I haven't been going to sparring consistently because of things like birthdays, holidays, etc. I'm going about once every two weeks instead of weekly.
One of the things that holds me back in sparring is that, to try new things, I have to be willing to look bad or screw up. Tonight I was determined to try to work on some things I don't do enough.
Tonight I was sparring exclusively with my buddy Larry. We're about the same age, about the same height, have the same reach.
Tonight I was working on defense, moving, and not backing up. It's hard not to back up against Larry because he's strong and relentless--he just keeps coming. He's also starting to move his head much better than he used to.
How do you not back up when somebody's coming at you and won't stop just because you hit him? 1) Move to the side. 2) Cover up so his punches don't have the same effect. 3) Clinch.
I worked on all those things, and I should feel good because I was trying to improve my skills. But it still felt like a difficult evening of sparring. There's the level of skill you aspire to, and the level you're at, and the contrast can be disheartening.
I also, toward the end of the evening, worked on forcing myself to throw combinations of three or more punches--real combinations, not just pawing at the opponent.
Combinations are easy to throw in drills. They're easy to throw when you outclass the opponent. They're hard to throw in contact sparring when your opponent is good because, whenever you're throwing a punch, you're open. The tendency is to just throw one or two punches to limit your vulnerability. There was one instance where I did throw the classic jab-cross-hook and the hook really landed well--just like everybody says.