According to Dan Inosanto, effective training involves three stages:
Cooperative training is how we initially learn and practice techniques. There is no resistance at this stage. It’s just about drilling the shape, movement, and proper mechanics. Our partners assist in our success by creating structures that allow perfect execution.
The Contesting phase involves resistance. It’s what we typically experience while sparing. It’s how we learn to apply our technique against someone who is not going along with the plan. It’s my belief that resistance should be scaled slowly, so that new techniques can be incorporated. You can’t go from cooperative training to high intensity training and expect to be able to bridge that gap.
The Combative phase is where we test our technique against 100% resistance. A Jiu Jitsu competition (and the training leading up to it) is a good example. While this phase is important, it should be done the least often. It’s purpose is to develop a higher level of physicality and mindset. You can’t train this way all the time or you’ll get burned out or injured. But you should train this way some of the time to keep the knife sharp.