Hi Raul & Jim,
Sorry but I neglect to check this forum a lot. My apologies.
Jim was right with the pre-arranged sparring idea of Yakusoku kumite. We also do a semi-free sparring (kind of hard to explain) where each pair strikes back and forth at each other while working on combinations including blocks, strikes, trappings, etc. etc. but not all out.
Raul said, "In my opinion without some sort of free sparring your training is not going to fully enrich you in the ability to effectively and efficiently defend yourself in a real life encounter." - I counter with interesting statement on your part. I never knew that a real life self defense situation was like a sparring match. The last time I got in a real fight, which was about 8 years ago, there were no rules. I was hitting hard and with no pulled punches or were either of us wearing pads or groin protectors.
Raul, in all sincerity please enlighten me on how free sparring will help me to defend myself from a beating on the streets. I don't see a connection.
Imperial Crane Martial Arts