Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Gloves Are Coming Off!

Last night, Chris, a former student of mine, was back in town and came out to train at my dojo. Chris is a brown belt in another style of Jiu-jitsu in addition to being a yellow belt in my style. I took this opportunity to experiment with an idea I had for sparring.

When we spar in our dojo, we usually wear 16-oz boxing gloves for our own and our sparring partner’s protection. This is because we make contact when we spar. There is no limit to our targets, groin, head, face, etc. Our sparring is to learn skills for self-defense, not for competition. We don’t necessarily hit as hard as we can when there’s an opening in the face, but we'll still hit it. This helps us get an idea of what it’s like to be hit so we can learn to shake it off.

What I wanted to try was the same as our usual sparring method, but using open hand strikes instead of punches. To do this we would have to spar without the big, poofy, protective gloves. Given that Chris has a long history of training, I figured he was a good candidate to experiment with this. I figured he would have sufficient control to do open-hand strikes to the head without following through fully.

It was quite strange at first. Not wearing the gloves meant that there was a lot more space in the guard, meaning there were more opportunities for attack while being more open to attack. Also, it was clear that the open-handed jab and cross had a shorter reach by a few inches. While the open-handed hook that we use (more like a slap in that the fingers are angled toward the attacker) has a longer reach. This, however, didn’t matter much to me since my reach is so much shorter than Chris’s. He is 6’1” and has arms like an orangutan. I always end up relying on my speedy kicks to make up for my short arm reach.

Another thing we noticed was that it was, of course, much easier to try to do throws or takedowns on each other with our hands freed up. Grabbing and trapping also played more of a role. And naturally, ground grappling was made possible, though in our style, as far as street self-defense goes, we teach that it’s better to stay on your feet. Either way, it was refreshing to have all the extra options.

It would be really nice if we could combine the protective qualities of the 16-oz boxing gloves so we can maintain the sparring intensity, while having the freedom of bare hands. Perhaps the answer is simply to only allow advanced students with good control to do this exercise.

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Glenn said...

Lori, have you seen the new gloves available from combat sports?
They have lots of padding on the top similar to boxing gloves but totally open underneath. Check out the link.
I think the fairtex gloves should do.

Lori O'Connell said...

Interesting. I had a look at said gloves. These might be a good option for when our more advanced students spar. They did say how many ounces they were in terms of protection, but I suspect they aren't as much as 16 ounces. I believe that beginners should be using the 16-oz gloves simply because in our classes we punch the face and head when we spar. And because beginners have not yet refined their defensive tactics nor their control, they need all the protection they can get. But once the students have developed some basic skills the gloves shown in that link might be a good option to allow for grappling.

That being said, there still isn't any kind of glove that offers grappling in addition to padding on the inside of the palm. I like to use open hand strikes and encourage students to use open hand strikes in real self-defense situations for a variety of reasons. Hmmm, perhaps I'll elaborate on my next posting :).

Glenn said...

How are we defining beginner?
Am I still a beginner?
Is Derek considered a beginner?
He may be new to our system but he probably has huge control of his kicks after 10 years of Taekwondo.

Lori O'Connell said...

No, you're not a beginner. And when Derrick starts sparring as a yellow belt, I would not consider him a beginner either. Though I do want him to learn our foundations before I officially start including him in class sparring sessions, just so he learns the distinction between the two styles. But then there's always the open training sessions before class...