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Guide to martial arts & boxing gear
"Martial arts" is an umbrella term for a variety of Japanese-inspired fighting, combat, and self-defense systems. Boxing, also a fighting sport, can fall under the martial arts category, too. One big key to success in these sports is to have the right protection for practice and competitions, whether you're just getting started or you've been a competitor for years.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a contact combat sport incorporating a techniques from various forms of martial arts. MMA training involves choosing the right gloves, shin guards, and shorts so you're comfortable and protected at the gym.
- Gloves: Use gloves for grappling and for bag and pad work. Gloves should fit both your hands and wrists without moving around or slipping. Look for gloves with padding at the knuckles and with full Velcro wrist wrapping for necessary support. The difference between MMA and boxing gloves is that MMA-style gloves are typically fingerless, while boxing gloves have full finger protection for heavy bag workouts. MMA-style gloves are also ideal for kickboxing workouts.
- Shin guards: In MMA and kickboxing, you'll need shin guards for extra protection. Select shin guards that don't move when you spar and that cover the tops of your feet up to your knees. Vinyl or synthetic leather guards are lighter, thinner, and less padded to provide more ease of movement than genuine leather models.
- Shorts: MMA fight shorts are streamlined (no metal, zippers, or loops) and designed for mat work. Look for styles that stretch and have a secured, hidden drawstring and leg slits for easier movement.
Boxing uses fists, which require padded gloves for protection. Kickboxing, the cousin of boxing and distant cousin of Muay Thai, combines boxing with kicks. Much of the same gear works for boxing and kickboxing. You can also find equipment and accessories designed for kids and for people who prefer more traditionally feminine styles.
- Gloves: Full-fingered boxing gloves are sized for men, women, and kids.
- Punching bags: Find punching bags similar to what you'd see at kickboxing or boxing classes. Heavy boxing bags come in all styles, including hanging and freestanding. Speed bags range from over-the-door to freestanding models and those that attach to stands.
- Bag stands: If your bag is too heavy to hang, consider a freestanding bag stand that's designed to withstand a tough workout. Look for a stand with legs that are set wide apart to allow for footwork.
- Accessories: Along with gloves and bags, you'll want to outfit your home boxing gym with protective and compression hand wraps for your workouts. To maximize your workouts, choose an interval training round timer that gives you an end-of-round warning and adjustable rest period time.
Muay Thai, a specialized type of boxing, uses an eight-point striking system. It's similar to kickboxing, which uses a four-point striking system. Both systems require similar gear, too.
- Gloves: The most important Muay Thai gear is your pair of gloves. Though they appear similar to boxing gloves, there are some subtle differences. Muay Thai gloves have more padding in the wrist area. Their thumbs are positioned differently, too. They're more flexible when you clench your fist to allow for more grip and grab, and they have more of a square front because of their extra padding.
- Shorts: Muay Thai shorts are typically satin, tight-fitting, and shorter than shorts for other martial arts specialties. This is to provide better airflow. In addition, Thai boxers traditionally expose their leg muscles as a sign of power.
- Bags: If you practice Muay Thai, you likely train on heavy bags to strengthen your knuckles and develop your timing and footwork. A Muay Thai heavy bag is longer, skinnier, and harder. It swings less because it's specifically designed for leg kicks.
BJJ, short for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is a martial art, combat sport, and self-defense method inspired by Judo. Its philosophy is that a smaller, weaker person can fight and beat a larger, stronger person by using proper ground fighting techniques, such as sparring. The sport requires correct sparring gear and accessories .
- BJJ and Judo gis: A gi is a traditional uniform that you wear for practice and competition. Quality gis have thick collars and reinforced stitching. A gi with a competition cut means that it's slightly tighter and likely pre-shrunk, resulting in less excess fabric to get in the way while you're competing. Training gis are a bit looser in cut.
- BJJ rash guards: It's common to wear a rash guard alone or underneath your gi. This tight-fitting spandex top comes with long or short sleeves and has several functions. A rash guard protects you from mat burns, wicks away sweat, and could possibly improve muscle recovery during strenuous workouts.
- BJJ spats: Much like rash guards, you can wear spats alone or underneath gi pants, and they're also functional. Spats do much of the same as rash guards to protect your body and skin from infections, bacteria, mat burns, and sweat for better mat movement. Spats also keep your leg muscles warm.
- BJJ and Judo belts: The color of the belt you wear with your gi signifies your rank. Choose a belt that's comfortable wrapped around you a couple of times, stays tied, and is durable enough to take the grabbing and pulling it'll experience on the mat.
- BJJ mats: The mat is where all the action takes place, whether it's at the gym or at home. A higher-quality mat has more protection and padding to handle heavy body impact. You'll find roll-out foam mats and modular puzzle mats that can extend. Look at thickness, material, size, and stitching. Comfortable thicknesses range from 3/4-inch to 2 inches.