It has been known for a long time, since almost the beginning of time you might say, that taking a punch to the head is not a good idea and yet back in the 1970’s when the martial arts became more widespread and more popular around the world this concern was clearly not taken seriously enough.
Medical experts have long said that you can get brain damage, (head trauma), due to taking punches to the head, and kicks of course, while sparring and that such damage is not just limited to boxing matches and martial art competition events but also during training sessions. I, along with many others I would imagine, also knew that decades ago. Even wearing padded headgear will not protect you from that problem.
This is not a problem that is specific to any one type of martial art or combat sport of course but all of them I hasten to add when it comes to taking punches to the head in the main.
Everytime you take a punch, or any form of impact, to the head the brain will shake within the skull. Even if you wear protective headgear that will still happen. Head protection will of course stop external bruising but it will not protect the brain from trauma or potential long term damage. Memory loss and other brain related illnesses can be triggered from such damage many long years into the future take note.
Being ‘punch drunk’ as they call it, is in reality brain damage that can be debilitating, or in some cases, fatal. Sadly however when concerns grew over the years about taking punches and kicks to the head, and other health and safety concerns at the time, many failed to realise that having people wearing padded headgear for safety reasons would not totally solve the problem.
Back then the simple idea was to wear padded protection for both the head and the general body area with many believing such protection was the solution to the problem, and in the case of the general body area that still does seem to be the case, however, not only was the problem of the brain shaking within the skull overlooked at the time but also the problem of people thinking that now their opponent is protected by padding it would be more than fine to hit both body and head even harder as surely no harm can be done while wearing such protection can it? A logical belief but very much a misguided and dangerous one.
Before the wearing of padded protection students would restrict themselves as to how hard they would land a strike during a practice session to the body area and even more so when it came to the head. I am sure everyone would agree that going home from a practice session with bruises, or even worse head trauma, was not an ideal way of doing things? This self imposed limitation when it came to heavy contact was also the case within competition events, (to a degree), but that all changed with the introduction of padded protection.
Even within a light contact training session during a class sparring session students and instructors alike would be more than aware of their safety if a punch or kick landed ‘square on’ and hurt them, so avoidance and blocking methods were always uppermost in their minds, but when everyone ended up covered head to toe in padded body armour then the need to avoid and block attacks were not really needed anymore.
There was no longer a fear factor of being hurt anymore. They could just stand there and take the hits with no problem. However this situation soon gave rise to not only a false sense of security, regarding if they ever had to face someone in a real street fight, but it also made them very idle minded as they took for granted their safety from being hurt. A mindset that is somewhat dangerous to say the least if it came to a real life or death fight situation.
The brain of course is somewhat remarkable when it comes to healing itself and any memory loss or vision impairment after taking hits to the head, even when knocked unconscious, is often only temporary but regular exposure to any form of head trauma will soon increase the risk of long term mental health related problems or permanent brain damage in the end.
For those who are fully involved in heavy or full contact events, such as professional boxers and the such like, the risk of brain damage, or being punch drunk as they call it, is of course all part of the risks involved when taking part in such things but for your average working man who needs to be fit for work each and everyday then such risks do need to be avoided.
What would be the point of learning self defence to protect yourself from physical harm, or even being killed, if you end up being permanently brain damaged as a result of your efforts?
The subject of head trauma and how such damage can still be received with or without protective head padding is a very important subject to be aware of when it comes to young children, more so as their bones and skull are soft and still very much in the development stage, at such a young age.
Although there are no known better alternatives to this method of protection you can however take further steps in addition to help make things more safer.
Making sure that students fully realise that full impact punches to the head could still cause brain trauma even with head protection being worn, due to the shaking of the brain within the skull upon impact, by highlighting this subject within lessons often and that both students and instructors alike limit how much force is used when striking and not to think that their opponent is safe because they wear protective padded headgear are practical steps to take on a regular basis.
The risks involved with direct regard to this subject are somewhat of a low level in nature, compared to being hit over the head with a hammer of course, but it does not mean that there are no real risks involved at all. Therefore when it comes to the issue of brain trauma, or general head injuries, then do take note that padded headgear does not offer, or give, full protection.
On a final note I would urge all martial art schools not to allow hits to the head with direct regard to very young children as their skulls are very soft and developing at such a young age, even if they do wear protective headgear during sparring sessions, as an extra precaution against head damage.