"Kanpeki Elite Shin/Instep Guards" made by Hayabusa
The first thing I noticed when I tried them on at home was that they were pretty tight. They felt fine once I got them on but they took some effort to put on. On the bag they felt awesome. I noticed that they were a size Medium later that night though and thought to myself that I probably should have gotten them in Large. So for a few days I really wanted to use them again but had to hold myself back because I wanted to go back and exchange them for the next size up.
So anyway, today I took them back and found out that everything by Hayabusa is out of stock all over Canada and will be until February. So goober at Fight Zone more or less talked me into exchanging them for these:
Venum "Green Viper" Standup Shin Guards
These definitely wouldn't have been my first choice but the guy let me try one on in the store and throw a few kicks at a Thai pad. They felt ok at the time. I had to pay another $11.38 on top of the exchange because they were more expensive. Now that I'm home and have actually tried them, however, they're total shit compared to the Hayabusas. Maybe I shouldn't say total shit but I definitely don't like them as much.
The standup style of shin guards are big and clunky. Not comfortable at all to move around in and more awkward to kick with than the grappling shin guards above. Grappling style shin guards also don't slip as much.
Something else I noticed, that may have been my own fault, was that I had more of a tendency to hit with my instep rather than my shin with the Venums. Just one more thing not to like about them.
So, long story short, Hayabusa's Kanpeki Shin/Instep Guards > Venum Standup Shin Guards. They're lighter, immeasurably more comfortable despite being a size too small, easier to move around in, WAY less gay-looking and possibly just easier to land proper kicks with. I think tomorrow I'm going to re-exchange them. Buddy at Fight Zone will most likely be annoyed with me but he's scrawny as fuck anyhow so fuck him. He can bitch about me on his Facebook page after I leave.
Since my martial arts background is primarily in taekwondo, I was taught to strike with the instep when throwing roundhouse or front kicks. And that was fine back when I was a teenager, but my feet just aren't having that anymore. Taekwondo is a full-contact sport but it's full-contact on a level nowhere near muay Thai. Thai boxing has been field tested to an extent that taekwondo doesn't even come close to. It's decades (if not more, taekwondo is still fairly young as martial arts go) ahead. It's no surprise then that the Thais strike with the shin rather than the instep.
Being reluctantly biased towards taekwondo for a long time, I gave up on shin conditioning several times over the years and would always go back to striking with the instep. I'd rationalise it with one stupid ass reason after another but really it just came down to not having the patience to go through the learning curve of switching from instep striking to shin striking.
If you want any longevity in your ability to throw powerful kicks I really believe now that you need to learn how to use your shins. It hurts a lot at first but the bone itself is very durable so despite the pain and the bruising it isn't likely to break like the foot or the ankle is. Knowing how to kick is useless if you can't land with power and you can't do that if you've crippled yourself after years and years of pounding on your feet.
Taekwondo came to Korea from Japan, where it came from Okinawa. The Okinawans aren't big on competition so their karate tends to revolve more around conditioning and kata. The Japanese, on the other hand, love their violence and saw no point whatsoever in practicing karate if you weren't going to use it against other people. It was still considered too dangerous for full contact though so they went with point sparring. That was a douchebag move. Anybody who thinks he's so fucking "lethal" that he can't properly fight someone who is equally skilled has about a 99% chance of being completely full of shit with about as much experience in fist-fighting as a home-schooled retard. So I think the Japanese just never figured out that if you want to fight with kicks, you can't be smashing your feet constantly. Although kyokushin did eventually come along in Japan (developed by Mas Oyama who was Japanese but had Korean blood) and its competitors are known to kick with their shins. It just makes more sense with full-contact.
