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How Safe are the Martial Arts?

By: Ossie Sharon - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
How Safe Are The Martial Arts?

Martial arts safety is all about understanding the fundamental risks that and how they can be minimised through general guidelines given here. As well as practicing a safe technique when you are engaged with your chosen discipline, martial arts equipment and the correct martial arts clothing will help to keep you protected and safe.

The martial arts were originally established as structured systems of combat training. Today, they are also studied for their value in self-defence, and enjoyed as modes of sport and physical development.

By fundamental nature, the martial arts are contact sports. From lesser-known types such as baguazhang and capoeira to the more popular judo and karate, they all involve any one or a combination of striking, kicking, grappling, throwing, or use of weaponry. Due to their inherent dangers, martial arts should be practiced with care and responsibility, following proper guidelines and ensuring a safe environment.

There are two basic levels within the spectrum of intensities in martial arts.
(1) light- to medium-contact sparring, and (2) full-contact fighting.

The level dictates how aggressive matches may become, what proper dress should be, what training will involve, and of course, what precautions to take. The following points highlight key differences between the two as related to personal martial arts safety.

Light- to Medium-ContactDuring light to medium contact both competitors are protected by padding and particular targets are prohibited, such as the face, groin, and mid-to-lower back (the region of the kidneys). Certain techniques may be also prohibited, such as biting, scratching, groin striking, intentional bone-breaking, or attacking the eyes. Light-to-medium force is applied during grappling and submissions.

Full-contact fightingTraditionally characterised by a lack of protective equipment (recent changes have included the addition of cups for men and gloves for all). Full contact fighting may refer to a specific permitted attacks and contact zones on the body and may exclude a small number of forbidden techniques. Full force is applied during activities.

Physical Preparation

As with any contact sport, it is highly recommended to consult with a physician before beginning participation. Some medical conditions may be prohibitive or require a certain degree of management prior to the training phase. In addition, the following may help there are some other things you can do to prevent injury.

Before the primary activity, it is advisable to engage in exercises that develop strength, balance, flexibility, and control. Particular focus is recommended for "stabiliser" muscles, which include those of the upper arm and shoulders, inner thighs, and outermost hip area. Full-contact or free-fighting should not be attempted until sufficient proficiency has been mastered at the light-to-moderate level.

Avoid eating at least two hours prior to exercises, and select a sparring surface that is even and padded, such as traditional mats. Some of the martial arts, particularly jujitsu, are practiced on special, softer mats that carry technical and safety specifications. Avoid outdoor matches that rely on natural terrain that may hold surprises - you should be looking to purchase any martial arts supplies from a specialist stockist.

Any martial arts clothing and equipment should be suitable for the activity, most of the martial arts suits are generally comprised of light cotton pajama-style top and pants. If informal clothing is selected, it should be just as loose-fitting and sturdy.General protective gear and that specific to a type of activity are nearly always to be employed in light- to medium-contact - and increasingly in full-contact - sparring. For example, cups are universal for men, whereas head, forearm, and shin guards are reserved for high-level sports such as taekwondo.

All sharp and free-flying objects should be removed or controlled (i.e. taped down) to remove the risk. This includes jewellery, belt buckles, and objects in pockets, as well as long finger- and toenails.

Injury Prevention

As would be expected, sprains, strains, contusions, and bruising are the most common injuries suffered in martial arts, occurring to soft tissue, tendons, and sometimes organs. Some impact is forceful enough to cause small bone fractures. The following are common safety tips for martial arts participants:
  • Appropriate preparation (see above)
  • Following set rules according to the activity, avoiding forbidden techniques and moves
  • Training under the direction of a professional martial arts instructor
  • Focusing on form, technique, and control of movements, rather than brute force
  • Maintaining proper breathing techniques
  • Mastering safe falling - particularly before practicing throwing or free-style sparring, as in judo; falling on one's back or rolling are the most common methods, but must be practiced properly to avoid self-inflicted damage to vertebrae
  • Avoid walking through the workout area while matches - however informal - are taking place
  • Do not begin a match without ensuring medical help is readily available; if an injury does occur, do not hesitate to seek assistance.
  • Do not have anything loose in your mouth during a workout. This could cause a choking hazard for you, or a flying-object hazard for your partner.

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