Noticed something unusual in the intermediate class at Sityodtong last week. It's probably happened before, I've just never noticed. There were some usual things I noticed as well, which intersects with some of the new stuff.
Rory Miller likes to say that "force is a means of communication." If that's the case, sparring is sort of like speech class; it's a place for you to test out your ideas and see if people will buy them. That analogy probably isn't perfect (though it's better than my bolo/iPhone analogy), but the idea is there. Sparring is a laboratory. It's play time. A chance for you to try something out and see if it make sense or not.
One of the big challenges in sparring is getting people to set a proper level of contact. If you've got one person playing at 30% power, and another swinging at 100% power, there's an injury or concussion in the works. If you've got a big size disparity, 30% for one person may feel like 70% to the other. If there's a big skill disparity, one person's easy play may feel like the other person's top speed.
Specifically with size disparities; there is, I think, often an assumption that it is the responsibility of the the larger fighter to keep the pace light. After all, the bigger fighter has the advantage, in terms of the sheer amount of power they can generate (spare me the bullshit about size and strength not mattering, please). They may not be as skilled, but sometimes, they can overcome that lack of skill through sheer brute force. It's not elegant, but it works.
Monday night, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before (which doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but this was the first time I consciously caught on to it); a much smaller fighter really teeing off the larger, stronger fighter who was clearly holding back.
And really, that's not cool either. Big people still get hurt. Injured. Concussed, even. Being big may certainly help in your ability to take a hit, but it's by no means some sort of proof against injury.
And frankly, the bigger guy who was letting it happen? Not doing his partner any favors. Or himself. If you're just standing there taking it, no only are you teaching your partner that they can get away with what they're doing, but you're training yourself to take a beating, which is a really terrible habit to have.
There are multiple solutions to this. The really mature one is to use your words; to say "dude, take it down a notch." Sometimes that works. Sometimes, people don't get it. At which point, you've got two options. One is to say "I'm done sparring with you." Which works really well, but requires a huge ego check for a lot of people.
The other is to turn it up.
Now, here's the thing--if you are the one who started out going hard, and someone turns that back on you...you're still the one in the wrong. This isn't even a "two wrongs don't make a right" situation. You're throwing hard. If the other person throws hard back, it's because you pushed them to a place where they felt like they had to. Now, maybe they should have walked away, but it's equally possible that you pushed them into a position where they didn't feel safe to even say anything (I've hit that position once or twice). In which case, yeah, you may have had it coming.
Control, like respect, is a two-way street. Both sides have to find a playing field they're willing to play on. Getting people to find that in a mature, responsible way...that seems to be the challenge.