You should always use protection such as gloves and pads when sparring classmates or opponents. My first instructor and the class he had been teaching, came from a school of hard knocks. The use of footpads, gloves, and mouth guards were not common. How did they keep from hurting each other so bad you ask? The use of control! Control your punches and kicks.
When I began practicing karate, the group had just moved to the elementary school. The class was part of a personal and community enrichment program from the school board. Various schools hosted after hours activities for area residents. Since the class was partly sponsored by a school board program the instructor started incorporating protective gear. My first instructor held the philosophy that practicing kata was much better than sparring. Therefore you didn’t need gloves if you were practicing kata.
I practiced karate for several months before sparring against a classmate. I was called up to the center of the room to spar. I had no gloves. So I tried on various gloves my classmates had in their bags. Everyone had big bulky gloves. My hands were too small even for the kids sized gloves. So for my first time I went bare knuckles.
I personally don’t recommend going bare knuckle. You should use protection when sparring. You never know, you may hit their head or ribs and hurt your own hand. The opponent may dodge your punch and you hit a wall behind them or the floor underneath them. Of course it only takes one time to hit a wall to know you shouldn’t do that again.
I went bare knuckles for a long time when I practiced with my classmates. I would often try on gloves but I couldn’t seem to find a pair that fit. I was at a tournament one time and I found a pair of Kamikaze by Arawaza. They were small and fit my hand. However during a kumite match the glove would fall off. So during each round I would have to reposition the glove back on my hand. Despite this minor annoyance I continued to use the gloves even after I got into jujitsu years later. Again, the gloves would slip off my hand. Now that I am doing jujitsu my mobility is limited even more, preventing me from putting my opponents into a wrist lock. The positive aspect to the gloves is the extra padding at the knuckles. It comes in handy when I have to punch a kick.
I had a flashback one day while I was in class. I had remembered I had seen a pair of gloves made with cloth and a small foam pad on top. I found a pair online and my jujitsu instructor ordered them. They are called Fist Protector from Pro Force. They have just enough padding over the knuckles.
The great thing is that I get most of my mobility back in my hands. Now I don’t have a problem putting my opponents into a wrist, toe, or ankle lock.
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