No-contact does not necessarily mean there is no physical contact; there will always be some physical contact while training in a martial art. No-contact means that, when performing hand and foot attacks, the striking surface of the weapon (body part) used is controlled so that it does not make contact with the opponent. To score in a no-contact sparring competition, the striking surface of an attack must come very close to the target without touching, be fully extended, be executed with full-power, and the form of the technique must be nearly perfect.
The physical contact in no-contact sparring may be compared to arm wrestling. There is physical contact in arm wrestling, but, while extreme effort and power is used to win, there is no intention to strike the person or cause harm to the opponent.
Risk of injury. No-contact does not mean that accidents will not happen and that contact will be inadvertently made, it just means that the intention of an attack was to make no contact. Martial arts are physical, especially the hard styles, such as Taekwondo, so there will be contact, sometimes with enough force to cause pain or minor injury, but, with no-contact sparring, the risk of injury is greatly reduced. Since no-contact, techniques are focused two or three inches short of the depth of penetration required for injury, the risk of injury is very low.
Level of expertise required. No-contact sparring techniques must be perfectly performed and precisely executed while also using maximum power. In no-contact sparring, the means is more important than the result; how the technique is executed and focused is more important than the technique hitting the target. Since attacks must be close enough to score but not make contact while exhibiting proper form and power, judging no-contact sparring is very subjective, so judges must be very experienced to score attacks fairly.
An untrained thug may participate in, and even win, a full-contact match. However, the same thug would probably not even score in a no-contact match. The thug would probably be quickly disqualified for excessive contact no matter how intently the thug tried to control his or her attacks.
Usefulness in self-defense. Some martial artists, especially full-contact fighters, frown upon no-contact sparring as being useless child’s play. However, no-contact sparring requires an extreme level of mental and physical control that may only be accomplished after many years of intense training.
To make contact with an attacker, a no-contact fighter only needs to decrease the fighting range a few inches; everything else stays the same. No-contact fighters train using full-contact attacks against heavy bags to train their bodies to make full-contact attacks, so they are able to deliver effective full-contact attacks. The problem with no-contact sparring, and it is a big problem, is that no-contact fighters do not train to receive full-contact attacks. Therefore, in a self-defense situation, they have not been trained to mentally or physically deal with full-power attacks delivered with the intention to injury or kill. No-contact fighters may say that they would be able to deal with full-power hits, but until they experience the affects of a full-power blow thrown in anger, they are only speculating. A no-contact fighter has a better chance of surviving a self-defense confrontation than an untrained person would, but survival is far from assured.
Who may participat. Practically anyone may participate in no-contact sparring. No matter your occupation, the chances are low that you will receive an injury that will interfere with you ability to do your job. No-contact fighters may participle at any age, from young children to aged adults. No-contact sparring allows students to receive all the benefit of the martial arts, with little to no risk of injury.