Some random thoughts on combat sport

8 May

For those who don’t know me, I have been actively involved in combat sports promotion for decades. I promoted my first sanshou event in 1995 and was one of the group of Americans who changed the Chinese run sanshou into a more modern San Da. I also promoted the first Shooto style rule event in New York in 1997 and co-wrote the amateur MMA rules that are used now in New Jersey.


To me, combat sport is not only a way to promote a tradition but also a way to develop a student. Despite the term “sport” I firmly believe that combat sport in fact is essential to developing real self defense skill. So one of the first things I ask when I look at any combat sport is – HOW MUCH DOES THIS SPORT APPROACH REALISM AND DEVELOP REAL SKILL.

At the same time, since I realize that the MAJORITY of any combat sports’ participation is AMATEUR, I ask HOW MUCH DOES THE FORMAT PROTECT THE ATHLETE AND KEEP THEM REASONABLE SAFE. Remember, the athlete is why the show is happening. They are the ones putting their necks on the block. Are they being treated safely, fairly, WITH RESPECT?


These are the reasons I’ve never gotten along with the Chinese run organizations and the fighting formats they promote. I”ll be more direct, I often feel the fighting events run by the Chinese organization are run by people who know very little about fighting and don’t care at all about the people involved in the event. I certainly saw this with the sanshou movement, which explains in a large part why it is pretty much dead in the US.

Still alive and well is the “Kuo Shu” or “Lei Tai” events based upon the Taiwanese fighting format. I REALLY don’t like them! Why you may ask? Well, GOOD QUESTION. And here is just ONE REASON but the one reason demonstrates a lot of my points!

Have you ever seen the Kuo Shu head gear? Here’s a picture of it


This piece of so-called “safety equipment” tells me a LOT about who is running this event and what they really know about “fighting”

– Your technique, i.e. your “kung fu” is what is supposed to protect your face, not some plastic cage

– How “safe” is this headgear when we constantly hear about how people’s hands are broken punching it AND how people get their noses broken when the bar crashes into their face!

– Now, consider the REAL reason any amateur should be wearing headgear, the reason USA Boxing added headgear to amateur boxing competitions. That reason is “rabbit punching” and DEATH by secondary impact syndrome.

Feel free to google and read up on this stuff, but a short summary is this. You get hit in the head (often the BACK of the head) and that knocks you unconscious. You then fall and HIT your head on the floor, a SECOND TIME. The SECOND impact kills you, as in KILLS YOU DEAD.

I was doing full contact Taekwondo the summer that three people died because of this and the AAU added headgear to full contact Taekwondo competitions. I know a lot about this.

That’s also why the padding on the back of USA Boxing approved head gear is a certain way. To absorb that secondary impact should you get KO’ed (and the referee doesn’t catch you, a reason why the referee is an important safety tool also)


So much for that piece of so called “safety equipment”


One Response to “Some random thoughts on combat sport”

  1. Marshall May 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    The head gear is a big issue with most of the amateur full contact formats I’ve ever seen.

    I honestly think the *lack* of a head gear is one of the reasons MMA format & UFC’s ‘Unified’ rules are so prevalent. Ironically (considering the kuo shu promoters’ stance), it seems some other formats’ “protective” gear does more harm than good. This is unfortunate, because a *proper* head-gear can protect from some significant long-term brain injuries… however:

    Unless the head gear is specifically designed to protect from the secondary impact at least as well as the initial strike, competitors will probably be almost equally safe ditching it altogether (like amateur Olympic boxing is going to do) … or *for god’s sake* at least using a proper amateur boxing-style head gear that is going to prevent your brain getting scrambled when you land unconscious on the floor!

    I’m all for protective gear, and for full-contact fight sports, but if someone is going to run a large-scale amateur event, you’d think they’d at least have the wherewithal to do their homework. It’s not like 10 minutes Googling “full-contact head gear” or “headgear risks” wouldn’t be enough to eliminate that stupid caged atrocity pictured above entirely!

    I think this quote from George Groves sums it up best (from someone who’s currently a pro super-middleweight, and a former amateur champ):

    “I get paid to get hit in the head. These kids don’t. They need the protection headguards give at this stage of their careers, just as I did when I boxed as an amateur. I never had a cut or serious head injury. Removing them is highly dangerous. Especially at a time when several sports, not only boxing, are increasingly concerned about brain damage. It is too great a risk.”

    Now, that is for boxing, but if someone is putting on an amateur full-contact tournament of any kind, you’d think they would be aware of these developments in the other full-contact sports! And George is only 26 years old.

    I am glad to see you blogging so frequently sir, these posts & your awareness of both the sport & “traditional” approaches is crucial for today’s Traditional Chinese Martial Arts community.

    Peace, and keep up the good work 😀

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