In 1973 Jhoon Rhee launched his first set of protective sparring gear that changed the face of martial arts worldwide.
The invention of protective gear enabled students to practice sparring. Used with light to modest contact it protected practitioners from scuffs, black eyes and concussions. It lowered the bar for those students who were afraid of fighting and created a growth in martial arts schools that was unprecedented. It also created a new sport that would allow practitioners of different styles to compete in point fighting tournaments with semi-contact or light contact, either known as sport karate, all-style kickboxing or professional karate. It was even used for fullcontact matches from 1974 to 1978. Here are the opinions of some of the most respected martial arts masters of the time. Read what they said about the Jhoon Rhee equiment:
CHUCK NORRIS: The SAFE-T-KICK and SAFE-T-PUNCH have definitely increased the participation of my students in the sport concept. It has upgraded Karate by 10 years.”
HOWARD JACKSON: “The future of sport karate will he more exciting with the development of the SAFE-T equipment.”
AL DACASCOS: “It is obvious that the psychological fear from free sparring will diminish with the use of SAFE-T-KICKS and SAFE-T-PUNCHES.
BILL WALLACE: “The SAFE-T-KICK and PUNCH will help you develop your techniques better because you can extend your punches and kicks farther without worrying about injuring your opponent.”
DARNELL GARCIA: “There is a need for safe sparring in the schools. SAFE-T-KICK is the answer.”
JOHN NATIVIDAD: “I expect to have more tournament fans in the future because the use of SAFE-T equipment creates more excitement for the spectators.”
BOB WALL: “Thanks Jhoon Rhee ‘Genius’ Sport Karate owes a real debt to Mr. Rhee.”
JEFF SMITH: “SAFE-T equipment not only minimizes the injury but also the student drop-outs. The problem of the student retention will be alleviated through the adoption of the SAFE- T methods.”
The featured image shows Americans Jim Butin and Jeff Smith demonstrating the use of Safe-T equipment in sparring during a press conference ahead of the first all-style karate European Championships in Berlin in spring 1974. It was the first time the gear was used in Europe. It started distribution in the US during fall of 1973.