Minimum required sparring gear

  • This is for low-level colored belts and kids. (Higher belts may have stricter or laxer requirements, depending on how I see things going).
  • The rules at this level would be kicks to the body are allowed, kicks to the head or legs are not. Punches are only allowed to the body.
  • Chestguard would be required (just to protect the kicker from the sweat of their opponent). I'm also assuming groin cup (if applicable) and mouthguard.
For this type of sparring I would definitely require beginners to wear a cup, hand pads and foot pads that completely cover the toes and fully pad the knuckles on the hands that fully secure at the wrist, and shin pads. My perspective is that those pads are for the protection of the striker more than the protection of the targeted partner. Beginners take time to learn to not kick with the toes and have good fist alignment. More advanced students could get away with just shin/instep pads with a hogu if head contact isn't allowed. Depending on the level of contact, forearm guards may be wanted for beginners but if it's light contact or even just partial contact, I have found forearms don't get hurt very often and usually aren't necessary.
 
IMO the main benefit of headgear is if a person "Goes Down" whether it be caused by a slip or a blow, and the head hits the floor- this is where the head gear offers greatest protection.
That's what my thought has always been - when I researched it a while back though, I found it was not actually helpful even for that. This was years ago, so new data might have come out since, or I could be misremembering.
 
My viewpoint is protection on the areas that, if an injury occurs, would be problematic. So that would be mouthguard (dental work is expensive), cup (obvious reasons), and gloves (jamming/breaking a finger can put you out for a while).
This was my initial thought.
Footpads just end up being more annoying than protective. Especially since they can slip around, not actually protect the toes and increase the chance of rolling an ankle from stepping weirdly.

Shinpads...yeah, a shin clash hurts, but it's easily recoverable. And the pain from it is useful to teach you to avoid shin clashes. I'd consider it in drilling where the shins are going to take a beating, so you can train longer, but that's it.
(Bridging this line from further down).
Elbow and knee pads i can see being useful, if they're thrown a lot in your sport. Its pretty easy to accidentally lacerate with an elbow. If they're illegal it would depend on how much i trust my students not to throw them.
I know we've discussed it before, but I forget. Is your background in a sport like Muay Thai or like Karate/TKD? TKD sparring (especially the way I plan on doing it) is typically very kick-heavy. And at the purple belt level, where headshots aren't allowed and spinning kicks aren't comfortable yet, it's probably 90%+ roundhouse kicks. Even at the black belt level, it's probably 50%+ roundhouse kicks.

Shin clashes are much rarer I think in most other martial arts, but are very common in Taekwondo, because almost every time both folks go for a strike at the same time, it's crossing roundhouse kicks. This is also the reason I would go for knee and elbow pads, to protect from knees knocking knees, and insteps hitting elbows.
I've never used chest protectors, or had kids use them, and in 20ish years being/working with kids, seen an injury result from it. Not even sure what they would do. If a kid had some heart condition or something I'd probably recommend it, but outside of that it doesn't seem necessary. Unless it's required in tournaments and you want them to be used to sparring for sport.
Chest protectors provide the "valid target" in the Taekwondo schools and competitions I've attended. Below is off limits. Above is off limits (until a belt level where headshots are allowed). It also makes a nice solid THUD when hit, which makes it easier to score points.

I could be mistaken on this, but I also think it serves a dual role for women. I know women's breasts are more sensitive to pain when being struck than a man's pecs. I don't know if sports bras help with that or not. Kind of a similar thing as a groin cup for boys. Maybe less important, but also the chest is a valid target so it will likely get hit more.
IMO the main benefit of headgear is if a person "Goes Down" whether it be caused by a slip or a blow, and the head hits the floor- this is where the head gear offers greatest protection.
I think this would matter more if we weren't training on mats. If you're training on hardwood, concrete, thinly covered concrete, etc., then I see this a lot more.
I firmly believe that hogu is for kumdo.
What is kumdo? Is that a sword thing?
 
This was my initial thought.

(Bridging this line from further down).

I know we've discussed it before, but I forget. Is your background in a sport like Muay Thai or like Karate/TKD? TKD sparring (especially the way I plan on doing it) is typically very kick-heavy. And at the purple belt level, where headshots aren't allowed and spinning kicks aren't comfortable yet, it's probably 90%+ roundhouse kicks. Even at the black belt level, it's probably 50%+ roundhouse kicks.

Shin clashes are much rarer I think in most other martial arts, but are very common in Taekwondo, because almost every time both folks go for a strike at the same time, it's crossing roundhouse kicks. This is also the reason I would go for knee and elbow pads, to protect from knees knocking knees, and insteps hitting elbows.
My (striking) background was in kempo karate growing up, then a kempo/kickboxing place (more kickboxing than karate), then kenpo in college, and finally muay Thai since the kempo place closed down ~ 10 years. The growing up place, from what I've gathered, is pretty similar to how TKD is run, with the same sparring rules. Point sparring pretty much just to the chest, with head strikes allowed for brown and black belts. There were ton of knee on knee clashes, and shin clashes - I can't give an estimate since it's been so long, but in the younger kids it was incredibly common. They happened much less though with teens, not because less kicks were being thrown, but because they were being thrown in ways that would avoid the clashes (we did not use shin gear or kneepads). So people would throw more front and side kicks, use more angles to get the kicks to land, and time the kicks so we'd be throwing after a failed kick/seeing the other person start to place their foot down.

