The practice of karate can be extremely hard on the body. We train to fight and in the process can get hit or kicked, causing bodily damage. We choose, however, to practice sparring while wearing protective gear. This gear allows us to use actual contact against our fellow classmates, while minimizing the damage done with those attacks. Most students learn good control as they gain more experience, so it is extremely vital to wear protective gear especially when working with less experienced practitioners.
One of the most important pieces of equipment you can use to protect yourself is probably the cheapest and one that might not seem to be that important. It is the mouth guard. The mouth guard has been a staple piece of protection in the martial arts and boxing for a very long time and for good reason.
If you are not wearing a mouth guard, you could potentially damage or knock out your teeth, you could break your jaw, or cut your lip. Furthermore, you can reduce the risk of getting a concussion while wearing a mouth guard if you are hit in the head or jaw. These are all excellent reasons to wear a mouth guard.
Remember, we don’t wear protective gear because we are giving our opponent a license to hit hard. We wear gear in case we accidentally hit too hard or don’t use good control. To that point, you can never predict when an accident will occur. But, we all know that Murphy’s law tends to show itself when you are least ready for it. In other words, it will be the one time you don’t wear a piece of protective gear that you will be hit in that spot. Make sure it is not your mouth!
Furthermore, keeping your protective equipment in good working order is important. For the mouth guard, make sure you rinse it with warm water after every class and let it air dry before putting it back in your bag. Occasionally, it is a good idea to let the mouth guard soak in mouthwash (like Listerine) to remove germs, odors and make it as clean as possible. That being said, the mouth guard is relatively inexpensive, so replacing it often is a good idea.
There are many kinds of mouth guards on the market, and they all offer different advantages and disadvantages. I really like the double-sided mouth guard. I find it very easy to use, and gives a superior level of protection.
Be smart about your sparring. Always wear your protective gear, and make sure it is in good shape. Doing these simple things might be the difference in avoiding a painful and unpleasant injury.