is not a competition, but it’s rather all about learning and improving. It is important that you leave your ego at the door.  If you are ego driven and enter each sparring session looking to “win”, you won’t make it an enjoyable environment for others, and it can hamper your learning.  By leaving your ego at the door, you will be able to focus on trying out new techniques and improving.

Ego should never be prioritized over safety. Always assess who you’re up against before you start throwing anything with power.

Don’t’ beat up people just because you can, people less experienced or smaller than you because it’s easy. This just makes you a bully and it won’t be tolerated. There always ways to challenge yourself in sparring without beating somebody up just because they aren’t up to your skill level.

On the other side of things if you feel that you opponent is more experienced or better than you, this does not give you an automatic right to try and take their head off.   Remember you are still practicing your techniques and always be respectful of your partner.

While hard sparring has its place for more experienced students, beginners sparring at The Kung Fu School is a controlled process.

Don’t’ go 100% & Adjust to your Partner’s Experience

You should never be going 100% in sparring.  Remember, you are not trying to hurt your partner, but instead work with them to develop their skills as well as your own.

It can be easy to get carried away in the midst of sparring, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to go at full force and try to overpower your partner. After all, your focus should be on getting your technique right and executing it well. Of course, you have the option of going a little harder to match your training partner’s intensity – but with that said, talk to him or her before starting the round and agree on how hard you’re going to spar.   Recognise their skill level, judge how hard you should be going to push your partner but keeping them safe at the same time.

If you know you have the advantage (you may be bigger or more experienced), do not use it to your advantage. Push your partner but not too hard. They need to have the confidence to spar again with you again knowing they won’t get hurt or beat up.

You don’t spar the same way with a beginner as you would with a senior.  With beginners, you have to be more patient with them and go lightly so they can learn to keep their eyes open and react properly.

Be Respectful and Communicate

Always start light and see how your partner reacts. If it’s at an intensity they’re okay with, stay there. If they hit you harder and you’re okay with it, you can pick it up as well. If you’re not okay with it, you should be verbal and ask to go lighter. If things get out of hand, we’ll step in. If an instructor or senior isn’t around you for whatever reason, stop sparring and say you want to sit out the round.

The reason why you spar is to learn. If you see holes in your partner’s game, you have to pick them apart – and vice versa. Sparring is the closest thing to mimicking fighting. It’s a great way to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to work on.

Sparring should not be throwing attacks super slow and super light in a way that has no benefit to anyone. Without it becoming a brawl, you can work on sharpening your techniques and using what you learned in class.  At the end of the day, sparring should be fun and relatively risk-free at the same time.

Start and Finish Each Round with Respect

 Start and end each round with your partner with our Tradition Kung Fu Respect.  Bow and present the palm and open hand respect, (right hand fist, left hand open).

Be Considerate of Other People’s Space

Due to the limited space in the hall, it helps to be aware of your surroundings – so as to avoid colliding into anyone when you’re sparring.  Try to keep a bit of a distance from those who are nearest to you, and always look out for your sparring partner as well.

In the event that you accidentally bump into someone, apologise and move to another area that has more space.

Do NOT Target the Face

Getting hit is part of sparring.  You are going to wear some punches or kicks in any given sparring session.   However, never deliberately target the face.  If there is one thing that’s going to escalate sparring intensity its being hit on the nose. Sometimes in an exchange you might catch the nose and that’s fine in that situation but never attempt to purposely hit your partner on the nose. The face is delicate and largely unprotected even with a headguard on.

A strike to the face is both disrespectful to your partner and can easily break their nose.  By all means, throw the techniques but pull it back or stop just before it lands.

There is no reason not to aim for the forehead, side of the head or (more lightly) on the jaw instead.

Be in Control

If your partner lands a clean shot, getting flustered and throwing something too hard in return is only going to hinder your progress as a martial artist.

Instead, simply take a pause, give a little nod or touch gloves to acknowledge that, had they thrown a good accurate strike.

If you land a hard strike in sparring, make sure your opponent is alright to continue and apologise if you used excessive force.

No Uppercuts

Generally, this technique if lands, even with moderate power can have a huge impact on your partner.  Further still if they are not properly braced for the impact can lead to serious injury.

No Elbows or Knees Strikes

This goes without saying.  Elbows can be devastating, especially if they catch you off guard.  This can be equally applied to knee attacks; your knee is a hard bone which can really do damage to your partners unpadded areas.

Do NOT Target or attack the Knees

Never kick the knee joint while sparring as opposed to the thigh which is a legitimate target, the knee is not. If you hurt someone’s thigh, they hobble away and a day or two later they’ll be fine but kicking the knee joint can lead to serious injury.

Leg Sweeps

Should you happen to catch your partner’s leg during a sparring session, it’s good etiquette NOT to perform a huge leg sweep. While it can be tempting, you’ll look far more professional, not to mention cooler, if you just give their leg a tap and then carry on sparring. You’ll both know that you let them off and it will give you a credit in the karma bank for the future.

Pull shots

 If you are striking you partner who may have shelled up and you get them to lower their guard down at one side exposing the side of their head, don’t hit them hard just because you can, strike them but pull the power from the punch or kick at the last moment.  If they are cornered, give them space and let them come out.

Inconsistent Power

Sometimes you will find some people who will spar lightly and then all of a sudden bang! Out of the blue comes a very hard punch or kick and then they spar lightly again before springing another hard blow. Always spar at a moderate to high intensity but without sudden high-power moves. Remember, you are not trying to knock your partner out, you are working with them in an effort for you both to practice your techniques and your game.

A more skilled fighter will see it coming and get out of the way and probably counter your shot so you’ll only get the advantage with your techniques and by outsmarting your partner with good combinations and footwork.


Sparring should be something you enjoy and ultimately benefit from. Losing your cool and reacting aggressively, rightly or wrongly, is definitely NOT something you want to do.

Sparring is definitely a game changer for any martial artist. However, it is also important to abide by these unspoken rules, so as to ensure everyone gets the most out of their sparring session.

Well that’s everything so just remember, train hard but above all, keep yourself and your sparring partner safe and have fun sparring.


Thinking about trying out sparring?

The Kung Fu School usually incorporates sparring into the last Wednesday of  the month.

There’s no pressure, you can try and give it a go or just watch.  

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