3 posts / 0 new
Last post
Wallace Smedley
Wallace Smedley's picture
Reality Training Equipment Recommendations

I have wanted to add some training to my curriculum that will allow for harder contact by the students, and I would like to get some feedback on one sticking point I am having.

I am sure that some people might hesitate in endorsing particular brands, and I have no issue with that, so I am  going to keep it general.

What are your general oppinions on the trade-off of using the bulletman type suits vs. high quality sparring gear? Specifically, is the fact that the head on the suits that allow for all out contact is so large that the student is missing a real target a factor at all? Also, is there an reason to feel that the quality sparring gear, while not really allowing full contact, is a better approach in that the student is seeing the actual sized and shaped target and striking and getting a more realistic feedback through the reaction of the partner (head moving a certain way when struck, etc.)?

I have experienced some pretty hard contact with sparring gear, but have no experience with the bulletman type equipment and would just like to know a little more about the pros and cons of each from the board here. Thank you!

JWT's picture

Hi Wallace

All equipment is a compromise.  As you've highlighted yourself, the more you protect the body and the head/neck from impact, the more the mobility of the armoured person is restricted and the less realistic the training becomes.

I'm not a fan of the bulletman, fist or redman suits myself.  They can take a great deal of impact but I find the mobility of the wearer is affected in an unrealistic way.

The next best commercially available products that I've bought are the High Gear and Spartan suits.  Of these two I prefer the Spartan gear.  It has better strapping systems, a fold in the chest that gives it greater mobility over the High Gear, and thicker padding over the kidneys.  The vest and shorts fit together differently between the two systems and the knee pad is detachable and both knee and hin can be worn separately in the Spartan. If you are using arm protectors (I don't) the Spartan gear has a much better system.  The Spartan helmet is slightly larger and better padded than the High Gear, but this is both a pro and a con.  Greater comfort when you are hit, but you have a harder target to protect and are more likely to get hit.  My more advanced students prefer wearing slimline cage helmets as it is easier to protect the head.  You can now buy (or attach to Spartan 2) an Alpha Vest which provides a head brace on the Spartan gear, reducing the shock impact.  This makes the Spartan setup a little like the bulletman, but unlike the bulletman you can turn your head within the brace. 

No suit truly 'allows' for all out contact.  Force does not magically disappear. I've been KO'd while wearing a High Gear helmet.  What good gear allows you to do is train at a high intensity for longer with less risk of injury.  Being hit still hurts!

This video shows my students (and I'm on here as a reluctant back up attacker near the start a few times in forcefield shorts) wearing a mixture of High Gear, Spartan (Model 1, model 2 is more flexible), Blitz and my own home made  flexible armour in scenarios.  Hopefully seeing it in action as opposed to a marketing demo is more useful.

miket's picture

Jon wrote a pretty succinct summary and I don't have much to add.  We have done some piece-meal stuff, mostly because none of my guys can afford / want to invest over a grand into training armor.  I don't have any experience with HG or Spartan so I can't comment.  I have been through Bill Kipp's FAST program and I like it, but like Jon said, there are limitations that are necessary for safety's sake:  I found myself at one point just naturally grabbing hold of the helmet, which they disallow  due to the obvious 'levering' effect that can put on the wearer's neck.  So, I 'stopped myself' from what I had been naturally prone to grip mid-fight and changed grips.  Of course that all went through my mind in a nano-second, but it registered. The thing I like about the Buletman suits (and now, the commercial Predator which I have not had the pleasure of experiencing) is that you really can hit with at least the head with full power.  Yes, it is an unrealistic size and shape, but it is mobile and attached to a human.  As Jon notes, everything is a patch-- there is no 'reality training' short of just doing it. On that thought, the approach I have settled on is to use a 'tiered approach'.  I believe people try to settle this question with 'finality', i.e. which suit is 'the best'.  The fact is, like focus mitts vs. Thai pads. vs. air shields vs. heavy bags, they all have advantages and disadvantages, as they are all (mostly) built for slightly DIFFERENT specific purposes in approaching the generalized 'combat impact (safety)' and 'reality' problems. We do a lot of stuff in my class that gets by most days with a (caged) full face helmet, elbow and knee pads, hand pads, and forearm pads.  The FA pads are an 'optional', but I find them necessary more because of the metal face cage on the opponents helmet than they are for absorbing impact-- people have scratched themselves pretty good without them, although obviously not breaking the skin.  Hockey pants cover the legs and tail bone.  The one piece I haven't found is a really good chest piece replacement-- depending on the substitute sports gear, they tend to favor padding front over back, or vice verse.  I have played around with Lacrosse armor and (hockey) goalie armor, American football shoulder pads, padded soccer goalie pants, and have looked  at BMX/ motorcycle type wear.  The advantage being I can send a new student to a used sporting goods store and if he gets lucky he can pick up a pair of used hockey shorts for $40 compared to buying somebody's specific combatives brand for $400.  Of course, we lalso look like Raggedy Men (and women) but it's a lot more economical for people.  Then for woofer drills we use a regular motorcycle helmet.  It's a patch comapred to Predator but again, it's not $2,000.  One thing to understand about a lot ofthe RBSD guys is that they are  courting agency contracts.  SO they can get by charging an 'institutional level' price.  Most of my guys just don't have wives that will let them put $2,000 into training gear when they are just starting out to (play) martial arts.  :-)   The bottom line (which Jon also notes) is that, even with armor, you can't go "Full contact", you can jut go 'harder contact', and you can do things like LIGHT elbow strikes and the like that actually hit a target.  So gear is useful, but my suggestion is to find a 'layered approach'.  The important thing is the drills.  PS:  Another down side you need to balance which is not often thought of is what I call the 'iron man' phenomena. Because a student CAN take more abuse, they tend to 'get stupid' or lazy about their tactics sometimes being that the gar WILL absorb that stupidity.  Whereas, say, their face probably won't when it's 'for real'.  So, another important point to bear in mind is to make sure peopel are not getting dependent on the gear... people need to do SOME amount of hard contact training 'old school' with minimal gear to avoid this.  But like most programs, I'm sure, I find that people need to be 'grown' to this point...   It's hard for me to tell a 35 y.o. not-that-in-shape female first grade teacher who is just starting out with us that she needs to fight 'hard contact' without a helmet and hand / elbow/ knee pads only because it's going to teach her something.  :-)  Again for 'everyday' training,  I find a 'tiered' approach to be best:  I start people with gear and then gradually take the gear away as ski8ll and confidence (along with physical control) increase.