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How can we practice elbow striking in the context of sparring without undue risk of injury? I've looked into elbow pads, but they seem to be built more around protecting the elbow than protecting the face of the person getting struck.

Anyone have any experience sparring with elbow strikes? Do you just rely on head gear to take the impact?

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Elbow pads are used to protect the elbows from grazing (thin ones) or impact (thicker ones) when landing on them from falling. They can take some of the sting of an elbow by spreading the impact. Damage to the area will still be considerable.

Another option is to consider a fullface helmet. It's biggest advantage is it will alleviate skin tearing which is a common occurance of elbows. It will also help avoid breaking the nose or cheek bone. But it wont stop the elbow's momentum which can impact the neck & also still cause a knockout.

When the pads & helmet are combined then it might be ok to spar "light" but keep in mind even a light tap can cause injury on the neck if the opponent is not conditioned or charging into the attack.

I have experience sparring, competition & reality with elbows & they have resulted in seeing two broken noses, concussions and cut faces.

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A lot depends on the specifics of the sparring. Are you specifically talking about full contact sparring? Have you considered light contact sparring?

In the case of elbow pads, there are soft pads available for safely practicing elbow strikes. Here is an example (and not an endorsement of this particular pad). When looking it may help you to search for Muay Thai training equipment. The pads are soft and broad, and they help diffuse the concentrated energy of an elbow strike. You still wouldn't want to do a full contact elbow to a training partners head, but something like this will definitely take the edge off of any accidental hard contact.

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