By Blake Lakewood, 07/25/2014
Sparring is a great way for the taekwondo student to execute the moves they have been practicing in their forms (poomsae), and applying lessons and drills they have been learning in their class. However, it is also the most dangerous and the most likely situation where the student can get hurt. Mismatched abilities of students, like mixing an inexperienced student with an overly aggressive more experienced student, could lead to an injury that was avoidable, assuming the master or instructor employs some common sense. Fortunately taekwondo sparing gear was developed to “help” protect the student from any serious injury.
The basic beginner taekwondo sparring gear (from head to toe) consists of:
- foam head gear– which protects the colored-belted student with accidental kicks to the head and the black belt level student from controlled kicks from your opponent to the head (hopefully not self-inflicted). Head gear usually comes with air release vented ear protection.
- a mouth guard – with the obvious purpose of protecting your teeth from a jarring of the lower jaw into your upper jaw
- a chest protector – to reduce the impact from unblocked kicks to your mid-section. Many of the chest protectors are reversible so you can choose either a red or blue traditional color.
- a hand and forearm guards – to aid in blocking kicks andto cushion the impact of the blocked kicks. The basic forearm guard has Foam pads from wrist to elbow is made of soft cloth fabric covering a thick foam, elastic
- support cup (for the male) – protect the groin from an inexperienced students stray kick or from the more experienced students accidental kick.
- shin and instep guards.- can aid in blocking kicks and to protect the legs from opponent kicking collisions
- a sparring gear bag big enough to hold all the beginner TKD sparring equipment, water bottles and some small personal items.
Figure 1 – Shin and Instep Guards, Hand and Forearm Guard (from L to R)
As the student progresses in their sparring ability, additional or different sparring gear may also be used (or swapped) with the beginner equipment:
- The foot guard was not part of the original minimum TKD sparring gear, but I now believe it is mandatory in all WTF sanctioned competitions. The foot guard and shin guard replace the basic shin and instep guards. Foot protectors are usually made with ethylene vinyl acetate, EVA, foam on the exterior and a sweat absorbing fabric or sponge padding. The EVA foam provides extra protection to the student and the opponent. For the student it provides better traction to prevent injuries to the toes instep and ankles and provides feet protection from high impact. For the opponent, it provides a reduced shock from kicking. In some designs, the toes and the heel are exposed to prevent slipping. There is usually some type of Velcro system that will allow easy removal from the feet and an elastic material that will keep the foot guards snug around your feet without restricting your movement.
Figure 2 – Foot Guard Examples
The shin guard as mentioned above is to be used with the foot guard. Both of these devices are used to replace the basic shin and instep guards. They are usually made of reinforced vinyl covered light-weight foam. Elastic bands with Velcro typically secure the device to your shin.
Figure 3 – Shin Guard Examples
- The hand guards or gloves along with the forearm guard can be used to replace the basic hand and forearm guards that come with a typical beginning sparring set. Hand guards help to prevent injury to your fists and the forearm guards.
o The World Taekwondo Federation, WTF, style gloves are constructed of a durable EVA material which provides extra protection. There is a Velcro elastic strap system that allows easy wear and removal. Many of these type gloves contain a spandex fabric for ventilation and comfort along with a special sponge padding area for sweat absorption. They are typically open-fingered which allows the finger tips to stick out of the gloves.
o Forearm guards are designed to withstand the strongest strikes. Typically constructed of a coated vinyl which covers protective foam with elastic Velcro straps for easy wear and removal.
Figure 4 – Hand Guards (Gloves) and Forearm Guards