I sparred with my son for the first time tonight.
In our school, 13 is the typical age when kids move from the kids' classes to the adult classes. Including Friday night sparring.
Middle is 4 months shy of his 13th birthday and close to testing for his Junior black belt, so when he asked permission to try adult sparring, it was granted.
Adult sparring is nothing like kid sparring. Kid sparring is for points - in a ring, with judges choosing the partners, keeping the time (3 minutes?) and starting and stopping the match when points are scored, when someone is forced out of the ring, or if someone is hurt or needs to take a knee. In adult sparring, pretty much anything goes. You pair up with anyone who's available, and you spar continuously for about 15 minutes in whatever space you find. You're not going for points, just trying to land a few punches or kicks to your opponent's head or torso while he or she tries to dodge, block and counter. Courtesy and common sense rules apply, but that's about it.
I've been doing this for a few months now, and I still suck at it. Thankfully, I have many good black belt mentors who work with me every time, teaching me what I need to know to get better, (and popping me in the face when I forget to keep my guard up.) It's a good workout, it gets the adrenaline pumping, and the kids and adults all go out for pizza and sometimes a movie afterward. It's a good time.
Middle asked me to be his third partner tonight. He's got two more years of martial arts experience than I do, and he's been point sparring and competing. Needless to say, he's a lot better than I am. His M.O.? He stands still with his guard down, and when I move in with a kick or punch, he quickly blocks it and counters with a well-placed kick or punch of his own.
Even though he kicked my butt, it was fun working with him. I love that we do this together and that his friends are my friends and vice-versa. Rank and experience matter more than age, so the kids are often the ones helping the adults improve their technique and skills. Which must be pretty empowering for a kid.
Tomorrow morning is the first compeition of the season. Hoping he does as well as he did tonight.