As a brand new yellow belt, making contact during sparring classes has just now become available to you. Sparring is the practical application of the basic techniques you have been learning. Yellow Belt is referred to as “the honeymoon period” – in other words, a time when all the other students will be making room for your growth and learning. The “strike zone” (area where other students are allowed to make contact) is limited to the space between the belt knot and just below the neck. This is limited to light contact only, so you have a good space of time to figure out what is going on without fear of injury.
Sparring is always about the junior ranked person, which will almost always be you! You set the pace, level of contact and the general tone of the round. If at any time you feel as though control or speed becomes an issue, you can always request that the level be dropped a notch to accommodate your training. Be aware of your head! Even though no one is allowed to make head contact, they will focus strikes at your head to make you aware of the danger of dropping your hands or getting “tunnel vision”. Focusing strikes at the head also means that sometimes a strike may slip through – part of the danger of sparring. Generally speaking, there are no serious or chronic injuries in sparring class, but there is the occasional black eye or bloody nose. All students are asked to fight at a level that challenges them without risking serious injury. If you feel that you cannot control a technique, then don’t throw it. There will be a time and place where you have gained enough strength and understanding to apply your new techniques – sometimes it takes longer than others.
There are three different speeds that Yellow Belts are required to understand, the first of which is slow motion. Slow motion sparring is not about hitting targets, but more about showing a flow of breath and movement with balance. Another level of sparring is no contact – this is generally used for White Belts who are testing, for High White Belts, and when control becomes an issue. The third level is the one you will become the most familiar with – light contact at full speed. Control and caution are always the key words when fighting at this level.
There will be many more challenges for you at Yellow Belt. Your curriculum has now expanded into jumping and sliding kicks; your combinations have become more complex and footwork is much more important to understanding technique. Yellow is the color of the seed that is planted in the spring. Learning to sink roots and draw your energy up from the ground is at the center of learning your forms. Movement is key, and it takes a great amount of patience and focus on the task at hand to learn how to propel yourself across the floor. Your forms at yellow belt will teach you the necessary skills of flow and ground and will continue to focus you on the element of Earth.