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When sparring, as far as I can tell, there are many injuries due to a kick hitting the opponent's elbow. The foot gets a huge punch by the sharp elbow bone.

We wear protective gear while sparring. Why the protective stuff is not designed in a way to avoid kick-to-elbow injuries. Or maybe we are not using the right ones.

Any idea on that? Thanks.

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Yes, it can be super painful when your opponent blocks your kick with his elbow. It can happen deliberately or accidentally. To me, it doesn't matter which, because the problem is solved the same way in both cases. But I'll talk about both.

First, if it is a deliberate hard block, I'll congratulate your opponent. If they're successfully attacking your foot with their elbow as a form of offensive defense, good for them! Honestly. If they pull that off, it means they've reached a certain level of competence. This is typically an advanced technique.

These kinds of hard blocks are fun to incorporate into sparring. I often peppered up my opponent with leopard fist strikes to the wrist, arm, arm-pits, and ribs. I used to use elbow strikes to instep and shins when someone did a round kick. I used to use my knees and shins against their round kicks. And I sometimes punched kicks, too.

This is all part of the natural progression in striking based martial arts. That is, if your martial art allows it. Some don't.

On the other side, if you're getting hurt from these kinds of strikes, either accidentally or because your opponent deliberately did that, you have to learn to deal with that. Thicker padding is not the answer.

And about that padding, yes the standard Taekwondo / karate foot padding will not help all that much. A solid hit against your foot's instep with the pointy part of an elbow will hurt! It will easily penetrate that one centimeter layer of foam. You might find a thicker foot pad, but it probably still won't be enough to protect you, and you shouldn't rely on that anyway.

You can try it at home, too. Just put on those foot pads and kick a solid, pointy object. Like maybe the corner of a brick wall. It will help a little, but not if you're kicking with any force. Kicking a pointy elbow will do the same thing.

So now the question is how to avoid it. You're going to have to work on not telegraphing your kicks and increasing your kick speed. Otherwise, your opponent will have time to move his elbow into position to block your kick.

If you're accidentally contacting his elbow, and you don't see why, it's probably because he knows your kick is coming and is adjusting his body to block it. And in doing so, it just happens to be enough of a movement to align his elbow towards your incoming kick. Then it connects by accident. He's not able to get enough time to block, so the block doesn't happen. But with you hitting his elbow, it turns out the block wasn't necessary after all. Lucky for him. Not so lucky for you.

Those kinds of repeated accidental elbow strikes are due to you telegraphing, being predictable, being too slow, and not kicking at a proper angle.

Work on your speed. The best thing to train kick speed is seeing how many kicks you can do in 30 seconds against someone holding a kick shield. At first, they hold it still. Later, they can move while holding the shield. Do 5 rounds: 30 seconds left, 30 seconds right, 30 seconds rest. Pick just one kick to work on with each round. Do these kinds of drills once every couple of days.

Practice decoying. Make your opponent open up the target area. With that area unprotected, you have a better chance of not having your kick checked by his elbow.

Try stepping off-angle. If you're always facing your opponent when these hard blocks happen to you, step out on an angle before attacking this time. The different angle will cause the kick to miss the elbow.

If you're kicking using an orthodox round kick coming perfectly horizontal with the plane of the floor, try using a diagonal instead. Or vice-versa.

Try half-beat timing. That's where you don't wait until your opponent has finished with his strike before you begin yours. Instead, as soon as he begins his strike, you strike. It will cause him to have to abort his strike to deal with yours. You can land those strikes more reliably, because he's not ready for it.

Try varying your range. Step in close, and then quickly step to the side. As he sees you stepping in, he'll want to back up or step to his side. You can land your kick before he's able to complete his step.

All of these are good strategies in general, regardless of the elbow contact problem. Your goal is to increase the probability that your strikes will get through without being blocked. Hard blocks or soft, intentional or accidental doesn't matter in that sense.

Finally, if these are deliberately done by your opponent instead of accidental, I'll suggest you learn how to hard block and start doing it yourself, too. After your opponent feels how painful they are and knows you can do it too, maybe he'll stop trying to use them on you. Kind of like "mutually assured destruction". Haha. Or, when he avoids your hard block, you can learn from him and do what he did to avoid his hard blocks.

Hope that helps.

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  • Wow! Definitely helps =)
    – Megidd
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 6:40

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