Sparring vs. Drilling?

What percentage of your grappling training (not conditioning, strength training, or learning of new techniques) consists of drilling? Sparring?

After reading some posts on here, I noticed that some people drill more than they spar. I have always believed that it should be the other way around. What have your experiences taught you guys about the balance that is to be struck between drilling and sparring?

I would be interested in hearing the comments/opinions of some of the more knowledgeable members on this forum, so please contribute.

Serious and intelligent replies only.

Thanks in advance.

Definately drill more than spar. I think my total time is about 1/4th of dry rep learning OR very light and isolated drilling. 1/2 of different kinds of drilling beginning from trying to get one move against "just resisting the move" up to sparring from guard and restarting from guard after any points or submission is made and last 1/4th is free sparring which we usually start from a set position OR standing up... rarely from the knees.

I consider sparring to be any kind of resistance training even if it is isolated.  I consider drilling to be the continual repetition of a move or moves against a more or less compliant opponent.

According to those definitions all of my current training is sparring. 

I think it depends. REAL competitors will probably spar more than they drill because you can drill a move at 5%,25%, 75%, 100% resistence and still not account for the variables that will occur if your partner is TRYING to survive. So as one of my favorite training partners says, "If you want to be a good fighter, then you need to fight more."

However, if you want to master the artform, defined as knowing as many techniques as possible, having the solution to all the riddles, and being proficient at a majority of them, then drilling is more important.

I choose moderation of each. I stick to drilling the basics and combinations, but focus my sparring on applying only what I taught or drilled that day.

Well Ridgeback it´s a diff in definitions then :)

any drilling for us is alive

dead rep training is just dead rep training

I think the real good guys don?t do only all out sparring.

I think a lot of them using sophisticated drills and task/position sparring, slow rolling and so on.

But they want to make the others to belive you only need to roll. That way the mass don?t get to good;-);-);-)

Take care

I sort of disagree with Ridgeback.

Sparring is where you essentially "prove" or "test" the techniques or things you have been working on in a "live" setting against resistence. The objective of sparring is to find out whether or not you have done your "homework". Sparring givens you feedback and that feedback is either you have done very well with your practicing or you "need" to practice more or you need to practice better.

Drilling is where you essentially work on a technique or tactic. Drilling can be done in a variety of ways. It can be done solo, that is, by yourself. Or it can be done with a partner. Drilling can also be done against varied amounts of resistance. It can be as low as 20% and as high as 95 to 100%. Drilling can be done repetitiously, that is where you repeat a given technique over and over, but it doesn't have to be. That is just ONE type of drilling. The mistake people make is they define drilling as doing a technique over and over again and that is only A TYPE drill. Drilling is all about skill development so if you are doing something where you are trying to apply a technique against resistence and you are restricted to just that techique because you are trying to "develop" that technique you are essentially "drilling" that technique. Because the purpose of doing that particular activity was to DEVELOP that technique or I should say DEVELOP you ability and skill with that technique.

In other words situational sparring or sparring games are not sparring they are drills. For example in football there are a ton of activities where the players, whether defense or offense perform a given task, like block, run etc, against resistance, sometime as high as 100% BUT because the point of the activity is to DEVELOP a specific skill the players are actually perform a DRILL and are not actually playing a real game.

It is the same with Bjj (or wrestling, boxing, Judo).

The difference between sparring and drilling lies in their objectives.

Sparring is meant to "test" and "prove" not only the techniques you were suppose to be practice but moreso how well you actually practice those techniques.

Drilling is meant to "perfect" and "master" the techniques you were suppose to have learned. And drilling can be done in alot of different ways.

I think that I should have made my question clearer.

When I asked how much drilling was done by you guys as opposed to sparring, I meant the "dead rep" type of sparring where your partner is, more or less, fully compliant.

Given this clarification, could you guys reanswer this question?

almost none or very little


There is nothing to disagree with.  Its just the names you give to particular types of training.  I like the term "aliveness" training too since basically that imparts the idea that you are training in a dynamic way against real resistance even if you are not full out free sparring.  I personally don't enjoy "dead" movement drilling like people do when they first learn a move.  I try to incorporate new moves right in the middle of sparring.  Its a little backwards but it works.


Yep FightStudent - By that definition I'd say very little. If I do NOT count the solo training I do in my head:) Or do I have the resistance of my imagination there:)?

Let's be REALLY clear and call it:

1) Technique reps / fully cooperative practice

2) Focused sparring aka Alive drilling: resistance-based but focused on a narrow skill or area

3) Sparring that can include all areas

And to answer it with my own schemata:

I spend more time repping (1) than most people I know. I find tremendous benefit in it, especially as I am starting to study combinations and transitions.

When I roll with students, whether they know it or not I am usually engaging in (2), not (3). In other words, they might have a certain intent about sparring, but I will guide the game back to the areas that I am working on. I enter with a plan, and I benefit from it as though we are doing (2). I spend 99.99999% of my rolling time this way.





I guess you're right in regards to the definition of things. I guess in principle we are on the same page.

I tend to define these based on their objectives and goals more than anything else. I also try to be pragmatic and practical in regards to how I define things as well.

I personally feel everything has a place and purpose in the grand scheme of things. So-called "dead" movement drills have a basic function and purpose in my opinion.

It develops coordination which is probably the most important quality or attribute for proficiency in any sport or physical activity, which Bjj is. Alot of people who complain or have issues about their skills and progress don't realize their problem might stem directly from poor coordination.

Coordination, as you probably know, is the ability to "integate" all the powers and capacities of an individual into an effective act of "doing". In other words coordination is essentially perfoming a movement or a series of movements in a smooth and graceful manner.

A person who lacks coordination will always find themselves on the short end of the stick. They will never find the correct spacing or distance, their timing will also be off, their rhythm, their reaction will always be slow, they will alway telegraph their intentions, and they will always suffer from "braking" because they have excessive tension in their movements. They suffer from a lack of control over their own bodies.

The best way to develop coordination ia through precision practice which is what so called "dead" drilling is.

So-called "dead" drilling is all about moving your body correctly, positioning you limbs in the correct place and doing every thing together as a whole. It is about controlling your own msucles and making them do what you want them to do. Developing coordination is a matter of training the nervous system and not just training the muscles.

Everything I do in terms of executing technique, reaction, timing, and rhythm as they relate to tecnhiqes is ALWAYS better when I excessively (that is do alot of) so called dead drilling. I find that so called dead drilling increase my coordination which directly effects everything else.

So-called dead drilling not only is excellent for introducing you to a new movement pattern it is also an excellent means of "correcting" and "maintaining" that movement pattern. People tend to forget that things deteriorate over time, and these things include ones physical skills. Mistakes always creep into ones techniques no matter how technical and experience one may be. This is why so-called dead drilling is good because it prevents those mistakes from becoming too big to handle over time. Why do you think basketball players constantly work on their jump shots (and other basketball skill) in a way that many, in the martial art world, would consider "dead" drilling? I ultimately makes a difference in their form and helps to maintain their technique. You know the more jumpers a basketball player takes and makes in practice the higher his field -goal percentage increase. Incidently in case you didin't know filed goal percentage is the amount of shots a player makes in an actual game.

Anyway I consider so called dead drilling to be a very important drilling activity to do. The so call "live" drilling is also important but like I said anything has a function and place and "live" drilling has a place right next to so-called "dead drilling.

I agree very much with what MG wrote here.

I do not agree because I can not understand how the dead drilling would be MORE helpful than light "live" drilling when the very basic movement is learned.