IPFS Sparring Policy

IPFS Sparring Policy


  • Contact sparring is by invitation only, and must be approved by the Coach. It is coach-directed and supervised, and kept on a specific schedule so that athletes don’t take frequent head impacts. Ask Coach Justin to get set up with Sparring. 
      • Hard sparring can be dangerous if not properly managed. Our Coaches will ensure that students spar with people of the correct size, ability, and training level. 
      • Head impacts add up over time and can add up over the long term to have a significant effect on the brain’s functions. A head impact refers to any punch that connects during sparring. Adrenaline lowers perception of pain and on top of that, many students choose to wear headgear which takes away the immediate sting from punches but does not keep the brain from getting jarred. Fighters will usually not admit to punches being hard so this is why we require coach supervision – the instructor can watch to see how hard and how often a student is receiving head impacts.
  • Open mat is not open sparring time and the school policy still applies.
  • Any student receiving a head impact during training will be evaluated by the Coach present. If they see signs of concussion, or believe the injury to be serious, the student will not be allowed to spar for two weeks. The only exception being if you are a fighter within the hard-sparring intensive period of the fight camp, then sparring will happen with greater frequency, but will still be kept at safe levels. 



Why We Limit Hard Sparring

The modern research which has emerged about brain injury resulting from repeated impacts during sports is conclusive, startling, and holds important implications for all martial artists and especially for athletes training in the sports of MMA, Boxing, and Kickboxing. What has been shown is that even head impacts which are thought to be inconsequential Do Add Up over the long-term to have a significant effect, and while the brain is effective at healing from head impacts, it does not heal entirely if it is not subjected to additional impacts during the healing process. In light of this information, it may be no coincidence that we have found that students and athletes seem to learn the most from their sparring, and improve most quickly, when they spar only every other week (rather than every week). 

Over the years, we have used these understandings to develop a training program through which we can turn a student-trainee gradually into a competitive athlete while having them take as few head impacts as possible in the process. This process involves extensive movement patterning and reaction speed development to train their technique and skill level without chancing head impacts. Otherwise, if a student does receive head hits, they may develop a flinch. Once they have a flinch, bad habits will develop, resulting in that student taking a lot longer to reach a competitive level. Additionally, our fight training program brings our fighters to a peak of defensive skill before entering their sparring-intensive training period pre-fight. This lets them do round after round of full power sparring while taking very few head impacts. This sparring intensive period only lasts for a few weeks after which they will have several weeks off from sparring to focus on their technical learning.

After testing our systems for 6 months and reviewing the results, what we have found is that our students increase in skill level much more quickly when the team is using a program which does not emphasize high volume hard contact sparring, and the student-trainees get to a competitive level faster when sparring is restricted at the beginning. Furthermore, because there is a lower injury rate, the students are able to train more consistently and actually end up in better physical shape and reach a higher level over time. 

Following this observation period, we have decided to make our fight-training systems our formal school policy on hard sparring, so that we can ensure the safety of all our students, and have a stronger team, with more training partners and more creative and diverse styles. Enacting this policy is a step toward our eventual goal of becoming a strong pro-competition team and a better resource for our students, in the general community.

We ask you, the striking students, to respect this sparring policy and inform anyone new to the school or who may be returning after a long absence of these policies. Remember that your head instructors are dedicated professionals with 20+ years experience, Pro-fighting experience, and are always seeking to develop the best training programs/methods for their students. Also please do your best to place your focus on doing more rounds of form-development exercises, reaction drills, mitts and thai pads, flow training, reaction-speed development, defense training, shadowboxing, heavy bag training, bob weave line, footwork cones, and on progressing in the program put in place at the school by our head instructors. Doing this will build the same skill sets that frequent hard-sparring would, but more efficiently and in a shorter period of time. For advanced students in general, if you are supervised by a Coach and do not receive head impacts during your sparring due to your defensive skill, then the Coach will clear you to spar again at the next session. 

Students can apply to be on an on-call, invitational hard-sparring resource list for Coaches to arrange sparring with as they see fit; determined by size, ability level, training goals, etc.  If you are interested in being part of our hard-sparring team, please contact Coach Justin Zabroski.