With or Without Padding? That is the Question

I have been off training for over a week due to moving, and having a nasty cold. I returned on Friday, and it felt really good to back at Contact Kicks Dojo with everyone. Friday’s at our dojo, like most Kyokushin dojo’s, really concentrates on kumite. It’s often referred to as “fight night“. This friday was no different.

We began with fight drills under the instruction of Sensei Fogarasi. In shin guards and gloves with light contact. Gets our blood moving while working technique. Not long after we began sparing 3 min rounds, rotating fighters between each round after a min rest.

Having been off for a while, I definitely found it a little tough. Mostly because I wasn’t fully recovered and found it hard to get full air into my lungs, and wanting to cough. Other than that, it felt awesome to be back!

As the fights progressed, after about 20 mins I eventually was paired with a Shodan, who is preparing to test for his Nidan. Already a very intense fighter as it is, I think he was probably a little more so because of the preparation of the upcoming 40 fights, taking place after the Seminar with Shihan David Pickthall.

He is obviously much more skilled than me, having trained in Kyokushin for many many years. So, it can be difficult, and most of the time I find myself just defending and surviving, rather than countering. Which is probably as it should be at my level.

As the seconds and mins rolled on I found myself fatiguing and in survival mode. It was at that time that I was struck with a double gedan mawashi-geri just above the left knee, lower thigh. I instantly dropped to the mat. My leg proceeded to freeze and I couldn’t continue.

For the rest of the evening I sat on the side-lines, dreading the drive home, as I drive a manual transmission.

I was sinking into bit of depression, and anger. At myself, and the shodan. Angry at myself, because I didn’t defend it and I wasn’t “tough” enough to absorb the punishment and continue. Angry at him, because I felt at his experience level he should have more control than that. Or, the alternative, he meant it.

I did make it home, after a painful drive. I couldn’t walk that night, but could put weight on it by the next day. Although, I still can’t bend the knee fully.

It left me with a lot of thinking over the weekend and contemplation. Which has brought questions to my mind, that I am putting out there to you all. I welcome your feedback.

Is important to go that heavy in Kyokushin training? And if so, should it be with, or without, padding?

I know there are different schools of thought on this, and it can differ from one geographic region to another. What I am noticing, is a trend in Russia of wearing gear to go full contact in training, including the thighs, so as to work on technique and skills, without having to be in a fully defensive mindset. Thus offering an opportunity to improve.

On the flip side, there are many people and places that believe more in the “old ways”. Going full-out with no padding, which in turn makes you tougher physically and mentally. The draw back though, is high probability of injury, and a shortened career. The body just can’t sustain that for long periods.

It is rare these days to see training like this. Most professional fighters, including MMA, train either with major control, or with full sparring gear, allowing the fighters to go full out.

I am not saying the guy who injured me is bad or wrong. As I am sure it is a combination of fight preparation along with an old-school mentality. What I am asking, is it necessary today? Or perhaps its a combination?

So, I leave to you for thought and discussion. And as I said, I would love to receive feedback on this.


Preparing for the Kyokushin Championship of Russia at the legendary club “Cayman”:


Kenji Yamaki and Norichika Tsukamoto Kyokushin Sparring :


Comments 5

  1. Pat M

    That looks like a good workout. Doing things without gear is fun as well but usually ends up with people getting hurt. I have had people make comments that they trained for two years but had been hurt and rehabbed for a few months. If you only train 6 months out of a year because you were broken, then you only trained for 6 months. That’s not really two full years. If our broken sitting on the bench your broken. Keep from getting broken, keep the pads on. At least that’s my opinion. thanks and keep training.

  2. Paul-Emile Durand

    My comment will be double:

    – Make the training sustainable and avoid injuries at all costs. This is not from me. This is a motto coming from Shihan Cameron Quinn from Australia, who was Sosai interpreter for English and who took Sensei Garry O’Neill to where he arrived in his Kyokushin career.
    – I believe that we need to train without pad as much as possible because this is the true feeling.

    Putting these 2 together means control, respect, good physical preparation (for both strength and flexibility) and progressive increase in the intensity of non-paded sparring. Once more, avoid injuries at all cost. I’m in my 16th year of training in Kyokushin. I’ve always been sparring with protection, except when I trained in Alain Setrouk’s dojo in Paris, in my early Kyokushin career.

    For the last 6 months I stopped sparring with protection. I realised I became much more thoughtful of the quality of my techniques. First not to badly hurt my sparring partner and second because now I’m more careful about landing a chudan mawashi under someone’s elbow.

    Having said this we need to feel the bruising to some extent. So we want some kind of intensity but we want it to be sustainable. I guess gradually the toughening comes in. Similarly to developping a good flexibility, we’ll definitely get injured if we try a full split on day 1.

    Competition training like the Russian method you mention is obviously another story. Padding is needed to increase the sparring intensity to a level which would not be sustainable without.

    I’ll finish this comment by saying a big thank you. Your work is very interesting, well documented and is a great source of knowledge. Thank you for sharing it publicly. Osu!

    1. Post

      Hi Paul,

      Firstly, thank you for reading and your kind words!

      Secondly, thank you for giving such insight into this topic. It is greatly appreciated! It certainly is a hot topic with everyone and many dojos. So your feedback is terrific.


  3. Haytham Aldurazi

    I started kyokushin 27 years ago
    Im from the old school. In Bahrain with Sensei Husain Alderazi. I started kyokushin on the age of 5 years, and I didn’t know what is padding at all .
    But I got a lot of injury and sometimes make me stop for long time . And I learned a lot how to be careful and do the right things in the fight.

    I started coaching in our new dojo in Dubai since 3 year .
    We should use padding for kids because u make thim learn without injuries, and preparing thim for future.

    And also kids some time they con’t control there power.

    For adults, if we are going for more than %50 we use padding with beginners. So they don’t hert them self and others.
    But our seniors, brown belt and above they are already in control and they know the possibility of the juniors, so they don’t use padding .

    But before tournament we should use padding to reduce injuries and increase efficiency .

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Georgi Georgiev

    I started my kyokushin career in Bulgaria 28 years ago. At that time was no protection at all. We were training hard but always following the proper procedure: start with very good warming, followed by conditioning, technique with partner and only then we were doing sparing. This way helped a lot to avoid major injuries. Of course playing this way you have to mind not only to not injure your partner but your self too. I am not saying that I haven’t had injuries but this helps to minimize the injuries on the competitions. Now when I coach I use to use both type of trainings for my students depends on their level. No protection to teach you playing smart and with protection to overcome the physical limits. At the end don’t think that Russian team always plays with protection, they do this nowadays. Great article with very interesting story and comments. OSU

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