Sparring and Drills
Yes, we do "sparring" in that students will train in a freeform way with the objectives to achieve against each other. We also do sparring-type drills.
We can consider these as being the same but one is "symmetrical" and one is "asymmetrical." The former is mainly for sport and the latter mainly for pragmatism.
In this both students will have the same objective. For example Kickboxing-style standing striking or ground grappling where students will be aiming for advantageous positions or submissions (age and grade dependent.)
In this students have different objectives. For example one may be standing and attempting to strike the other who is on the ground and trying to stand. Or both may be standing and but one is trying to strike and not be grabbed whilst the other is trying to grab without being struck.
All ranges of combat can have sparring or drills attached to them. With asymmetrical drills this means the students will working on different ranges. It's all very clever and very applied.
We appreciate that some students love sparring, some don't and some start actively afraid of them. We feel that for martial arts to be effective in sport or for self protection then some degree of non-scripted or freeform drilling must take place. After all, real attacks won't be predictable! However we also want our martial arts to be accessible to everyone and so we introduce sparring and drills early but gradually. Safety is at the heart of our training so new students should never fear what is ahead. We push our black belts hard but they'll have spent years working toward this goal.
Overall this should all be both fun and purposeful.