All martial arts are largely physical in nature and during training it is imperative that no martial artist should suffer any injury. To avoid injuries, martial artists wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is also commonly known as protective gear.
Why wear PPE?
The prime reason is protection, which results in the safety of the martial artist and the sparring partner.
The secondary reason is that a martial artist need not control to pull back on the punches and kicks. The martial artist can experience full-contact sparring with minimum risk of getting hurt or hurting the partner. This enables implementing and perfecting the techniques to greater levels.
Besides martial arts, PPE is also widely used in both professional and amateur sports. For example, boxing, rugby, baseball, cycling, ice hockey, cricket, horse racing, auto racing and others.
PPE in martial arts
In martial arts, PPE has witnessed many changes over time and is still changing. Generally, the following PPE are used nowadays in different forms of martial arts:
- head protectors
- mouth guards
- compression wear/ rash guards
- shoulder protectors
- arm protectors
- elbow protectors
- wrist protectors
- hand protectors
- chest/trunk/torso/rib protectors
- abdomen protectors
- genital protectors
- leg protectors
- thigh protectors
- knee protectors
- shin protectors
- ankle protectors
- instep protectors
- foot protectors
Safety in training
Safety in training is generally dependent on four major factors as follows:
- mastering fundamental techniques
- conditioning the body
- using proper protective gear
- obeying the rules of the training center
All these four factors are interrelated and help each other in enhancing the overall safety of oneself and of others.
Mastering fundamental techniques
In empty-hand training, if one punches without making a proper fist or the wrist bends on impact, then one will hurt oneself only. If a kick is delivered without moving the leg correctly, then one’s own kick will hurt one’s own leg. If a block is executed incorrectly, then one’s own block will hurt oneself. Similarly, in weapon-training, if one handles a weapon incorrectly, then one’s own weapon will cut one’s own body. Knowing how to punch, kick, block, or handle a weapon is important for one’s own safety. Therefore, by mastering fundamental techniques, one learns how not to hurt oneself by one’s own punches, kicks, blocks, or weapons. Fundamental techniques eliminates personal injury and enhances personal safety from one’s own defensive or attacking moves.
Conditioning the body
The body needs to be conditioned by various kinds of exercises in a systematic manner, in order to handle the pressures of rigorous training. For example, without warming up if one executes a kick, then it may sprain the leg or it may result in a muscle cramp. Conditioning is of various types and is dependent upon the skill of the martial artist; nonetheless, without body conditioning the chances of hurting oneself are increased. Therefore, to increase personal safety, a martial artist needs to condition one’s own body.
Using protective gear
In training, the purpose is to educate and not to hurt oneself or others. By mastering the fundamental techniques and conditioning the body, one is able to increase personal safety. However, attacking movements are inherently designed to hurt others. Therefore, to practice such movements one has to use protective gear, in order to prevent oneself and others from getting hurt.
Obeying the rules of the training center
Every training center has rules and one must obey the rules. In any kind of sparring, one must wear the appropriate protective gear. If there is no-contact sparring in progress, then mastering the fundamental techniques helps to stop the attacking or defensive movement just short of contact. If there is light-contact sparring, then conditioning of the body helps oneself from getting hurt. In case of full-contact sparring, one must wear all possible protective gear, so that nobody gets hurt or there is minimum injury.
Aim of training
The aim of any training is always to educate and not to harm others. Therefore, one must respect oneself and the training partners, so that no one is harmed. With this aim in view, all protective gear are made to high quality specifications. In Europe, there is also a formal standard for personal protective equipment.
Standard for PPE
The European Standards has standardized the manufacture and other aspects of PPE for martial arts in its “BS EN 13277” group of standards. The European Standard lays down the requirements and testing for zone protection, ergonomics, impact performance, restraint, innocuousness, and marking used in PPE. The standard has eight parts, which together cover PPE for head, face, arms, hand, chest, breast, abdomen, genitals, legs, and foot.
Any physical activity carries with it the risk of injury. A sure way to avoid or minimize this risk if by wearing appropriate and high-quality PPE. A student should always seek guidance from an instructor, regarding the type of PPE and its usage. Guidance from an instructor is invaluable as it offers first-hand knowledge based on the instructor’s experience.
- ‘Guide to Sports Medicine: Protective Wear during Sport – Sports Injury Prevention’, webpage, Available at: https://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/injury-prevention/protective-wear.html [Accessed on July 8, 2022]
- “BS EN 13277”, webpage, European Standards, Available at: https://www.en-standard.eu/search/?q=BS+EN+13277 [Accessed on July 8, 2022]