Jul 1, 2019 - Feature of the Week

Perks of Sparring, Part 2: Problem Solving

The first chapter of The Black Belt Book of Life is entitled, “Martial Arts is Life.” Sparring, which is a fundamental aspect of martial arts, therefore reflects many facets of life, perhaps the most critical of which is “problem solving.”

We all have problems is life. That’s a gimmie. Who is there whose life is devoid of problems? Answer: no one. The issue is, “How do we solve our problems?” Truly, sparring fortifies us with meaningful tools and problem-solving capabilities.

When we think about it, sparring opponents represent problems, and as fighters we have to mentally figure out ways of defeating them, just as they are tasked with doing the same to us. This renders any type and degree of sparring or fighting as a mental process, far more than a physical activity. Yes, we have to be in excellent shape to be an excellent fighter but in the final analysis it is brain, not brawn, that wins the day. As we teach at the KIA, “Great fighters are great thinkers.”

(KIA archival sparring photos. Top left are Black Belts Kim “Cultivator” Thomas and Anna “Wildcat” Griffin. Top right are Black Belt Gerry “Bones” Gentry in black attire and Jon “Stretch” Vail in red pants with white top. Bottom photo are Black Belts Dr. Tim “Odin” McCord and Doug “Doc” McGregor. Photos courtesy, in part, © by Black Belt Genny “Cougar” Edge and the Karate Institute of America.)

In analyzing any fighter or problem in life, we need to address the strength of the problem, its positives and negatives, potential angles of attack, weapons, strategies and tactics, footwork, balance, and let’s not forget the most critical of all combat aspects—timing. A powerful attack executed at the wrong time can be disastrous, while a poorly designed attack executed with the right timing can be overwhelming to our opponent.

Therefore, when problems assault us in life, as they most certainly will, thinking of them as opponents will be helpful in our successful management of them. In the process of achieving victory, we need to stop, pause, think and plan our attack, as well as assessing the positives and negatives of our opponent, i.e., the problem. This can be done quickly, or it may take some time, but it must be done. Clear thinking, intelligent planning and an aggressive attack delivered with overwhelming force at the opportune time will ensure success.

Therefore, the next time we spar, let’s remember our opponent is simply a problem that must be solved. Our sparring adversary is actually a blessing in disguise because he gives us the opportunity to learn how to solve problems in life and not to be overwhelmed by them but successfully negotiate and defeat them.

~finis

© Richard Andrew King

Grandmaster, Kiado-Ryu Martial Arts