How to Stop Flinching While Sparring

Flinching while sparring is a common issue that every boxer and MMA fighter has to overcome. It’s simply a natural reaction for junior fighters who are stepping into the MMA cage for the first time.

When anything comes flying at our faces, our primal reaction is to blink, flinch and try to move out of the way. It’s not the easiest instinct for fighters to break away from, but neither is it an impossible task.

While some fighters just break free from it naturally, it usually takes a good coach to help overcome the fighter’s flinch reaction. There are several schools of thought behind doing so:

Focusing on Defense

Learning how to confront attacks head-on is one of the most helpful approaches. Most new fighters flinch because they are unprepared with how to deal with what is literally being thrown at them.

Rather than teaching student not to flinch, try teaching them to deal with the attacks that are being launched at them.

Use a pad attached to a handle and get your fighters used to blocking and dodging incoming attacks. Why use a pad on a stick? Because people already have it ingrained in their head that being struck with someone’s hand is going to hurt. Starting with a pad will help them avoid this natural fear and focus on deflecting the attacks.

Once they are accustomed to doing so, you can switch to your gloved hands and increase the speed and power of your attacks accordingly.

Focusing on Offense

Beginner Students are usually focused on one thing: not getting hurt. As a teacher, you can shift the focus away from this fear by changing your students’ attention from defense to attack. Get your students accustomed to dominating a fight by controlling its pace with their or her attacks. This will also help them boost their confidence and become more accustomed to sparring.

After they are comfortable, you can shift their focus back to a defensive mindset and teach them how to block, dodge and take a hit.

Some Helpful Drills

Glove tapping: One trick that boxers have used to train beginners is to simply circle around them and tap them in the gloves. This will help them get used to seeing an opponent’s hands coming right at them (without racking them with stress by constantly pounding away at their head).

Counterattacks: Many fighters tend to lean back when a blow comes in. Focusing on counterattacking will teach them to block or take a hit, remain balanced, then immediately counter with a strike of their own. You can combine this with the glove tapping drill by hitting the glove of your student then having him or her immediately strike back at you.

Train Them to be Confident

Whether you focus on offense or defense, you want your students to remain confident. Your new students will want to know that they are safe while training, which is what Zebra specializes in. We carry the most diverse and safe line of pads, mats and flooring on the market. Take a look at some of the gyms we have outfitted to see the difference we can make in your facility today.