When people start training in MMA or boxing for the first time, one of the first questions that always seems to come out is “when can I spar?” Some trainers like the eagerness of their newest prospects. Generally speaking, any trainer worth his salt will make sure his fighter is well prepared to handle himself before he ever sends him into the ring for a full sparring session. Still, there is no clear cut answer. With that though, we can take a look at some of the scenarios and see which ones may fit you personally based on where you are in your boxing training.
“Throw Them to the Wolves.”
This is an approach that’s hard to accept. Some trainers out there would say that the earlier you get hit for the first time the earlier you and your trainer can see how you deal with it. While I agree with the thought that you won’t know what to expect until you get tagged for the first time, it would still be foolish for someone with zero fighting experience to step into a sparring session for obvious reasons. In addition, the sports of MMA and boxing are always looking for the next big thing. What if you take someone just getting started that may have all the potential in the world and throw them into the ring only to get seriously injured? One would think that at the beginning of a new person’s training you wouldn’t want to take their heart out of the game their first visit to the gym. There will be a ton of other ways to see what kind of heart their charge has that doesn’t require them to step into the ring and take unnecessary punishment.
“This Gym Bans Sparring Until You’ve Trained For “X” Amount of Months.”
Some gyms have strict rules about when one can spar for the first time. I wonder if these rules stem from what we talked about in the previous section when maybe someone got seriously injured before they had the proper experience to engage in sparring. Additionally, there are some times “gym warriors” will attempt to take new fighters under their wings only to get them into the ring for some sparring so they can boost their ego by beating up the new guy. It’s terrible, but it happens. Having people new to fighting wait a few months before they get into the ring both allows them to pick up skills to defend themselves and to get a feel of the gym to see if anyone wants to take advantage of their newness.
“Somewhere in the Middle.”
Like many of the topics we have discussed in this blog, the answer isn’t a cut and dry one, and probably lays somewhere in the middle. Some trainers like their fighters to take part in light sparring fairly early on. This allows the new fighter to get comfortable being in the ring. There are tons of stories of guys who look great in training – hitting the bag, working the mitts, etc – but totally clam up when they get inside the ring. Getting over that initial fear with a trainer or another fighter you 100 percent trust can go a long way in your training. Hopefully if you leave yourself open to a big right hand they can explain it to you on how to correct that mistake instead of popping you with it. It’s a very fine line that a lot of people have a hard time walking. If you are looking to join a gym, make sure you get their sparring policies and the experience levels of the people you will be working with. Also don’t be afraid to ask around the gym about the person you’ll be sparring when the topic comes up, which it will in short order. Remember the first rule of fighting – Protect yourself at all times!