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Power Slap: a slap in the face of true combat?

Children and teens are no strangers to idiotic games. One I remember vividly was slap-boxing. The rules were simple, only open-hand strikes (slaps) and no hitting below the belt (lack thereof). In my many times of seeing this game occur, I had never once seen a knockout or anything close. However, once or twice I’ve seen a person become dazed from a well-timed counter but never receiving obvious and extreme brain damage.

To the surprise of many, the children and teens who slap-boxed in their more sporting years grew up and continued their pugilistic habits by turning it into an official sport. Depending on the promotion, this sport will take up one of two monikers, “slap boxing” or “slap fighting”.

No matter the name, the rules stay pretty much the same.

  1. The defending contestant must take the full first of the slap and not defend.

    1. Defenders must either hold their hands behind their backs or hold a towel with both hands.

    2. Depending on the promotion, contestants may tuck their chin.

  2. The defending contestant will have 10-30 seconds to recover if necessary. If the defender is either knocked unconscious or still dazed after the allotted time is up, the defender will lose via a knockout (KO) or technical knockout (TKO).

Here are the rules for the Attacking player:

  1. They’ll have 10-30 seconds (depending on the promotion) to wind up the single slap.

    1. In some American promotions, contestants must wind up three times, while the crowd shouts “ONE! TWO! THREE!” instead of having a set time limit.

  2. The strike must be open-handed and aimed either at the chin or cheek. Strikes to the temple, ear, or nose are NOT allowed.

  3. Attackers must cover their hands in chalk to determine if the slap is legal.

After a slap, attacking and defending players will switch roles, and once both contestants have slapped, a new round begins with the original “attacking” player slapping once again. This back-and-forth continues until either 10 rounds are completed or one contestant is knocked unconscious.

What has been the general reaction of those in the fight community? To start, this has been a boon for slap-fighting fans. A greater light shown on the “sport” has led to more competition and potentially greater prizes. However, for many MMA/fight fans in general, this has taken attention away from their favored form of prizefighting, and for many fighters, slap fighting is an embarrassment at best and a detriment at worst.

Why are so many (including me) critical of this “sport”? For starters, dodging or any form of self-protection is disallowed meaning that this no longer becomes a fight or a sport. In any other activity where concussions or other forms of injury are possible, self-protection is the name of the game; there's a reason why before the start of boxing and MMA matches, referees will tell competitors “protect yourself at all times”. With self-protection banned and an effectively unlimited amount of time given for a wind-up, brain damage isn’t likely, it’s guaranteed.

For context, CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a huge problem not just within MMA and boxing circles, but in football circles as well. Within boxing and MMA, you are told you duck, dodge, weave, and pretty much anything else you can do to protect yourself, and yet in both sports, we are still starting to see the lasting impacts of CTE.

Football is an even better example. In a study done by The Boston University CTE Center, out of 376 former players tested, 345 were diagnosed with some form of CTE. This comes from a sport where concussions occur on average in 1 out of every 5½ games.

Trigger warning: images of bodily harm and other disturbing images ahead

As the above warning states, I will be showing images that are very graphic but are real-world and recent examples of the consequences of a slap-fighting match.

Image 1 (Top-Left) Credit: @powerslapleague on Twitter

Image 2 (Top-Middle) Credit: @powerslapleague on Twitter

Image 3 (Top-Right) Credit: @powerslap on Instagram

Image 4 (Bottom-Left) Credit: Power Slap / TBS

Image 5 (Bottom-Middle) Credit: Power Slap / TBS

In all, is there a future for this “sport”? While the sensible person in me would think the clear and obvious answer is “no”, the more bloodthirsty and realistic side of me says that even if Dana White’s “Power Slap” were to fail, slapping competitions in some form or another will continue on regional scenes for the foreseeable future.

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