Some people think this is the same thing …. and it kind of is in beginning training. But they quickly separate right after.
Sparring is training with defined rules and usually safety measures in place. There is “full contact” sparring, but even that has safety rules in place. The Japanese martial arts call it “Kumite”.
Sparring is a way for you to learn your strengths and help to identify your weaknesses so that you can improve upon them.
As time progresses you start paying more attention to your opponents openings and weaknesses and you use your strengths to dominate your opponent.
Sparring is very very important as it gives you a real time understanding of how you perform under mild pressure while trying to gain the advantage and exploit your sparring partner’s weakness.
I strongly recommend that you find a partner around your level to start. Have a good instructor to help you learn this dance. Then as your skills both increase, slowly begin to branch out to other sparring partners. Each person will open new challenges.
Grow together with fellow students and develop your skills.