Does Martial Arts Equipment Really Protect You?
My first experience with Martial Arts equipment, and I am speaking of shin pads, gloves, and that sort of thing, came in 1968.
I was taking a freestyle class at my Chinese Kenpo school, and the instructor came out with all these pads.
“Got to wear these,” he said, tossing a couple of sets on the mat. “I’ve only got two sets, so you can put them on when your turn comes. You’ll have to have your own protective gear by next week.”
“Why do we have to wear them?” asked somebody.
The school owner said, with a grim smile and a wink of the eye, “So you won’t harm anybody, so you won’t get hurt yourself.” And the delirious message beneath his words, ‘You are so deadly!’
We near shivered with delight as we donned our Martial Arts Equipment.
Now, truth. It wasn’t our deadliness that was the issue, because we had all learned not to hit too hard, and there were very few accidents, and those weren’t serious. So what was it all about? Money. Money for the school owner.
And, more truth, there were more injuries as a result of wearing that Martial Arts Equipment. We simply felt we had to hit harder to get the job done, and we thought the chest pads were going to protect us.
Now, that is the simple truth of it all, but let me take a further step. A few months later I quit that school and went to a classical Karate school, the Kang Duk Won. There I learned some interesting things about freestyle.
At the Kang Duk Won we never used pads. Never. You were expected to control yourself, and you did. And, if you didn’t, you would find yourself freestyling with an advanced Black Belt, and he taught you control the hard way. Learn easy, or get taught. Period.
Now, you might think there is a brutality here, but there wasn’t. It is just that the advanced black belt would control you, pop you just hard enough to take your breath away, and stare at you. And the message was clear: ‘Control yourself, don’t be a danger to your partner, or we’re going to do this lesson again, and as many times as it takes.
And, I learned something interesting. At Kenpo we would fight, and you could get points on the black belts. They were better, but you could point them every once in a while.
At the Kang Duk Won, unless a black belt wanted you to point them, you weren’t going to. Simply, they were in control, and the only way you were going to win a fight was by learning your lessons well.
So the Kenpo black belts were good, but they weren’t in control.
The Kang Duk Won black belts were in control, and they were fantastic.
And, at the Kang Duk Won we never did full freestyle until brown belt.
At Kenpo I was thrown in the mix on my sixth lesson (right after I signed a contract). At Kang Duk Won I spent two years doing supplementary exercises so that I could actually freestyle. In other wards, I spent two years learning the bits and pieces. This explained an awful lot about the differences here.
Now, back to protective gear.
At the Kang Duk Won we learned how to control our punch, and through this control we learned how to ‘feel inside’ our opponent with our fists. This enabled us to develop ‘Ki power’ strikes, and these strikes were totally different than the regular strikes. These are the strikes that, the softer you hit the more they hurt. This is the ability to move energy around in our bodies so as to make the body immune to a strike.
And we never wold have learned this ability if we had worn protective gear, if we had worn martial arts Equipment.