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I have done a boxing-for-starters class in a nearby club and after that joined the club for the regular training. As I really enjoyed the sport and got into sparring the fun faded because my sparring partners (I had no headgear at the time, they had) always beat me bloody, without hesitation.

Sure, you get beaten in boxing, I'm aware of that but isn't there supposed to be something like trust in sparring, so that you hold a little back, especially when the opponent has no headgear? Or am I just having a wrong idea of the sport?

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you shouldn't be sparing in boxing without head gear. go buy some. now. –  Patricia Mar 13 '12 at 14:01
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6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In Tae Kwon Do, we definitely are trying to win, but we aren't going to kill each other over it. When I first started sparring, I got kicked quite often, and thought, "Oh Jesus this hurts" but after a while, I got used to it. Sparring hurts when you first start, but you get used to it. If you find that you keep getting hurt, something is wrong. If you find that your opponent is always attacking you when you are down or always tries to get that last hit in once the ref (if you've got one in boxing) tells you to stop, I'd say that something is wrong. I know for sure that when sparring, I hold back a lot and don't beat someone bloody. That's just over the top.

In other words, sparring does hurt, but beating someone bloody, though accidents do happen, is over the top.

DISCLAIMER: I've only done kick boxing and Tae Kwon Do, so I don't know how violent boxing is.

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Sparring should emphatically not end in you being beaten bloody, no matter the sport. Sparring is a contact activity, and you should expect to take some knocks, but it is also an activity founded on control and trust. There's an important difference between toughening up and learning to take a hit and actually being harmed.

This is doubly important for sparring without gear--you should not be taking hard blows to the head without protection. The brain is extremely delicate, and pugilistic dementia has a name for a reason. If the guys you're sparring against have headgear on, clearly the club you're practicing at acknowledges the need for safety and these guys are either oblivious to how hard they're hitting or are taking a careless attitude toward the sport.

I'd suggest trying to talk to them about the lack of control in their sparring matches and if they fail to take your concerns seriously, you should find yourself another club.

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If the students are going too hard on the beginners, the instructor either don't care or has lost control of the class. It's his or her responsibility to make sure everybody is safe. Most good schools ease their beginners into sparring. They start of with some light sparring, and then progress from there. Even pro fighters spar easy a lot of the time, as it's not worth the constant risk of injury or head trauma.

Now, this is a contact sport — bruises and a couple of cuts should be expected. Some times accidents happen, and you get injuries, such as broken nose or rib. However, if you are beaten to a pulp on a regular basis, this is most certainly a problem. You say nothing about the severity of the injuries, but still.

As for head gear, it's not a bad idea, but don't put too much faith into it. Depending on the style, it will protect you from some cuts, but you will still receive the blow. Keep that in mind, and keep your hands up. :)

EDIT: Another important detail, is that there's no shame in telling your sparring partner to go lighter. If he or she can't submit to those terms (due to tournament preparations or other), he or she should find a more suitable partner. Even when sparring hard against an equal opponent, you should break in case of injury. This is common sense, as there is no reason to make the injury even worse. The fight can continue if the injured fighter feels okay, but keep in mind it's also important to treat injuries. Thanks to @Russell for pointing this out in the comments.

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Thanks for the replies. I had a few black eyes, deep cuts, light head trauma for a weekend. I had sparring partners with 3yrs+ experience and they didn't seem to hold back, although I told them + no headgear. Anyways, I like the sport and will join another club. Thanks guys –  thpetrus Mar 13 '12 at 21:16
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Christ! In my sparing group, once someone is even slightly hurt, we pause the spar, ask them if they can continue, and if they can then we continue sparing. The worst thats happend while I've been at the group was a jammed foot (unfortunately I was the victim). –  Russell Mar 17 '12 at 1:15
    
Good points, @Russel. I'll add them to my answer for easier access for other visitors. –  Nix Mar 17 '12 at 12:23
    
communication with the sparring partner is Good! –  Vass Nov 27 '13 at 14:20
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What you are describing in your question sugggests to me that this is indeed a bad club, or at least a bad trainer. Let's

  • Pitting a beginner against a guy with years of experience is only a good idea if the trainer trusts the more experienced guy to hold back and not beat the beginner up. The goal should be to show the beginner where he makes mistakes, where he has technical flaws. The trainer should step in if someone is using his clearly weaker opponent as a heavy bag with arms.
  • The role of the more experienced practitioner is to help the beginner, in that situation he isn't really training himself but helping the other one. The trainer should have made that clear.
  • Both guys should be given headgear, or only the beginner. Not the other way around.
  • In my opinion a good trainer will have beginners start with conditional sparring first. In this type of sparring only certain combinations are allowed, which should have been practised before. It's basically a mix between technique training and free sparring.

Of course, boxing is rough, like all full-contact combat sports. And beginners will react differently to a punch to the face than someone with years of experience. That's why you start with low intensity, than increase it over time. That's why you start with conditional sparring and do free or "all-out" sparring later.

So, to answer your question: I think you should look for another gym. Either they don't know what they are doing or they don't want you there. If you like boxing as a sport, don't let this ruin it for you.

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There's a good link on this site about head injuries and that may be a way to judge whether you are in a bad club. If you get hit and see stars, the recommendation is to stop sparring and sit down, even if you are in the middle of a round. You are then not allowed to spar again for two weeks. This may seem a little cautious, but it is the recommendation of a doctor. Getting beaten bloody sounds way beyond this. Personally, I would change clubs if I was you. You need to take time to improve and to learn proper technique. Sometimes coaches are more interested in seeing a good fight or making their guys as tough as possible than thinking about safety. You have to weigh that against the health consequences.

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Unless I'm mistaken you're referring to my answer. I'd just like to clarify that I'm not a doctor, although it's quite possible that someone else who is a doctor has made the same suggestion. –  Robin Ashe Jul 27 '12 at 21:19
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It sounds like you went to a terrible club. They should never have allowed you, as a beginner, to spar without proper protection.

In boxing, you should wear headgear, kidney protector, and mouthpiece. You should wrap your hands properly and use sparring gloves (12oz or more). Additionally, I wear a vest-style chest protector.

Above that, no one should be beating you bloody unless you're ok with it. You should start sparring going very light, and work with opponents who are going to be able to teach you something, instead of just beating you up.

Boxing is a wonderful sport, and can be very enjoyable, as you've experienced. Go to a proper boxing gym, and work with a proper trainer, and you'll have a much better time.

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