About four years ago we start using the Bogu during our kumite (sparring practice). This method was developed in Okinawa and then found its way into mainland Japan and eventually to the U.S. where only a few clubs still do this. And even in those clubs, only a few members do it. I know there is other equipment out there that looks similar and I have used most of what’s available. But it does not provide you with nearly the same overall effect that the bogu does. Rules in bogu training – Any punch, any kick, save foot stomps, a strike to the spine and to the back of the neck. Throws and leg kicking is certainly allowed. Use, dare I say, your commonsense.
What is the training like?
When you fight, you just go and beat the heck out of each other. This is the point. Sure, you look to get that “One Shot One Kill” but you have to train in a way that prepares you for reality. If you train to stop after that first shot- you are developing a habit that will come back to haunt you. You always train three techniques ahead.
Immediately, you will find out what works and what doesn’t work. Depending on the drill, sometimes we do rounds, sometimes 10 second bursts. There’s a little stalking- but when you go, it’s like two freight trains smashing into one another. You hit, you get hit, you lock up, you knee and you throw- great stuff. One of the first things you will notice is that when you punch or kick the hard surfaces of the bogu- it hurts. A body will feel like a feather bed compared to a bogu. But, after a while- it doesn’t hurt. Then you can start really throwing some lead!
You will also see what strikes have an effect and which ones do not. If you can back a guy up with the bogu on or ring his bell a bit- chances are it’s a good shot. If you graze him, he keeps coming and you have to keep fighting.
The bogu also teaches you to keep fighting! Lesser equipment will cause you to slow down and stop when things get critical. Or stop when one person scores the point. Scoring a point does not mean the fight has ended. It’s only a symbolic representation of it. It’s not literal.
Wearing the bogu allows you to take punishment without being seriously hurt- save the fat lip, sore legs, fingers, toes or sore jaw. You will get used to the shock of being hit. This will enable you to operate in that harsh environment of combat and it will allow you to absorb as much damage as possible. I have seen people develop other things that allow you to feel nothing. This isn’t really good either. It takes away the risk factor and all you have is two supermen running into one another with out any fear of pain. Plus it takes away the body conditioning element. As always, exercise caution and work at a level you can handle. When starting with people who haven’t done it before- take it a little easy so they can get used to it. After a couple times- then you can blast ’em.
The MEN (Head Piece) of the bogu is extremely claustrophobic. This is an excellent way of replicating the effect of tunnel vision and frustration you feel when you are the hormonal stress of combat. Don’t talk to me about something for MACHO or even Shureido- unless it’s got the grill, it ain’t cutting it.
The head piece also provides neck and chin protection that modern head-gear do not. Again, the chest protector is HARD. This is important to develop power and condition your weapons.
Can you tell who wins and who loses? Well if the guy quits you win. If you quit, you loose. But that’s not the point. IT’S THE TRAINING. It’s the befit of fighting like this that you want; the overall training effect NOT winning a game. Sure there are tournament rules, but that will force you to stop when you should be fighting!! It’s the feeling of the fight, the punishment and the impact that counts. It’s dealing with the confines of the bogu. Just the simple fact that your training partner no longer has a face and is replaced by this samurai from hell is worth the price of admission.
Is it cheap, no- but do you value good training or do you want to used that foamed dipped crap. It’s up to you. This stuff will last you a life time. If you can sucker I mean convince some people to invest- take the plunge. Get the traditional “Do” and “Tare”, a set of grappling gloves a good cup, knee pads, the good old white, cheap shin and instep pads and a hachi maki or a bandanna. You don’t need a mouth piece- the bogu will keep you mouth shut. I don’t think Bogu bag knows I am recommending the link- but, it’s good stuff.