Here are some important concpets about sparring anyone interested in Tres Espadas should be aware of:

A) There are four categories of sparring defined by Tres Espadas, and they are all full-contact, ongoing action without stop-and-go refereeing:
  1. Focused Sparring is practicing specific techniques against an opponent who is seriously trying to stop you from succeeding. This "resistance" allows you to develop the technique for a real life situation where your opponent will sincerely resist your techniques. Focused sparring is used to learn new techniques that you have not had exposure to before.
  2. Basic Sparring only allows strikes with a weapon, and limited grappling is allowed including some ground fighting. No submissions, powerful throws, or non-weapons strikes are allowed in basic sparring. Basic Sparring rounds are normally two minutes long. Most of our sparring is Basic Sparring.
  3. Advanced Sparring allows for whatever specific submissions, throws, and non-weapon strikes the sparring partners agree on before the two minute round begins. However the main focus is still on landing weapon strikes. Advanced sparring is sometimes encouraged after everyone has done basic sparring that day.
  4. Fights main purpose is to prove who is more skillful, while sparring's main focus is to improve and expand skill. Sparring calls for keeping your opponent safe so that you can continue to practice, while stopping your opponent from continuing within the competition guidelines is ideal in a Fight. Fights are not normally tolerated in Tres Espadas (though we do encourage highly skillful members to consider participating in Gatherings of the Dog Brothers.)

Our safety weapons usually do not hit as hard as kickboxing strikes, so as members get more stressed and tired as the 2 minutes progress, they tend to rely more on kickboxing strikes than weapon strikes.  Basic Sparring ensures that everyone learns weapon technique at Tres Espadas. Focused Sparring is mostly a teaching tool for learning new techniques, and unless multiple Tres Espadas chapters decide to compete with each other there is no need for Fights.

B) We have strict rules against keeping score, judging, or "refereeing" during our meetings and sparring.  If the sparring has to be stopped, the match is over.  However, we do scrutinize every video, and Tres Espadas members study their performance carefully and learn from their mistakes. If you want to score a Tres Espadas sparring round, the following simple guidelines are suggested:
  • Whoever got in the most SOLID shots won.
  • If it is too close to call, whoever got in the first solid shot won.
  • Give some consideration to style: who was pushing themselves to develop the most effective skill set?

Question: "if you don't see who wins and loses, how can you tell who had the better technique, and thus how can you really improve?" 

Answer: See the 3 bullet points above - we do heavily scrutinize matches after the end of meetings, looking for room for improvement.  Also, because we are full contact, our participants full well know when they get hit, and are often stopped for a split second by a solid hit.  

C) We also have a very strict rule against any form of stop-and-go sparring.  This includes pausing to declare "kill shots."  This is because of our previous experience in the disaster that is point sparring in martial arts, and because of other weapon sparring clubs we've been involved in the past that were destroyed by the tolerance of stop and go sparring.  To make a long story short, point fighting (or kill shot declarations) develops poor self-defense habits.

Question 1:  If you don't call the kill shots, then can't people just charge in and take a few kill shots just to land a shot of their own?

  1. We do heavily scrutinize the footage of our sparring matches, and we heavily weigh first kill shot in this analysis. (See the 3 bullet points above.)  You may have to watch a match several times before you get a good sense for what was the first killing blow.
  2. If you are fighting with sharp metal weapons in real life, a barely-first strike won't protect you against a barely-second strike, something we have determined from THIS kind of sparring. The defensive value of kill shots is usually very overrated.
  3. Stop and go sparring massively reduces the amount of over all practice the practitioners get.  Continuous sparring is something like 10 times more active than stop and go, improving actual skill by at least that much more.
  4. You simply don't know when you have landed a kill shot in real life, and you must keep going until it is over.  You will do what you train, and if you train to stop when you think you have landed a kill shot, you have trained yourself to be horribly vulnerable.
  5. You need to be in the habit of continuing to fight even after having been impacted by a weapon - you should not train to stop fighting just because someone might have hit you with a good shot with a weapon.

Question 2: If weapons end the fight faster, why fight continuously, why not stop at the first hit?

  1. A very big difference between two given knife fighters is the sharpness of their knife. Knife fighters often carry a knife that is never used for utility purposes but is reserved for self defense.
  2. When you train to kill with a knife you train for overkill, even assassins do not believe they will stop/kill an opponent in the first blow. Even with a knife you should NEVER count on one-hit-one-kill; when your opponent does eventually fall it might be from blood loss instead of organ targeting.
  3. When you are in a self-defense situation you are usually improvising weapons, rather pulling out an ideal dueling weapon. Even if you are lucky enough to be able to grab a machete, you most likely will not have time to sharpen it before the confrontation. It's far more likely that when you are defending yourself in real life that you will be using a broom, not a halberd.

    OK guys, Ben has been hounding me for a year for video footage over in Georgia. This has been my first opportunity without breaking laws or serious violations of rules. So here you go-missionaries beating the hell out of each other. You can't see this anywhere else!
    Posted by Phil Gribbin on Friday, April 3, 2015