A few days ago, in class, it was time to spar. I walked over to an older white belt, new to the club, who was standing by himself at the edge of the mat. I introduced myself and asked if he wanted to do some rolling.
His reply was perfect! He said “Hi, I’m Bill. This is my second class and I’m 51 years old. Please don’t use leglocks on me“. In about 10 seconds he made me aware of his skill level, his age, and his injury status. Needless to say we had a great little roll during which neither he nor I got hurt.
This type of pre-sparring check in is really useful, especially if you’ve never trained with someone before and you want to make sure that you’re both playing by the same rules. This orientation can prevent some very unfortunate misunderstandings about the rules.
However, even if you’ve sparred with someone a hundred times it’s still good to have a little pre-training pow wow.
If your neck is sore you can ask him to stay away from it. Maybe he just wants to work a specific aspect of his game.
Maybe you’re just getting over the flu and would rather do some light flowing, rather than sparring all out – just be careful who you tell this to, because certain aggressive personality types will take advantage of this and attack you full bore.
If I’m injured I often warn my opponent that I may tap out for no apparent reason. I do this because, in the past, I’ve tapped out when an opponent put unknowingly pressure onto my injured body part, only to have my opponent be very slow to let go. It wasn’t a malicious thing, it was just that he was surprised by my tapping out in the absence of any kind of obvious submission.
So I highly recommend a brief check in at the beginning of a sparring session – it can save you a lot of grief and make your training richer.