When starting a martial art like taekwondo, making sure that you are wearing the right gear, all the way down using an athletic cup is a good idea. I wanted to know if wearing a cup is expected or valuable for training in taekwondo so I asked some of my training partners that have extensive taekwondo experience to weigh in.
You should wear a cup in taekwondo if you plan to spar or compete in any taekwondo tournaments since they are required in many rulesets including those used at the Olympics. This allows you to train movements in the way you are planning to use taekwondo. Students can opt not to wear a cup otherwise.
Now that you know that wearing a cup is a good idea for taekwondo, let’s go further into the topic and discuss some of the situations that might tip your decision to wear an athletic cup in one direction or the other as well as introduce some alternatives that can be used if wearing a cup is not a viable option.
Should You Wear a Cup in Taekwondo Classes?
When it comes to wearing an athletic cup in martial arts like Taekwondo, I typically follow the norms of the school in which I am taking the class. If the instructor or students tend not to wear cups I won’t wear them myself. However, if I know the school has sparring rounds I will usually opt to wear one.
If you are training in taekwondo more casually or purely for fitness reasons, you can usually get away with training without an athletic cup. For the most part, I avoid using an athletic cup unless it really feels necessary to do so as a personal preference.
In my experience, using a better quality athletic cup like the Diamond MMA Cup (Amazon link) is worth it, but using cheaper lower quality cups is more of a gamble in terms of having it get displaced and causing injuries to the area they are meant to protect.
Personal Risks of Using a Cup in Taekwondo
Taekwondo has a lot of kicking and striking but does not typically focus on kicking areas near the groin like the legs and instead targets more striking to the body and head. In my opinion, this makes the groin shots a lot less likely to occur by accident. However, in any striking martial art, a hit to the goods can be pretty painful, especially when training kicks, so use your best judgment at whatever school you are attending. Ask your instructor if you want more personal guidance tuned to your school.
Training the Motor Patterns Correctly
If you’ve ever done any athletics while wearing a cup, you’ll have noticed that your movement patterns might change based on whether or not you are wearing it. For some sports, it will have a minimal impact like wearing one for football. However, in sports and activities that require a lot of pivoting and kicking as taekwondo does, the motor patterns can be significantly different when you train with or without an athletic cup.
Due to these differences, if you are training for a competition that required an athletic cup, it is a really good idea to be training with an athletic cup to mimic the exact circumstances in which you will be expected to perform those techniques and movements.
Do You Wear a Cup in Taekwondo Competition
In the taekwondo competition ruleset used for the Olympics, competitors are required to wear groin protection. Most competition rulesets are similar to those used in the Olympics and require the use of an athletic cup within the competition. Even if not required wearing one is a good idea.
Alternatives to an Athletic Cup for Taekwondo
If you are hesitant to invest in an athletic cup for taekwondo for any reason, it is possible to mitigate some of the risks of taking an impact to the groin with other apparel as well as by practicing some basic mindfulness while training.
When I am practicing any martial art, including taekwondo, I will at minimum wear compression shorts over supportive underwear. You can also opt for a jockstrap if you prefer, but I like these compression shorts (Amazon link) because they can give me the flexibility to change more quickly and prevent skin irritation from repetitive movements.
It might seem obvious, but paying more attention to yourself and your partner’s movements can go a long way to avoiding accidental groin shots. This goes across the board from basic drilling all the way to full-contact sparring (although I would opt for wearing a good cup in full-contact sparring).
Wearing a cup in taekwondo really is a personal choice, however, I would generally err on the side of wearing a better quality cup over opting out since taekwondo is a striking martial art. Attending a few classes and seeing what the norms are will generally give you a good idea of whether or not wearing an athletic cup is a good idea in that school.
If you are competing under a ruleset that requires a cup or you are participating in a lot of sparring it is usually worth it to train with an athletic cup for most of your training.
For more check out Do You Wear Shoes in Taekwondo?