Small children love to wrestle and spar, usually this is done with older siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and parents. Inherently we understand in this situation to make the game fun for the younger child we need to let them play the dominant roll in the fight, at least part of the time.. Of course the older individual could always dominate but in play they don’t they self handicap in order to continue playing, stuart brown has found in his research that kids can general tolerate losing up to about 70 percent of the time but beyond that the will simple get frustrated and no longer find the game fun, this of course is variable from child to child. Since play fighting is fun it works for both players if they switch roles.
The same can be seen in dog play as well, well socialized dogs take turns chasing and being chased, pinning and being pinned and exchanging bites.
Unfortunately because roughhousing play often gets shut down this ability to switch fluidly between the roll of wining and the roll of losing a fight is often lost in adults and their tendency is to escalate sparring to always try to win.
One really great way to get past this problem early on is to focus on games where one party is on offense and one party on defense. This is akin to small child who feels overwelmed by not winning enough saying you can use your arms anymore or you can’t hit back.
In many traditional martial arts a large percentage of practice is done within what is called the Uke relationship were the Uke is reciever of the technique. For instance one player may throw a punch so that another player can catch it and throw the first player, in this case the punch thrower is the Uke he is recieving the technique.
Learning to be a good uke in combative play is very important for building good play relationships from which deep practice an occur.
One problem that arises however is when the uke becomes too receptive and feeds his or her partner techniques that are too easily responded to the partner can end up learning responses that are totally disconnected from the reality of combat. If I am throwing punches at your head in order for you to work on slipping punches but I throw the punch to side of your head or stop it before it gets to your face you learn to avoid punches that would never have landed in the first place.
So as we go deeper into combative practice we must learn to be reciever of techniques while giving our partner enough resistance to continue to learn and get stronger.
This can evolve to the point where nearly full sparring is taking place but one partner is focused on helping the other partner learn. you can play the uke very robustly.
This video of Anderson Silva and Lyoto machida looks to me like an example of this it appears to be the case that Anderson is not so much looking to take Lyoto down but rather to provide resistance for Machida to work through to find the take down.
My challenge to you is to find a partner and play like this be very clear whose job is to learn and whose job is to provide the learning environment.
This can be very simple one partner punches the other avoids or blocks, or you can take it as far as you feel comfortable.
You can keep speed and power absolutely minimal and still find useful skill development and lots of fun playing this way.