When karate arrived in Korea, during and after World War II, it was in the form of battlefield hand-to-hand fighting to the death. That means it amounted to not much more than punches to the head and low front kicks. A lot of the fighting between North and South Korea at that time was done in the pitch black of night with no guns. They didn't want to shoot at each other because they couldn't see each other. So they'd run around in the dark and grab each other by the hair. They could tell by the length of another soldier's hair which side he was on and if he was the enemy, he got got a punch in the face for it. Sounds crazy but you can look this shit up. Apparently it was normal to wake up in the morning on a battlefield and see dead soldiers lying in ditches with their faces smashed. Anyway, as effective an acid test for any martial art as that sounds like, not too many roundhouse kicks would have been thrown so they wouldn't have cared whether you landed with the shin, instep, ball of the foot, heel or whatever. And in all likelihood they would have been wearing combat boots anyway so it woud barely have mattered. It wasn't until after the Korean War (which technically isn't even over) that the Koreans started to become more interested in developing their martial arts. First order of business was to change the name of it from karate to pretty much anything that was not Japanese. Kuk sul won, moo duk kwan, tang soo do, tae kwon do... It went through several names before they finally landed on taekwondo. Next thing they needed to do was to ramp up the intensity of competition. They needed to prove themselves tougher than the Japanese, after all. So they started actually hitting each other but with foam pads on their hands and feet. It was a step in the right direction but still incomplete.
The feud between the International Tae Kwon Do Federation (ITF) and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) involved a shitload of torture, murder and all around international political espionage and didn't leave much room for actually developing the art itself. Ultimately, the WTF won and got into the Olympics while the ITF fucked off to North Korea where the focus seems to have gone back to military style hand-to-hand combat. For whatever reason, the WTF decided to pad the chest and stomach and strike with bare feet. Okay.
Well, the Koreans wanted to dominate martial arts all over the world. Taekwondo is the most commonly practiced martial art so they obviously succeeded in doing that but I think they did it by appealing to the kids who wanted to do fancy moves like in the movies rather than people who just wanted to effectively kick the snot out of each other. This happened over the course of the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s when MMA hadn't come fully into fruition yet so most people were still under the assumption that if it looked good on a movie screen it was good enough for real life. They needed to set their style apart from kickboxing to get it into the Olympics, so there is no punching to the head, no striking below the belt (you can block or "cut" an oncoming kick with the feet), more points for a kick to the head than a kick to the body and no points at all for body punching. The fighting is also meant to be continuous rather than point based, where you stop and restart after each landed blow. What this all amounts to is an exciting sport full of quick, combination kicking with jumps, spins and all kinds of fancy, fun stuff. There are plenty of knockouts but it's the kind of thing where two people will crash into each other in mid-air, both fall to the ground and one will get up. Matches are three rounds and rounds are two or three minutes. Most of the mid-level kicks aren't thrown with full power because they're merely setups for the big jumping spin kick to the head. So while the knockout is still ultimately the goal, realistic combat practicality is secondary to the overall aesthetic of the fight itself. I have nothing against it, I had a lot of fun with that sport when I was a teenager, but you can see why the necessity to kick with the shins just never arose. Round kicks with the shin aren't as conducive to speedy combinations and don't look as cool. There you have it.
In Thailand, however, fighters were kicking absolute fuck out of one another in long, drawn out bloodbaths for a really long time. And the allowance of punches to the head makes a big difference. It's no good to use quick, snappy roundhouse kicks to set up a spinning aerial head kick when you might get knocked out with a punch in the jaw before you can pull it off. And it makes sense that it wouldn't have taken them long to figure out that if you swung your shin like a club into somebody's ankle or thigh over and over you could wear him down to the point where you'd have a much easier chance of landing that shot to the head with a punch or a kick that would knock your opponent out. Their sport evolved differently and anyone who wanted to keep fighting for a long time had to take care not to cripple themselves by damaging their feet in the process.
In any case. I'm learning more and more that it makes sense to develop the ability to land kicks with my shins rather than with my feet. I'm still not thrilled about the learning curve and conditioning process involved so I want a decent pair of shin guards. And these Venums aren't living up to my expectations. I feel like if I keep them I'll probably never even use them because they feel like shit. But the Hayabusas I had just a few days ago I was actually excited to use. So despite them being a pain in the ass to pull on, I think they're the better choice. I just hope fuck face at Fight Zone hasn't already sold them to some other asshole before I can get back there.
Fuck. I forgot what I was even writing about for a while there.