There is an old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This also applies to rules, “The validity of a rule is in the eye of the beholder.” What is a fair and necessary rule to one person may be an unfair and unnecessary restriction of behavior to another person. The rules as applicable to the wearing of head protection (helmets) are as varied as everything else in the martial arts.
Rules are similar to laws except that the sanctions are different for breaking a rule than they are for breaking a law. If you break a law, the government will punish you and you have no choice in the matter. If you break a rule, the entity, such as a martial art association, school, or instructor, that made the rule will punish you; however, you must agree to receive the punishment. For example an association may fine you for breaking a rule, but you have the choice to either pay the fine and remain in the association or to ignore the fine and leave the association (unless there is some law that is also broken, such as a written contract).
Each martial art association, school, or instructor has its own rules; some of which may be mandated by federal, state, or local laws, or by some other entity, such as the owner of the building in which the martial art is practiced. As related to sparring, most of the rules pertain to making the parameters of the competition clear to all participants and to insuring the competition fair and consistent, but many of the rules pertain to protecting the competitors, even if they do not want to be protected. Just as the laws in some states require motorcycle riders to wear helmets whether they want to or not, you may be required to wear a head protector while sparring, even though both you and your opponent want to spar without any head protection.
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