Taekwondo Helmet vs Boxing/MMA Helmet

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Helmet TKD.jpg
Helmet MMA.jpg


The helmet on the left is what's been used in Taekwondo in my experience, both for sparring and competition. The helmet on the right is more typical of sparring in boxing or MMA, but is not used in competition.

I've used both, and personally prefer the MMA helmet. However, I wanted to see what others think about the two. I'm open to data showing the safety of one over the other, or personal anecdotes of where one style of helmet failed or succeeded, and the other would likely have succeeded or failed, respectively.

Taekwondo Helmet
The TKD helmet is often cheaper than an MMA helmet. Aside from name brands, you're probably looking at $10-$20 for a helmet. They offer great protection on the ears and on the sides of the head. There's also pretty good peripheral vision and breathability. The ear protection is also a good spot to store your mouthguard during rest periods. The chin strap means it is quick and easy to take on and off.

There's also the logistics that this is likely the helmet required for tournaments, and so having this helmet and having trained in this helmet would prepare students for tournaments.

However, I feel the protection on the face is lacking. There's a ton of wasted padding on top and on the back, areas where the skull already provides protection, and areas where you're not as likely to be hit in Taekwondo sparring. The helmets are sized and fit by the chin strap, which means sometimes they're not a great fit.

Boxing/MMA Helmet
You can find boxing or MMA helmets in the same price range as a TKD helmet, but most are going to run you more. In my experience, the padding is much thinner than a Taekwondo helmet. However, more expensive boxing helmets appear to offer more padding. Peripheral vision is obviously worse.

However, these helmets have more adjustments and are a better fit once sized. They cover much more of the cheek and jaw, and some even cover the chin. I don't know if the thickness of padding matters too much, since a helmet isn't going to do much to prevent concussions. So I would prefer coverage over thickness. And students can always get a thicker, more expensive piece of headgear if they choose (I would not want to require this unless absolutely important).

As a hopeful future school owner, I will be responsible for setting the requirements for sparring gear. I can pick one or the other, or I can simply mandate that "padded headgear" be used and leave it up to the student. I believe the MMA helmet to be safer and would lean towards requiring that. Since both can be bought for cheap, I would not feel like I am gatekeeping by doing so. Similarly, if we do need specific gear for a tournament, it's not very expensive to get tournament-approved gear.

Thoughts?
 

JowGaWolf

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My guess is that you are over thinking it. Sparring equipment should fit the intensity of the sparring and match the skill level of the student. If your student's aren't going to go hard with sparring then there's no need to buy the boxing head protection.

If you want your students to maximize peripheral vision the the open face helmet is the only way to go. As students become more skill they may be able to spar without a helmet. I have yet had a need to put on my helmet with my mma sparing partner. The training surface is good and he has a lot of control.

When I used to spar on concrete, helmets were necessary. If sweeps are allowed then definitely wear a helmet preferably the Martial Arts helmet because it has better padding on the back of the head.

As for protection. My experience is that people sometimes tend to hit harder when they see someone wearing a helmet.
 

MadMartigan

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The only thing I would add is to consider what the competition expectations will be. If competition will be a large focus of your school, then I'd suggest only offering the gear that those competitions will require. Very few parents want to buy 2 sets of gear (class and tournament) for kids that will soon grow out of both. Sometimes less is more when it comes to what gear options you offer.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Based on the best available research I've seen, headgear of either sort doesn't actually do much of anything to prevent concussions, although it does help avoid cuts and contusions. The main advantage I could see is for TKD sparring on hardwood floors - it could prevent injury if someone falls during a kick and hits their head. For that purpose, either type would work.
 

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While I understand you are comparing helmets, if the overall objective is sparing or competition safety, I think this has to go hand in hand with evaluating shin guards and glove oz size.
 

JowGaWolf

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While I understand you are comparing helmets, if the overall objective is sparing or competition safety, I think this has to go hand in hand with evaluating shin guards and glove oz size.
Agreed. I think people over focus on concussions as the only reason someone should wear head gear. I don't think I've ever purchased head gear or helmets with the thought that it was going to prevent concussions. There are other injuries those things are good at protecting a person against.

Young kids are probably more cautious about getting hurt than teens are. Teens tend to think that they are indestructible so I see more safety concerns with teens and young adults than I do with younger kids. Kids are more than happy to wear equipment. Teens and young adults not so much. We even see that here in Martial Talk. Older folks have been there done it and have no interest in tearing up their bodies more than they already have.
 

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Agreed. I think people over focus on concussions as the only reason someone should wear head gear. I don't think I've ever purchased head gear or helmets with the thought that it was going to prevent concussions. There are other injuries those things are good at protecting a person against.

