As I mentioned a few days ago, I picked up a set of bogu gear and was looking forward to using it. Tonight in kumite class I learned first-hand why people say they hate the bogu gear. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate it, but it's not exactly a fun experience either. It is, however, definitely a worthwhile learning experience and I look forward to trying it again.
Before the bogu kumite match tonight, I didn't really know what to expect. I've been taking kumite classes regularly for about a year now, but those are all controlled matches where action stops when a "point" is scored and all hits are meant to only lightly touch cloth or skin. I have never watched a bogu kumite match.
So, here is how it went...
We had a regular kumite class first. Then, for the last few minutes I was to wear the bogu gear and face Sensei in a match. After I was helped into the gear and it was all snuggly tied, Sensei explained to the class what they were about to see. I listened intently hoping to get a better idea of what I had gotten myself into. He mentioned something about how in Okinawa it was not uncommon for people to be thrown about, perhaps into walls, through windows, etc. I then thought - "Wait a second! Did I just hear that right?" My immediate thought was he must be joking. He continued on, explaining how the match usually proceeds - you start about 10 to 15 feet apart and then rush at each other, punching, kicking, etc. and never stopping until someone falls to the ground in which case the two people are pulled apart, placed 10 to 15 feet apart again, and pushed towards each other. This goes on for 3 minutes. Now after hearing this, I wished Angie hadn't tied my gear on securely behind my back with a double knot. Maybe there was still time to take it all off. Sensei then asked if I had any questions and I resisted the urge to ask if this was all some kind of joke to scare me half-to-death.
So, with that explanation complete, we bowed to each other and the match began. I don't really remember many details of the actual fighting other than repeatedly being hit in the chest and thinking the chest protector wasn't really doing that great a job of protecting my chest. I think I spent most of the time backing away, trying to get far enough away to throw a kick (probably I was also hoping to just get far enough away to stop from being hit). I think I might have remembered once to actually try to block something.
It was a very eye-opening experience. It was completely different from the regular kumite class - there was no comfort zone of getting to pause each time a hit was scored. In this case the opponent was constantly there, forcing me to deal with a very unpleasant situation. Having never been in a real fight, I'm only guessing here, but I suspect this bogu kumite is a much more realistic portrayal of how a real fight would proceed. So, in that way, I think it's a very worthwhile experience and there is much to be learned from it.
And, in the end, I'm happy to say, the gear did its job well. While the force of a lot of the hits were felt, there we no lasting injuries or even bruises. Of course, Sensei was going easy on me. I would not want to suffer the full force of his hits even when wearing the full bogu gear.
Oddly, the whole experience in some way did remind me of playing ice hockey. If you've ever played hockey you might know what I mean. There was the same feeling of going full tilt for a short period of time until you are totally out of breath, stuggling against someone else all while getting violently knocked about (but also being protected by a bunch of gear). Obviously there are a huge number of differences between the two activities, but the base emotional feeling brought back some memories of when I used to play hockey.