Bogu Kumite was a form of sparring where competitors would wear a chest protector, head gear and gloves. In the early years of Taika Seiyu Oyata's instruction on Okinawa it was something that helped to bring in the young U.S. Soldiers that were occupying the island and thus income. It was also a way for a young man to gain status among others as the top competitors would give the appearance of being the toughest on the island. It was, however, a sport with rules. When Taika moved to the United States permanently in 1977 it was also a popular sport in the United States as logically many servicemen had returned to the U.S. with a drive to compete and an enjoyment of this sport. Taika saw it only as a way to help promote his art. Members of his newly formed association would host competitions where there were open hand and weapons competitions, as well as bogu kumite. At these events he would often perform a demonstration at the beginning, to help gain attention to his skills and boost enrollment. Often these events were touted as charity events where admission to compete in the tournament would be two canned goods and a set fee. After the demonstration Taika would give a large ceremonial check to the charity of his choice as well as all the food to a local food pantry.
After Taika was well established in the U.S., and had left the generic name Ryukyu Kempo behind for his own art name of RyuTe, he also shed his involvement with tournaments and bogu kumite. I believe the last Kansas City Metropolitan tournament was around 1998-1999. By 2000 Taika was frequently telling us that Bogu was sport and the rules were contrary to his teaching methods. His art taught primarily principles like kicking below the belt and this was forbidden in bogu kumite. His art taught grappling which wasn't possible with most gloves, nor practical with gloves that allowed it, nor permitted by most sparring rules. Head gear made it impossible to attack pressure points around the neck, jaw hinge, zygomatic, et cetera. The back and legs were off limits as targets. Taika said that every rule in a sport limited you and quite frequently were completely contrary to the things he was teaching. Many of his techniques that he taught also contained kicks to the legs, usually in proximity to the knees. Thus, Taika said too much bogu training detracted from true life protection training. Taika said he would see people 'cramming' before a tournament and losing their life protection skills to hone their 'point' skills. He said it was fine for martial businessmen who make a living off of their art as it is popular, but it had no true benefits to the actual application of life protection and teaches you bad habits.
At this dojo, we do still use the protective gear, but we do not use it in the old rule based tournament ways. Taika showed us ways to use the gear and not limit ourselves to those rules in training, yet be safe. He taught us how to not build up bogu tournament bad habits. The gear, when used, is gradually put on for specific lessons like a chest protector by itself to teach how to protect a specific spot. Head gear helps place emphasis on proper breathing. We do not use the gear with a specified ring, time limits, leg or other restrictions. In one of the last seminars with Taika and Tasshi Logue together, there was a big push from some of the old school black belts to have a bogu lesson/session during the conference. Taika did not let them turn it into a sport event, he used the event to teach a defensive life protection move with protective gear.
Taika stated that the picture here of him with the trophy he obtained by cheating in a tournament. He used the rules in the tournament against an opponent that he thought might be able to beat him. Taika stated that 'he cheated' to gain status and students and that people placed too much emphasis on Bogu above Life Protection because it made you appear tough whether you could actually defend yourself in real life or not. It was purely rules for a ring but not an alley.