Is sparring necessary for a martial art to be good for self-defense?

I've seen some criticism that if a martial art doesn't do sparring as part of their routine training it's not "good". We do not routinely spar in my style of kung-fu, the reason being that the techniques and applications of our style are for combat and should be applied full force. ... show more I've seen some criticism that if a martial art doesn't do sparring as part of their routine training it's not "good".

We do not routinely spar in my style of kung-fu, the reason being that the techniques and applications of our style are for combat and should be applied full force. Sparring would be detrimental to training because it would teach the body to hold-back techniques in order to avoid harming your training partner. There are a great number of techniques in our system that will not work at all if you do not apply them full force with the intent to harm/injure.

It's my understanding the earliest historical references to "sparring" was two advanced practitioners getting together to learn from one another in a controlled "gentleman's rules" format. Some references to the history of kali say that if some one wanted to "spar" you it was essentially a duel to the death.

My personal opinion is sparring is not appropriate for styles that focus on combat applications rather than competition. A lack of sparring in a style doesn't indicate it's not a "good"style.

There is sparring in my style, but it's rare and it's usually arranged by two advanced students wishing to play around with one another rather than as a regular format for training.
Update: Thanks Pugpaws.

I enjoyed that video. We use that whipping slap in our style and it is devastating. That's one of the best demonstrations of that technique I've seen on video.
Update 2: Chris J -- I think you have serious definition issues. Sparring and live training are two different things altogether. I agree with you about live training. I disagree with you about sparring, essentially because I think you've misdefined sparring altogether.
Update 3: Added:: I'm beginning to think the "controversy" over the issue of sparring is primarily one of definition. I believe Chris J's answer has great content but that his and my definitions do not match when referring to the word "sparring". I think that may be the case in most opinions on... show more Added:: I'm beginning to think the "controversy" over the issue of sparring is primarily one of definition. I believe Chris J's answer has great content but that his and my definitions do not match when referring to the word "sparring". I think that may be the case in most opinions on the topic.
Update 4: Added:: Nice anecdote Pyschopa... I am seeing the relevance of sparring because of the good arguments. It may be one of the better tools for training available in the modern cultural climate. I still am apprehensive it can be misapplied in training to develop bad habits, but I can see the benefits as well.
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