I HATED THE GLOVES OR SAFETY GEAR AS IT WAS CALLED BACK IN THE DAY, IT GAVE RESTRICTIONS TO PURE TECHNIQUE.
In the 60s and early 70s there was no equipment, full contact, as it is called then with control, maybe a cup, a mouthpiece, taped hands maybe, but it was Bare Knuckles, it took control, it had Kime (focus). It was exciting, it was as real as real could be and it was safe to the pure technicians who had the control and focus. Sure, sometimes it got out of hand and to the public eye it was sometimes brutal to watch. I guess it was destined for someone to introduce safety gear and its focused attention it has received though the years.
First there were the Kempo gloves, then the Renbukai gloves, followed by the cloth/cotton pads. Ahh, historians, it was the first Superstar of Sport Karate, Mike Stone, who thought to introduce the idea and even develop some, or so I’ve been told by the source. However, it was the legendary Tae Kwon Do Master Jhoon Rhee who took it and ran with it. He built an empire with his Jhoon Rhee Safety Gear. The first prototype was white and were designed to look like a jacuzzi cup with a small strap to hold it in place.
Now to some, this new type of gear for karate fighters became a license make contact. The foot gear and the jaquzzi cup designed glove, the so-called padded karate glove, changed the game for Tournament players forever.
Then came the real glove. They came in various colors like yellow, red, green, black, and white, had places to put your fingers and of course the thumb, then came shin pads, arm pads and those dumb headgear. And then their use became law in Texas in 1984. 10 years after they were introduced, Texas started making every fighter in Black Belt division wear them, and I disliked that new rule. Then came the other brands, Top Ten, Macho, Protect, Kresge and others. Then the shoes followed; Mike Anderson’s Top Ten Brand, Fred Villari’s Conflux Shoe, Mitchell Bobrow’s Otomix Shoe, and Steve Shepherd’s Ringstar Shoe.
It Was Crazy. Whatever happened to true sparring without the false impressions? Tournament Karate equipment changed everything, I guess. Fighting became play, true kumite did not exist anymore. Thank goodness I pulled my strikes, if I hadn’t it would have knocked your head off, right! I very much disliked the use of any equipment in fighting in Karate. I was at a school that got all those prototypes in the beginning to try out. I did not enjoy them from the start.
I would bi*** about it with my first instructor in the states. Finally, he got tired of me fussing and he said “Gary, I tell you what, every time you knock the wind out of someone, stick someone really good, or knock them down wearing the gear, I will put a notch on your glove that you’re bi****** about wearing. Geeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzz “Gary for every five notches on your glove I will buy you dinner, but no blood though, OK?" When I left him, I had 17 notches on that glove I would wear sparring.
I still hated wearing them. I wore a size 10 shoe, and I would buy a size 8 safety boot so my foot would be exposed, especially my side of foot for bladed sidekicks and the heel exposed for back kicks. I know, I know with the right size boot you can still stick your side kick with the blade of foot and still kick with the heel with a correct size boot, it was just a mental thing I suppose. People would say, “Gary, the boot is too small. It was the same thing with the glove. I would buy a small glove too.
To fight, I would wrap my hands in duct tape, then in boxing hand wraps, then put the safety glove on. It was a ritual, heck the mindset for my ignorance was in coming to Texas in Karate Tournaments. It was different I know. It was not about trophies, it was not about fame, it was not about the ratings, and it was not about the magazine articles. Heck it even was not about the $25 they would give away, which I never understood. On a average, every producer makes $5,000 at their event if they’re smart and have any business sense, and the producers back in day would never give more than a $100 even for just GRAND CHAMPION alone. My mind set in Texas was I could hit people many times without ever getting arrested. It was crazy, but I really thought like that fighting in Texas.
Then Mr. Roy Kurban stepped up in the early 70s. He had produced an “A” rated Karate Illustrated Magazine Karate Event, “The Fort Wort Pro-Am. He made clear he would give in the Blackbelt Divisions 1st Though 5th place money, a Trophy, and Top Karate Illustrated Magazine Points toward the Magazine and he would give all Blackbelts TWO -POINTS for any Kick to a target area that is allowed.
In Texas, the groin is a targeted area, which in some parts of the country is taboo. The TWO POINT RULE was too powerful for great fighters across the country to turndown. Each year it got bigger and bigger, until all the events around the country was giving TWO-POINT KICKS, soon after it was in all divisions, and then it was used all around the world. The TWO-POINT KICK WAS BORN, and it had been a life changer, now it is everywhere.
Maybe Gear isn’t so bad after all, lol. Head Kickers loved it; groin kickers thrived on it. With any kick to any part of the body, that is legal in the tournament, guys would lift they’re leg and “Whap!” TWO POINTS, first person to five was born Sometimes you could win a match in less than a minute within the two-minute time limit.
It was a game changer, it was motivational, and it was finally rewarding to be a BLACKBELT POINT FIGHTER.
Thank You Mr. Kurban