The heavy emphasis on kicks wasn't there though - 50/50 punches vs. kicks, so I can't say if the same would be true for TKD. If I were in your shoes, I'd personally give it a shot, since you can always add shin gear later if it's still happening constantly.

Side note - while it didn't award any points, it was also perfectly valid to kick the other person's shin on purpose when you see them starting a kick. Which, against the few people who could do that consistently, encouraged more tactics as well.
Chest protectors provide the "valid target" in the Taekwondo schools and competitions I've attended. Below is off limits. Above is off limits (until a belt level where headshots are allowed). It also makes a nice solid THUD when hit, which makes it easier to score points.
This makes sense. For sparring where that's the target, and if it's going to be used in competition, it definitely makes sense to use the appropriate gear for it. I would argue that you should be doing sparring outside of that, as well as sport sparring, particularly for teens/adults. But that's an entirely different discussion.
I could be mistaken on this, but I also think it serves a dual role for women. I know women's breasts are more sensitive to pain when being struck than a man's pecs. I don't know if sports bras help with that or not. Kind of a similar thing as a groin cup for boys. Maybe less important, but also the chest is a valid target so it will likely get hit more.
I actually forgot about this. That definitely seems like a valid reason for a chest protector to me - I'd make it optional but encouraged, purely since it's more visible than a cup to avoid accusations of sexual discrimination among overly-sensitive parents. That would be if I were to teach though, without the sport excuse (I would stray away from point-sparring to chest only; again a topic for a different thread). With being able to say it's for sport, I'd probably make it a blanket rule for everyone, to avoid any accusations of discrimination or sexism.
 
I would argue that you should be doing sparring outside of that, as well as sport sparring, particularly for teens/adults. But that's an entirely different discussion.
It is, and I plan to. But also not at purple belt (which should be 6 months to 1 year in).
 
I actually forgot about this. That definitely seems like a valid reason for a chest protector to me - I'd make it optional but encouraged, purely since it's more visible than a cup to avoid accusations of sexual discrimination among overly-sensitive parents. That would be if I were to teach though, without the sport excuse (I would stray away from point-sparring to chest only; again a topic for a different thread). With being able to say it's for sport, I'd probably make it a blanket rule for everyone, to avoid any accusations of discrimination or sexism.
This was more of an "added bonus" kind of thing, because I already had decided that I wanted to use the chestguard (for boys too).
 
Redman suit.
TN118_1500_1.jpg

That's pretty much the only way to pad everything that might get kicked.
Very close to how we gear up for Kali competitions. But they have lightweight aluminum or FRP plates inside and get slices up rather quickly.
 
I asked this a while ago in General. Got some good answers, but some not really relevant to TKD (i.e. "handwraps and 16 oz. gloves"), so I wanted to make a thread in the TKD forum. What is the requirements you would recommend for a school? Keeping in mind....
  • This is for low-level colored belts and kids. (Higher belts may have stricter or laxer requirements, depending on how I see things going).
  • The rules at this level would be kicks to the body are allowed, kicks to the head or legs are not. Punches are only allowed to the body.
  • Chestguard would be required (just to protect the kicker from the sweat of their opponent). I'm also assuming groin cup (if applicable) and mouthguard.
Should the feet and hands be padded for strikes?
Should the shins be padded for when folks knock shins? How about knees?
Should the forearms be padded for blocks? How about elbows to protect insteps?
Should a helmet be worn if there's not supposed to be head contact? I'm in Texas, so it can get pretty hot (but I'll probably have AC).

Overall, I'm not really worried about superficial bumps and bruises. I'd like to keep abrasions to a minimum (more to protect the cleanliness of the school), as well as major injuries.

I can see requiring as little as chestguard, mouthguard, and groin protector, to as much as everything up to knees and elbows and helmet. And lots of options in between.
I would say the use of safety gear can be over-done, to a fault. Think of this, if one person has a chest protector and the other person has foot/shin gear, that is a doubling of safety gear. On the surface that may sound good, but what often happens is a false sense of safety, leading people to go harder with less control. The result is harder contact than you would have without the hogu.
I feel there are times to match the tournament requirements to get used to wearing the gear. But for 'regular' class sparring, there is great value in minimal or no sparring gear at all. It really balances out things. There is a very real value in learning what a hit feels like and learning how to take a little contact without freaking out.
That said, I always leave it up to the student. I strongly recommend everyone (male & female) wear groin protection. Shin and instep pads are usually worn. Everyone wears headgear. We are TKD, so not a lot of punches for WT sparring, but we also go to opens where punching to the face is allowed. So, it takes time and focus for the student to make the adjustment and know the rules.
Since you are looking for specifics for your own school, I would model the requirements around whatever ruleset I am going to follow.
There is always going to be 'that guy' who is willing and able to go harder than everyone else. In the average class environment, this is the harder person to moderate.
 

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