Young kids are probably more cautious about getting hurt than teens are. Teens tend to think that they are indestructible so I see more safety concerns with teens and young adults than I do with younger kids. Kids are more than happy to wear equipment. Teens and young adults not so much. We even see that here in Martial Talk. Older folks have been there done it and have no interest in tearing up their bodies more than they already have.
It seems like boxing has figured out how to select the right glove size better than karate tournaments. I also don't see why more karate schools don't use solid shin guards found in Muay Thai. The right gear makes a big difference in sparring. Of course it still hurts though.
 
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The only thing I would add is to consider what the competition expectations will be.
My experience is with tournaments in my old town, so they may be different here. Up there, the only gear they really cared about having the right stuff was if you were in an electronic scoring bracket and were using the DAEDO system. Otherwise, they mainly cared that you had some sort of padding where it was required, and were not super concerned with which specific style of padding you had.

For example, a green belt would be required to have a helmet. As long as it wasn't a motorcycle helmet, they weren't too concerned with whether or not it looked exactly a TKD helmet. A black belt would use an electronic helmet that was provided by the tournament organizers.
Based on the best available research I've seen, headgear of either sort doesn't actually do much of anything to prevent concussions, although it does help avoid cuts and contusions. The main advantage I could see is for TKD sparring on hardwood floors - it could prevent injury if someone falls during a kick and hits their head. For that purpose, either type would work.
For this reason, I would lean towards the MMA helmet. I'm also leaning towards having looser requirements and letting students (or thier parents) pick what works best for them.
While I understand you are comparing helmets, if the overall objective is sparing or competition safety, I think this has to go hand in hand with evaluating shin guards and glove oz size.
I am looking at all of the sparring gear requirements, but this thread was focused on the helmets.
It seems like boxing has figured out how to select the right glove size better than karate tournaments. I also don't see why more karate schools don't use solid shin guards found in Muay Thai. The right gear makes a big difference in sparring. Of course it still hurts though.
I can't speak for Karate. From what I can tell, Muay Thai folks wear all sorts of different thicknesses in their gear.

I know for Taekwondo, it matters as much what pads you have to strike with and what pads your target has to absorb the strike with. The Taekwondo pads are relatively thin compared to some of the Muay Thai pads, but we're also kicking a pretty thick chestguard. Yes, it sucks when you kick an elbow with those thin TKD footguards, but I also plan to require knee and elbow pads for my students.

I noticed a significant drop in knee injuries when I added knee pads to my sparring gear kit. From situations where both fighters go for a kick at the same time, and the hard part of my opponent's knee hits the soft part of my knee. That was much less of an issue after adding knee pads, and that was just for myself. So I plan to include knee and elbow pads.
 

JowGaWolf

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Yes, it sucks when you kick an elbow with those thin TKD footguards,
This just means that more time needs to be spent targeting and timing punches. If you are kicking elbows then there's a lot of work that needs to be on with getting good at setting up a kick. Once you get the timing and set up of your kicks correct then you won't kick elbows. I kick all the time and I can't remember a time where I kicked an elbow. Blindly kicking just for the sake of it hitting the body somewhere is not a good plan. Not setting up the kicks in a way that allows you to avoid the elbows is also not a good plan,.
 
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This just means that more time needs to be spent targeting and timing punches. If you are kicking elbows then there's a lot of work that needs to be on with getting good at setting up a kick. Once you get the timing and set up of your kicks correct then you won't kick elbows. I kick all the time and I can't remember a time where I kicked an elbow. Blindly kicking just for the sake of it hitting the body somewhere is not a good plan. Not setting up the kicks in a way that allows you to avoid the elbows is also not a good plan,.
I don't know if you're aware of this, but elbows move. Quite often when you kick where an elbow wasn't, an elbow moves into that space before your foot does.
 

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I don't know if you're aware of this, but elbows move. Quite often when you kick where an elbow wasn't, an elbow moves into that space before your foot does.
I'm aware. Which is why I've been able to lands kicks for more than 10 years without kicking elbows. M brother had problems with kicking elbows. I gave him some "How to lessons" and now he doesn't kick elbows.

Most people just cover. Very few use elbows to attack round house kicks. This means the problem is with the kicker and not the opponent.

If your round house kick is landing on elbows then you are probably kicking upward and hitting under the elbow and not the side of the arm. If your kick is traveling horizontal then you should be able to land on muscle and not bone

I not a kicking master so if I can go more than 10 years without kicking elbows then other people should be able to accomplish the same.
 
