How do I find the balance between being a jerk (i.e., one who is hitting too hard) and being someone who is doing a disservice to female sparring partners (i.e., one who avoids hitting and mostly just defends and evades)?
What is an acceptable level of intensity when sparring with female partners? How hard should one hit? Which strikes should be reduced in power, and which strikes should be thrown like one would against a male partner?
This should be a no-brainer: Be respectful and courteous. Be gentle, and always pull back your strikes.
However, sometimes the situation can be a little difficult to navigate.
In my gym, when we spar during our class, we change partners every round. So, one almost never fights the same person twice in a row.
When I am sparring with a female partner, I often spend first half of the round (~ 1 min 30 sec) just blocking, parrying, pushing, and evading strikes. Two reasons.
First, I need a few seconds to adjust and change my style of fighting. When I am sparring with men, we are often testing our endurance and strength (everything goes - hooks, uppercuts, hard knees to the body, hard leg kicks, etc.). And of course, sometimes when I am sparring with a guy at the same level, the ego thing comes in (which is bad, I know, but it happens) and all strikes get harder and meaner. And so, when I spar with women, I want to take a few seconds to change my style and be more technical in my sparring (keep it playful, no knees, no body shots, no hard strikes to the face/head).
Second, I want to give them some time to get into their rhythm and to get their offense going. I also want them to have some fun throwing their combos. I want them to get comfortable and know that I won't do something crazy.
I almost never throw proper punches to their face/head (I just lightly tap on their forehead). Even a punch at 40% power from someone who weighs more than them can be painful. I happily throw leg kicks though, and I clinch and trip them (which is much safer than hitting them with punches). When I throw roundhouse kicks to the head or the body, I absolutely use no power (I just gently touch or push them with my leg/feet). I never use teeps (front kicks) when sparring with a female partner (I remember reading somewhere that repeated hits on the stomach can permanently damage organs/parts necessary for giving birth).
Here is the problem:
On a few occasions, I have been told "You can hit me, it's okay." This made me realize that at times, I have done a disservice to them by not bringing in the right intensity. Half of the round, I have really not given them much to defend or worry about. I haven't done the right thing as a training/sparring partner. I would never want anyone to go easy one me. Ideally, this is what I would want: if I spar at 50%, then my male opponent too should spar at their 50% (even if their 50% is much stronger than mine). I think I am not really helping my female partners by going light on them; I might be giving them a false sense of what to expect. Out there on the streets, the men will not care about going easy on them, they will be vicious.
How do I find the balance between being a jerk and being someone who is doing a disservice to them? I need to make sure I don't treat them like children, and that I do right by them and don't waste their time.
Allow me to clarify a few things.
I hold back fully on certain strikes (mostly power punches [= body shots, uppercuts, right hands], teeps, and knees). I throw the roundhouse to the head and the body very, very gently.
I throw other strikes, such as the inside and outside leg kicks, with some good power behind them. If I throw leg kicks with 70% power at a male partner, I will throw them with 60% power at my female partners. There is no chance of any kind of bleeding here!
I clinch and throw them down at a decent enough power, which replicates the level they would encounter in the ring. There is a lot of technique involved in clinching, a lot of footwork goes into it. And it is safe to use some power for the dumps because the floor has rubber mats. I have been told that they appreciate the clinch work.
Now, I am aware that my approach is wrong, and that is the reason I asked this question here - to know how to find the right balance.