I got the chance to spar with Brian at the end of class earlier today. Although I prefer to grapple when possible, sparring is where I truly shine. I have excellent striking due to my karate background and am superb at gauging my distance and slipping past my opponent's defenses. That being said, there is one area that I need to work on: the clinch.
Although I've pushed myself to get more comfortable with close-range fighting, it's an area where I have a lot of room to improve. Brian has more experience at that range than I do and caught a glaring mistake that I was making. While I was throwing body punches at his torso, I was ignoring the knees that were rocketing towards my solar plexus. He wasn't connecting because of partner preservation. However, if it were a real fight, I could have gotten my arms broken and that would have been the end of my dirty boxing. So later on, I started acting more realistically, figuring out what my body would do if he really connected full force. That wasn't necessary for the straight left that I took to my jaw, but hey, in sparring, accidents happen. Any martial artist who is afraid to get hit should quit and do Zumba.
When we were in stalemate after he tried to sprawl, I decided to lie back and pull him into my guard. While we were here, Steve pointed out a mistake that we both made: going into pure grappling mode. We both stopped hitting each other and tried to do pure BJJ. This was especially bad for me, because I was ignoring a tool that I could use to escape from the bottom position. Being in top position, Brian had gravity on his side, and I would have been in serious trouble if he decided to do some ground-and-pound. So in the future, I am going to improve my ability to fight in the clinch and won't be so quick to give up position when we go to the ground. In addition, I'll remember to continue throwing strikes in sparring if we wind up on the ground. This is why I love sparring: it reveals areas where I can improve.