Sparring and the "dyanmic environment"
In sparring you face your partner and start "fighting". Not "real fighting", but a kind of "play fighting" where the rules of engagement are sufficient to protect you both from real injury, while leaving sufficient physical stress to "test your skill". Setting aside the obvious points that people make ("sparring is not real fighting" or "your sparring doesn't have enought contact", etc.), I think it is safe to say that, generally speaking, sparring is an excellent training device. It gives you a chance to apply some of your skills in a dynamic environment.
I stess "dynamic" because this is a very important point.
Most training drills have a high degree of predictability. They start from a stationary position and end in a stationary postion. In reality, fighting (of any kind) is a process of constant, chaotic change. Usually both (or if there are multiple opponents, all) of you are in motion.
More than that, you or your opponent(s) might be accelerating. In other words, you don't just have the vectors and velocity of your own movement and your attackers' to consider, but also the way in which these vectors and velocities are changing. Last, you don't know how or when new vectors and other variables might come into play (including such things as obstacles, terrain, etc.). In short, nothing about real fighting is predictable. In a drill, barring any silly mistakes or carelessness, the situation is entirely predictable.
So what is sparring useful for? You can take the skills you've learned in "static" (ie. non-dynamic) drills and see if they will work (at least in part) in a dynamic environment - ie. where the board you're "breaking" not only moves, but also "hits back". Even if it isn't "real fighting" it gives you a test environment that has at least some level of unpredictability.
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