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If your round house kick is landing on elbows then you are probably kicking upward and hitting under the elbow and not the side of the arm. If your kick is traveling horizontal then you should be able to land on muscle and not bone

I not a kicking master so if I can go more than 10 years without kicking elbows then other people should be able to accomplish the same.
There are reasons to go horizontal, diagonal, and vertical. A diagonal kick is more likely to sneak under the arm. Your kick is less likely to hit the elbow, but also less likely to get past the arm.

Saying you haven't kicked the elbow because you kick in such a conservative way is like saying you've never had an opponent land a take down because you pull guard every match.
 

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I prefer no head gear and rarely wear headgear when I spar with people I know have good control. When sparring with adult beginners and teens who don't know their own strength I wear a TKD headgear with full face shield.
 

JowGaWolf

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A diagonal kick is more likely to sneak under the arm
My personal thought on that, is that there are more reliable and less risky and more effective ways to kick under the arm. If this is a kick you like then you have to accept that you will kick a lot of elbows.

Your kick is less likely to hit the elbow, but also less likely to get past the arm.
My kicks get past the arms because I kick when the arms are least able to defend the kick. I don't kick just to be kicking and I don't try to force my kicks into areas that can be defended with subtle movements.



Saying you haven't kicked the elbow because you kick in such a conservative way
I don't know what this means. My kicks are practical. I do a wide range of kicks and I kick when there'sany opening to my target.
 
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My personal thought on that, is that there are more reliable and less risky and more effective ways to kick under the arm. If this is a kick you like then you have to accept that you will kick a lot of elbows.
Hence the expectation to wear elbow guards. This is how I learned in TKD. This is how I see it in many, many TKD videos. This is how I've recently been taught in Muay Thai. I'm pretty sure it's not just me.
My kicks get past the arms because I kick when the arms are least able to defend the kick. I don't kick just to be kicking and I don't try to force my kicks into areas that can be defended with subtle movements.
You do realize you're on the Taekwondo section right now, and that most Taekwondo sparring is about trying to kick your opponent, right?
I don't know what this means. My kicks are practical. I do a wide range of kicks and I kick when there'sany opening to my target.
See the middle comment you made in this. You don't kick if there's a remote chance of it being defended. That's being conservative with them.
 

JowGaWolf

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Hence the expectation to wear elbow guards. This is how I learned in TKD. This is how I see it in many, many TKD videos. This is how I've recently been taught in Muay Thai. I'm pretty sure it's not just me.
Makes no sense to me to do a kick where the kick lands on the elbow so often that your sparring partner has to wear elbow pads to protect the kicker from kicking the elbows. Makes more sense to just not use a kick that frequently lands on the hard part of the elbow.

It any kick that targets the mid section of the body should be done when the opponent is less likely to drop their elbows so that means the kicker must use the kick at the right time. The kicker must set up the kick vs just kicking and hoping it lands.

This is how I've recently been taught in Muay Thai. I'm pretty sure it's not just me.
Just because it's just not you, doesn't mean that what I'm telling you is invalid. I could do the same thing. "Just not me" because other people are teaching it the same way that I'm telling you "Don't kick upward into the elbows." "Kick to the outside of guard. Why would you try to sneak a kick under the arm with a fighter who fights with elbows down. So it's not just me either.




The natural response to an incoming kick for most people is to tighten up and bring the arms closer to the body and not open up.

If a person fights with arms close to the body then kick the arm. If person likes to end their guard then kick the body. If person's guard is close to the body then make him move his guard away from the body. This is the most efficient way to attack the body. Anything less is just going to be ineffective and you'll just end up kicking bone.
 
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Most of those kicks that you're presenting wouldn't score in Taekwondo. You have to hit the chestguard to score. If you're aiming at the bicep, it won't score.

Do you also go to wrestling matches and criticize them because they don't punch enough?

Please do me a favor and open a Taekwondo school where you teach people that kicking the arm is more valuable than scoring points. I'd love to go up against such a school in tournaments.
 

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You do realize you're on the Taekwondo section right now, and that most Taekwondo sparring is about trying to kick your opponent, right?
It wouldn't matter. The same problem of "How not to kick" elbows is not Taekwondo specific. If you want to kick elbows, then yes go buy elbow pads and train kicking elbows. But non of that changes, "How not to kick elbows"
 
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It wouldn't matter. The same problem of "How not to kick" elbows is not Taekwondo specific. If you want to kick elbows, then yes go buy elbow pads and train kicking elbows. But non of that changes, "How not to kick elbows"
It does matter when your advice doesn't work in the sport you're giving it.
 
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