Does Sparring Cause Martial Arts Students to Quit?

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Sparring is a cornerstone of martial arts training. Testing your skills against an opponent and practicing techniques in a simulated fight scenario seems like a fundamental part of what a martial arts school should be teaching. However, many school owners have strong or mixed feelings on how requiring students to spar affects retention. Some school owners simply don’t teach sparring at all afraid they will lose students and others like Master Chris Rappold says it is simply a matter of how you position sparring to your students.

Master Rappold owns five Personal Best Karate locations and has a very low student turnover rate of 1.8% to 2.5% across all his locations. He is also a 5-time World Karate Champion and the Executive Director of Team Paul Mitchell. Here is why he considers the idea that teaching sparring causes students to quit training to be a myth:

Personally, I agree with Master Rappold and either extreme is not good. We taught sparring twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays at my Tae Kwon Do school. We didn’t make attending those classes mandatory. So if a student was really dead set against it, they didn’t have to participate and could attend non-sparring classes. However, sparring for belt rank promotion was required during testing and we never had anyone complain. In fact, we didn’t keep score or have winners or losers during the match rounds. We were looking for improvement and proper application of the techniques students were learning.

Do you think sparring causes students to drop out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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