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Safety is very important when practicing martial arts, especially for beginners. I know a famous and very respected teacher that used to always say, "be careful, we all have to go to work tomorrow". That being said, is there ever a time where a person's skill reaches a level where they should fight unprotected? I believe there are advantages and disadvantages. Obviously the disadvantages are the possibility of injury. The advantages that I see are that a person will learn not to be too daring in combat with questionable techniques and they will also place more emphasis on sound defensive techniques and footwork.

What's your opinion?

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Comment by terry joven on August 25, 2010 at 1:18pm
That was Leo Giron's philosophy also. There has been quite a bit of debate on this site about liive stick, padded stick, protective gear etc. We practice defense as well as our offense equally and the way we play/train/spar is the same way we case we ever have to fight without protective gear.
If you style/training/instructors are good.... and you "train for the truth" ...than you should not have much to worry about.
Comment by Anthony Manansala on August 25, 2010 at 1:44pm
When I first started training with Associate GM, Ed Bansuelo, we went "slow for form" always emphasizing our angles and techniques. Later, we started 1/2 - 3/4 speed without a lot of power...all without padding. Now, sparring takes place with padded gear. (FYI, we tended to used synthetic sticks, not rattan, and let me tell you, those sticks hurt! Now we use the padded sticks and rattan to reduce the likelihood of injury.)

Too much dependence on padding and you'll try to catch a full power strike with your hand or think "I'll take the hit and counter...well, a good strike to the head and well, you may not get the chance to counter.

Padding and safety have their does unprotected sparring. Both are tools that instructors and students need to teach and learn to use to be a well rounded FMA practitioner.
Comment by Joshua Fowler on August 25, 2010 at 1:58pm
This may sound weird...and yes I agree with you. I'm a firm beliver in practicing how you would fight. I train with the idea that yes, you may fight completely un-armored and barley armed, but that there may be times that you will be prepared to fight and be armored all the way up. I would train, for instance, un-armored when training for a street confrontation. I will train fully armored (not the WEKAF stuff) for dueling or for a battlefield scenerio.
That may sound wierd, but I think it holds up. Frankly if I have time to prepare, I'm gonna have knives, machettes, sticks, guns and armor all over me. I need to train that way so I learn to move while encumbered as such.

But mostly, we train for the "caught in a street attack" scenerio. We change sticks and gloves and armor as students become more skilled.
Comment by Burton "Lucky Dog" Richardson on August 25, 2010 at 2:00pm
Sparring- always use head protection. Losing an eye or suffering a severe concussion is not worth it. One of my fellow Dog Brothers got hit so hard, while wearing the fencing mask, that he had blurred vision for months and lost hearing in his ear for quite awhile. The stick fighting matches of old were called "death matches" for a reason.
Comment by terry joven on August 25, 2010 at 2:26pm
Most of us have day jobs & families to support and cannot afford to be injured or to loose an eye.. Protective gear is a must..... The training method is what counts.
wow blog has been up for a short time and getting lots of comments!
great site!
Comment by GURO Abdullah M. Sabir on August 25, 2010 at 2:40pm
we call it a workout sparring. we all must be careful when we are doing it go light when doing this. most of all wear protective equip. but if you are going to do this type of training don't go at it hard. get the feel of what your working for and leave the rest to develop on its own. remember in a real fighting situation there's no holds bared no rules. anything goes practice in a way for full contact. if you can't fight out of it it is no good. keep up the great work you are the best. Guro Abdullah,
Comment by Kris Romero on August 25, 2010 at 4:16pm
This is a great, balanced discussion. I think there's room for both padded and relatively unprotected live stick sparring. In Bakbakan Kali Ilustrisimo, we prefer sparring to drills. Our style is blade-based, so we don't grab the stick or do many disarms, and we don't want to develop habits such as taking a hit on the arm, which is not a good idea for a sword. So, we usually spar with padded sticks and head and groin protection only, just as Guro Richardson suggested earlier. However, I do think that live stick sparring without the WEKAF gear is useful, since it changes the psychological dynamics of the situation. Just don't do it every week: as someone else said, we have jobs and families, and personally I'm not preparing for war or a battlefield scenario.
Comment by Marc Lawrence on August 25, 2010 at 5:20pm
In the old days guys would fight with no-gear there were a lot of injuries, there still alot of injuries with limited gear. I had friend of mine who has been doing FMA for 40 years get hit and tooth knocked and another friend who has been doing FMA for 30 year get hit in the eye and have to have eye surgery! He said to me that they now aways practice with eye protection. If you are bound a determined to try you luck, start with WEKAF gear then try it with just helmet, gloves, elbow, knee and crotch protection, then go to helmet and one glove. When you think you are really good just the helmet and live stick. If you want to just learn and respect the weapon use the padded sticks that have the rattan in them and play with just light gloves and helmet. But remember you have work and feed your family.
Comment by David Taylor on August 25, 2010 at 5:27pm
Nothing like gettin wacked with a live stick to keep you on your toes. Wear head gear, maybe gloves when using them. An stay clear of your instructor!!
Comment by Steven S on August 25, 2010 at 5:46pm
It’s a good question, and I think a lot depends on the practitioner’s mentality and what they hope to accomplish in the sparring. One also must balance their training with the practical realities of their daily life. Some are full-time soldiers, and their sparring and use of gear will be quite different from say a full-time accountant, where the risk of certain injuries is not worth the cost of losing valuable time at work or with the family.

As for myself, I have always preferred to approach sparring with minimal protection, favoring the use of the WEKAF head gear only, no gloves, no cup, no elbow pads, only the head gear and a live stick. I feel this offers the protection where it counts, at the same time creates a “real” environment where the strikes must be respected.

Another aspect of sparring is the “thought” that goes into it. One must decide if sparring is “stick” or “blade”. I do both. The gear is the same, WEKAF headgear and live stick, but the mentality behind the sparring is different. If I’m fighting “stick”, then disarms, grabbing the stick, abenico strikes, hits to the arm, legs, etc…tolerated..encouraged and performed. If I’m fighting “blade”, there is no grabbing of the stick and the strikes must be performed with the “edge” in mind. At this point one cannot simply ignore a strike to the arm or leg as it would have resulted in real consequence.

Having sparred in many conditions with various gear options, I’ve come to believe that a live stick and WEKAF headgear offers the best possible solution for realism and protection. The only other thing I’ve ever added to the sparring is a Muay Thai chest protector, to allow full force kicks, punches, and thrusts while working on “scenarios”.


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