Selection of headgear was imperative for the WPF as it moved to include head contact in its amateur competition rules, and WPF President Craig Smith wanted to find the headgear that would provide pankratiasts with the greatest measure of safety possible without limiting their vision or inhibiting grappling. After considering numerous commercial headguards, Smith selected TOP TEN as the required headgear for all WPF sanctioned amateur tournaments. The reason, said Smith, was that TOP TEN satisfied these require better than any other headguard available.
Some years ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was under pressure from the American Medical Association and its international counterparts to ban boxing as an Olympic sport. The problem was that boxers were suffering extensive brain damage as a result of receiving too many blows to the head. The IOC gave the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) an ultimatum to take immediate steps to correct the problem, or boxing would no longer be an Olympic event. The AIBA mandated the use of headguards, and asked boxing glove and headguard manufacturers worldwide to submit their best products to be tested for their ability to absorb shock and material durability. The tests were conducted at the Technical University of Berlin's automobile safety testing facility.
In the tests, theTOP TEN headguard withstood a staggering 100,000 blows before the examiners finally gave up. The condition of the material remained as good as new. The headguard finishing second totally deteriorated after a mere 10,000 blows. The results were in - TOP TEN became the official headguard for Olympic boxing.
The secret of the TOP TEN headguard is a patented padding material made from a polyurethane foam called Bayflex. This is the same material used to manufacture automobile safety components for Mercedes Benz, Porsche, BMW and Audi. Its design is such that the force of a blow is absorbed and distributed throughout the entire headguard, rather than just at the point of impact as with other headguards. This protects the athlete from the concussive dangers of blows to the head. In fact, since TOP TEN was adopted as the official headguard for Olympic boxing, there has only been one knockout in the Olympics. Smith said that this was what caused him to select TOP TEN as the official headgear for the WPF.
Another factor, said Smith, was the clear face shield that TOP TEN manufactures to fit on the headguard. "Using grappling gloves, as opposed to boxing gloves, we needed a way to protect our athletes' faces without imparing their vision. The TOP TEN face shield serves our needs perfectly."
The face shield proved itself in the first WPF tournment in which it was used when it withstood repeated heavy knee strikes. Smith said that while knee strikes to the head are prohibited in WPF competition, the situation proved the durability of the face shield, and the athlete who received the strikes came out no worse for it. "That made me a believer", said Smith.
It has made others believers, too. Legendary World Karate and Kickboxing Champion Joe Lewis says TOP TEN is the only headguard he will use. "You can tell who the real fighters are by the type of equipment they wear", says Lewis, who has had the same TOP TEN headguard for 18 years, and says it's still like new.
Ferdinand Mack, World Pro Kickboxing Champion and the most successful amateur kickboxer in history, winning an unprecedented five WAKO World Titles, has been wearing nothing but TOP TEN headgear since it came out 20 years ago. "I can't understand why a contact fighter would wear anything else," says Mack.
And now, the fighters of the WPF have joined the elite fighters of the world in wearing nothing but TOP TEN. Smith says that any WPF club sponsoring a competition must require that TOP TEN headguards be worn by all competitors, and further, that the sponsoring club must have TOP TEN headguards on hand to provide to any competitors who do not have their own. "TOP TEN is hard to get right now, as they have never marketed aggressively in the U.S., and it may be a while before all competitors can get their own. That's why I require that all tournament sponsors have TOP TEN headguards on hand for use by those athletes who have not been able to get their own yet."
How important does Smith feel this is? "If I see or hear of a single match being fought without TOP TEN headgear", says Smith, "that tournament will lose its sanction, and the promoter may very well lose their WPF certification."
If that sounds serious it is. Athlete safety is serious business for the WPF. And that's probably one of the reasons th World Pankration Federation is leading the world in competitive pankration.