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New Headgear Standard Will Protect Martial Arts Participants

Practicing the various forms of martial arts has become a very popular activity, particularly for children. However, until recently, no performance standards existed for martial arts headgear, despite the fact that a real potential for injury from strikes and falls does exist. Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities has now taken steps toward the safer practice of martial arts with the publication of a new standard, F 2397, Specification for Protective Headgear Used in Martial Arts.

Dennis Lieu, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, says that headgear has often been chosen more by its appearance than by performance standard. “A wide variety of different headgear, some obviously very thin and non-protective, would be seen at tournaments where full contact kicking to the head was permitted,” says Lieu, who used to teach martial arts and has a fourth degree black belt in tae kwon do. “Some tournaments did not require headgear, even though the floors were not padded and tripping and throwing were permitted.”

Lieu hopes that F 2397, which is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee F08.53 on Headgear and Helmets, will be adopted by martial arts schools for use during sparring practices and that martial arts organizations will adopt the standard for use at their tournaments. “Currently, most schools and tournaments specify headgear by color and/or manufacturer only, rather than by any performance standard,” notes Lieu. Lieu also said he hopes the standard will inspire martial arts instructors to wear good headgear because he feels that students will follow the lead of good instructors.

Finally, Lieu stresses that any interested parties are welcome to join the subcommittee to participate in future revisions of the standard. “There are many different styles of martial arts and some will have different requirements for protection. Also, we need help to get the standard adopted by as many martial arts schools and organizations as possible.”

For further technical information, contact Dennis Lieu, University of California, Berkeley, Calif. (phone: 510/ 642-4014). Committee F08 meets Nov. 9-12 during the November Committee Week in Washington D.C. For membership or meeting details, contact Jim Olshefsky, ASTM International (phone: 610/ 832-9714). //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International