Equipment and format matters

25 Jun

FIRST: You have to understand that even if an event is not a “real fight”, it is the best, most reasonable way to train to fight. I have covered this a LOT (I have covered it to DEATH). Search “randori” or “real fight” on this blog and you will have to take a few days to read it all. Until you reach that point in your mind, the rest of this blog will likely not impact you.

Unless you were there, considering the current state of things, it is hard to explain to people that in the 1970’s and 1980’s Taekwondo was a pretty hardcore art. When I first started, only a mouth piece and cup were required. Kicks, especially to the head!, were expected to be full contact, they even told you that if they were not they would not score. Picture Kyokushinkai without the knee strikes and SUPPOSEDLY without the low kicks* and you’d see old school Taekwondo. Not surprising if you know Mas Oyama was an ethnic Korean.

* “Low kicks” were “illegal”, except when they weren’t! A round kick to the thigh followed immediately by a jumping round kick with the other leg was NEVER called. Other old school Taekwondo tactics involved stepping on the opponents thigh!

If we are going to discuss headgear, I have to confess I have a very uneasy relationship with the subject. I used to be a HUGE PROPONENT OF PEOPLE WEARING HEADGEAR. In New York, I was butting heads with a lot of early Muay Thai promoters who said “they don’t use headgear in Thailand”. First, for the most part these were amateur matches and in Thailand it is most professional. Second, I had very strong feelings about headgear because I had been active in the old school full contact Taekwondo when the “summer of death” happened; three US students died from head kicks.

Headgear is NOT a replacement for proper defense. And frankly it has only one real application, to prevent those “secondary impact” deaths. That is why I despise the “face cage” headgear which doesn’t really protect the fact and doesn’t have the proper padding to prevent “secondary impact” death.

IWUF Sanshou required headgear, but with the grappling element most of the “Big 6” teams quickly learned that only some headgear were appropriate. Pretty much everyone ended up using the “open face” USA boxing approved models (above). NOTE it is “open face” so you still need defense, real defense, but it has the USA boxing approved padding specifically for “secondary impact” death prevention.

We tried using headgear in an early version of our amateur MMA, it never worked out. When we teamed up with the late Paul Rosner and the USKBA to pitch amateur MMA to New Jersey, we did so with no headgear. The debate about the pros and cons continue as in this article about Olympic boxing dropping headgear. It seems the tide of EDUCATED opinion is that other things insure fighter safety.

Another thing that I seem to have arguments with about people is shin padding. Muay Thai people frequently say “they don’t use them in Thailand” while STILL missing the obvious fact that are professionals. Also, most of the time those are not tournament fights. They are single matches. Personally, I LOVE tournaments. I know they build the best fighters. But they are also on their way out.

IWUF official shin pads were pretty meager. At best you hoped they prevented cuts. So one of the major challenges in international competition was to keep your legs as intact as possible with these little pads over the course of 3 to 6 fights over two to three days. That is, again, tournaments make tough fighters, IF YOU SURVIVE. People who made it through those events are some of the toughest fighters I know. I also know guys who got so badly injured they never fought again, and THAT is a consideration.

Honestly, not sure why people are opposed to shin padding. Most combat sport is always going to be amateur level. Do we really want to see amateurs get so badly injured? The shin padding issue is NOT one of making your kicks less effective, if anything, I can kick HARDER and more often with shin pads on. When a certain coach tried to pressure amateurs to fight “like the K1” a lot of the coaches, not just me, noted that not only was K1 paying VERY GOOD MONEY (and this event was paying NOTHING), but K1 got progressively less interesting as an event progressed because injured fighters (and these were the world’s BEST PROFESSIONALS) kicked less. Even from a promoter, spectator and/or sport point of view, shin padding is better.

Chest shields are a completely different matter, one that could take up even more space!

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