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I noticed in many Karate sparring videos, they aren't wearing any helmets or mouthguards. It seems like they can get very hurt, if opponent messes up. Is there a reason why?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH-ggTvitbM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63c3KwGQT4I

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  • Getting "very" hurt is uncommon if everyone involved is on the same page. Accidents will happen, but they're rare by definition. Note also that the people shown sparring are higher ranks which makes accidents even less likely--I always say the lower ranks are the most dangerous when sparring. Sep 23, 2021 at 12:29

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The WKF style sparring both of these videos display is points/touch sparring, where excessive contact is penalised (see the controversy over a recent Olympic Gold medal being awarded to a fighter who got knocked out).

Having competed in this style the risk of serious injury is very low compared even with light continuous kick boxing sparring (which similarly I don't think needs headguards) as you're really only trying to tap your opponent not actually hit them with any degree of force. Accidents/clashes do happen, but they're rare enough that the additional equipment is unnecessary.

It's important to note that there is some evidence that more protective equipment leads to higher risk - boxing is a great example of this where the heavier gloves lead to more head attacks being used (and similarly the rugby vs. American football comparison), and therefore more concussions/CTEs and long term effects on the fighter.

Outside of very light dojo sparring, gumshields would be almost universally used even in this style of sparring.

It's also important to note that this style of sparring is not indicative of all karate sparring, some clubs do do more kickboxing style stuff, and pad up accordingly, and many practical karate clubs do all-in sparring with a suitable level of protection including facemasks for headbutts etc.

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  • interesting, some of those head kicks I saw in those youtube sparring videos, they don't seem like light taps, but do some real damage to teeth or head , the punches seem light however
    – mattsmith5
    Sep 23, 2021 at 8:13
  • @mattsmith5 Karate is not the most brutal martial art there is. It is not like the contestants try to break each other's necks.
    – user12000
    Sep 23, 2021 at 15:24
  • hi Rob, there are some head kicks which look very dangerous, what if person gets hit by them? would they hurt or can they knock out face or teeth?
    – mattsmith5
    Sep 27, 2021 at 16:45
  • Hi Matt, as I say, other than very light sparring most dojos would wear gumshields to protect the teeth - I would then suggest that the absence of them in any individual case is just down to irresponsibility on the part of the instructors. Regarding being knocked out, it's a combat sport, and knock outs are a (hopefully rare) risk. Headgear doesn't necessarily mitigate this risk so this will be individual choice. Sep 28, 2021 at 7:53

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