We must be in sync. I haven't been here in a week, yet I wrote about a similar topic on my webpage (visit it, the article is called "It's Not About Fighting") where some guy tried to browbeat me about how he thinks it is not important for his kids to learn how to fight even thought they study karate.
I am all for sparring, point, freestyle, and otherwise. I know that it ain't the real deal, but neither is going to the gun range, yet I think it works and it helps. If you have a good group to work with they are going to get you to a point where in sparring, you get what I call "small doses" of that fight or flight chemical dripped into your blood stream--not enough to get you mad or scared, but enough for you to feel taxed. In the dojang I am in now, the teachers have the philosophy of working us juniors to a point where we are fighting just at or slightly above our fighting ability. We don't get thumped on mercilessly, but we do get probed on our weaknesses--whether it is leaving a particular spot open too much or only being good at a particular range--until we correct that problem, then it's on to the next thing. Twice this year we have had nights where a person spars and everyone in the class gets to critique his/her technique, with the Master Instructor having the final analysis (sort of like Jerry Springer making the final point).
I think sparring is the best way to go right now, until everyone can afford virtual reality brain uploads or we can all where heavy duty combat suits. The only other way would be to pick fights in dives and seedy parts of town (and I used to know a guy who trained that way--he'd get right to the point of testing for 1st dan in a system, disappear, and wander around Baltimore and DC trying out his techniques on people.) I for one am not up for fighting for no reason, so I'll stick with the dojang, thank you very much. If we go around beating up people and getting beaten up just to see if it "works", we are nothing more than a bunch of thugs. Besides, we could get into a bunch of street fights and still not be really proving anything; how can you guarantee that the person you pick at random is a worthy opponent? Most people that I know who are good street fighters are either going to avoid fighting you or will shoot you or knock you over the head with a bat, stick, tire iron, ashtray, brick, shoe, or lamp if they even SUSPECT that you have martial arts training. And most of these people I know that will do that HAVE MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING THEMSELVES!
Besides, the way it's been going since I hit 2nd gup, would you believe that the last tournament I was in felt like a BREAK?!?!
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