Last night’s sparring class brought up the topic of head contact and the consequences of it.

No, I’m not talking about how bad it is nor about all the safety equipment to protect students. I’m not going to argue the necessity of safety equipment. The medical evidence about concussions puts light and science on that. This is more about the development of students toward sport or life.

While sparring a colored belt, she got a really good combination that ended with a good head shot on me. Everything was legitimate according the class “rules” that we play by…BUT she way too close so the technique landed about 5x harder than she wanted. Since I claim “instructor’s privilege” and don’t wear headgear, she was quite shaken up by it. She was out of action for several rounds.

After class, one of my black belts mentioned he had recently found out that he could spar without headgear at his “old” school (he still workouts with them regularly). When he did, most were too disoriented by the lack of headgear that they couldn’t function well.

This experience brings up an issue that’s skirted in the debate about martial art or martial sport. With all of the safety concerns in the sport side (i.e. no head contact with punches and headgear with cages), students hesitate to throw techniques at the head. Now, granted, I came up the ranks before headgear was even really considered for sparring but to not “attack” that target can lead to catastrophe. The debate over learning control performing technique or adding safety equipment is for another time.

My position here is that, if we don’t train to include “bare head” contact, students will hesitate when the time comes AND students will think that they’re invulnerable due to the false security of the headgear (and cage). Please know that I’m not advocating brawling. We need controls and safety but we need to actively recognize what happens during sparring. Just as making sure that your ego doesn’t make you a bully during sparring, you have watch you ego when it comes to getting hit. Without getting carried away with it, you have to acknowledge that you got hit and, more importantly, you have to recognize that you could have gotten hurt.

As you train, pay attention!

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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