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The Importance of Safety in Martial Arts Training

I've been training in martial arts since the 1980s and consistently since the '90s. I am a 2nd-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.


Let's face it: We train in martial arts to learn self-preservation skills, not self-destruction skills. Though, if you are at all serious and train hard and realistically, injuries will likely occur. We are liable to get bruised and cut, and joints and bones possibly could get injured. Martial artists train to learn how to fight and how to use our bodies effectively. Strenuous training and contact (from light to heavy) between training partners is necessary to train realistically. However, even professional fighters do not train everyday going full contact, no holds barred, and bare knuckled with their training partners. If they did, the training sessions would end with weekly (or daily) trips to the hospital and suspension of all martial arts activities for the next month. And forget about even dreaming of getting into the Octagon, the boxing ring, or the death match pit after leaving the training hall barely able to make it to the bathroom to wash out the tears.

So, precautions in training are necessary even to sustain your training. Three things, primarily, are necessary for ensuring your safety during martial arts training: Body awareness, proper safety equipment, and conditioning.


3 Necessities for Safety in Martial Arts Training

Body AwarenessEquipmentConditioning

Pay attention to what you are doing with your body

Make sure you wear good protective equipment when sparring

You have to strengthen muscles and condition the body to handle the stresses of training

Body Awareness

Now, what do I mean by body awareness? Well, it means giving good attention to what you are doing with your body. It means that you understand how to use your body safely. Technique, what we also refer to as form, is an important element in martial arts training to prevent injuring yourself. Suppose you are hitting the punching bag (or Wave Master) and you have not formed a proper fist. You have your thumb sticking out like a soon to be sore thumb; to top it off, you have your wrists bent, ensuring a bad result for your hand when you start wailing on that bag like it stole your bag of corn chips. I won't go into details here about proper punching technique, because to learn that you must have an instructor giving you detailed lessons. Let's just say that improper form can have disastrous results.

In relation to training partners, it is good to be conscious of, and have good control of, your body. As already stated, we don't train at the martial arts school to maim each other by getting into full blown street fights with our training partners. Therefore, you must train to use your body well.

It is important to wear protection when you are sparring to cut down on and avoid injuries.

It is important to wear protection when you are sparring to cut down on and avoid injuries.

Training Equipment

This brings us to another issue: training equipment. More specifically, what you wear during training to minimize or prevent injury. All martial artists know the value of a protective groin cup. This is to prevent injury to the groin. As you might have rightly guessed, getting kicked in the groin is excruciatingly painful. So, I suggest, before you venture onto the mat, to quickly get yourself a protective cup of an appropriate size and with a well-designed athletic supporter. There is nothing worse than having a happy time throwing wild kicks and punches and having your cup fall out of your pant leg. All of a sudden you are vulnerable in the worst possible way. I've found the best athletic supporters have a pocket that the cup fits completely into to prevent any slipping out.

Okay, so let's go to the sparring arena. You definitely want to have, bare minimum as far as the legs and feet go, shin and instep guards. Nothing worse (okay, the cup slippage is still worst) than throwing your fancy round house kick and Iron Arms McGinty blocks it with his titanium elbow. Ouch! Until you develop your rock hard shins by conditioning them by kicking redwood trees (just kidding, don't do it), then get yourself some shin and instep guards.

Now, let's move up the body to the hands. Sparring gloves are, to a great extent, a very personal choice (but don't fall in love with them, they tend not to last forever). What I mean is that the kind of gloves you choose depends on the kind of fighter you are. Are you primarily a striker or do you like to mix in some grappling? Personally, I prefer open finger gloves that allow me the freedom to grab my sparring partner. Depending on what art you practice, grabbing might be a very important part of your training. However, it is important to note that, with fingers exposed, they are not protected. The point of gloves is to keep the hand from being injured.

So, let's keep going up the body all the way up to the all-important head. The head contains the brain, your body's computer, and therefore it is important to keep it intact. Also, there are many nerves and sensitive places on the face. So, this is another area you will want to protect, either through your expert Bruce Lee-like agility and speed or due to the fact that you've got headgear. There's light weight head gear that's made for light contact, there's heavier gear made for heavy contact, and there's even head gear equipped with a mask to cover your face to protect those sensitive areas that I've previously mentioned. The head gear with the mask also comes in handy if you spar with weapons, like Eskrima sticks or rubber knives.

It is important to condition your body to handle what you put it through in your martial arts training.

It is important to condition your body to handle what you put it through in your martial arts training.


Last but certainly not least, conditioning is a part of martial arts training that minimizes the possibility of injuries during training. Simply put, your body must be able to do what you demand of it. Stamina must be at an optimum for you to endure the training, muscles must be able to keep joints intact, and the body must be able to take some punishment. Push ups, crunches, stretching, weight training, cardiovascular work outs, and sparring; all of these things condition your body, work your heart and lungs, and strengthen your muscles to withstand the rigors of training. And, of course, they prepare the body to withstand a real self-defense situation.


Realizing that any physical venture has the possibility of some injuries, it is a very good idea to take precautions in your training to minimize this possibility. Most of all, and good instructors will tell you so, you should respect your partners.


Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on September 16, 2012:

Thank you, Misskanval! I'm glad you liked it!

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 11, 2012:

Thanks, Mama Kim! I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and took the time to comment on it! And you have given me a couple ideas of what to write about in the future!

Aloe Kim on July 11, 2012:

Nice hub! I hope to see a hub on conditioning specifically. Oh and a breakdown of the different Martial Arts types... although you're just starting out and probably have a ton of unwritten hubs in your head ^_^ Can't wait to read more!

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 06, 2012:

Thank you for reading my Hub and for the warm welcome, Giselle! Yes, women in martial arts use chest protection and groin protection; while anatomy is different, there is still risk of pain and injury to those areas. There are a lot of women in martial arts; head of one of the schools in town here is a woman who is very good, with many years experience. There are also some famous women in martial arts, such as Diana Lee Inosanto and Cynthia Rothrock. There's more than that, but those are a couple of the well-known women who are martial artists. Of course, in the fighting sports such as boxing and MMA, there are also women who participate. Many, many movies have martial arts women in them too, one of the most memorable is Angela Mao who was in Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon"; she trained extensively in martial arts, and her skills were well displayed in the movie.

Giselle Maine on July 06, 2012:

Very interesting article. By the way, I was just curious after reading your article - do women need any gender-specific protective equipment, or just men? Also, are there many women in martial arts training?

I also wanted to say Welcome to Hubpages. I found your hubs via your (very nice and up-front) answer to fellow hubber Teresa Schultz's recent question. Best wishes for happy hubbing!

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on May 17, 2012:

Thank you, Anil. I'm glad you came by to read the article and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Anil on May 17, 2012:

Great article Nathan

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on May 13, 2012:

Thank you, jaybird22! I appreciate your feedback and support! Yes, I wanted the article to be concise and direct and understandable for anyone reading it, beginner or expert. I feel it is important to breakdown and simplify any issue, particularly if there are complexities to it.

jaybird22 from New York on May 13, 2012:

Very good hub! Precise and to the point, not dragged out. Voting up.