Perhaps you’re considering taking up Muay Thai, or maybe you’ve been going a while and want to make sure you’re using the right equipment. We’re here to walk you through all of the equipment you might need.
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is the cultural martial art of Thailand. The origin of Muay Thai dates back several hundred years, and was essentially, developed as a form of close-combat that used the entire body as a weapon, including elbows and knees, leading to it becoming known as “the art of eight limbs”. In modern day, Muay Thai has become a global sport and is often incorporated into the training routines of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters and kickboxers.
Because Muay Thai is based around using mainly the hard joints and bones to defeat your opponent, it’s crucial that anyone training has the correct protection, to ensure that they avoid injury and get the most out of their training. The level you train at will affect how much equipment you need, however there are some items which are an absolute necessity.
What you need for training
When training Muay Thai there are a number of essential items which are needed to practise safely.
Boxing gloves are the most important item of training equipment for Muay Thai. The gloves are what protect both your hands from getting damaged and your opponent or sparring partner from getting injured, so it’s important to get these right. Muay Thai has its own style of boxing glove with a slightly differently positioned hand as well as several other differences. If you’re only training bag/pad work, or if you are a beginner and can’t yet afford to pay for a quality pair of Thai-style boxing gloves, regular boxing gloves will work just as well.
When buying boxing gloves, many first timers will go out and buy the cheapest pair of gloves they can find. Unfortunately a lot of the time, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true here. Usually boxing gloves for around £20 or less tend to be cheaply built and don’t last long at all. While they may seem ‘fine for now’, they can actually end up doing more harm to your hands than good. I would advise anybody looking to try to spend a little more on boxing gloves, and go for a mid-range glove. The difference is definitely noticeable.
The type of training you do will also affect what weight of glove you use. Many people use lighter gloves (around 10oz) for bag and pad work, as they allow you to work on speed and technique, as well as getting used to the feel of throwing a punch. For sparring, most gyms won’t let you spar in anything less than 16oz. The extra padding is not so much for your sake but for your opponent’s protection. In high level competition, they often fight with 10oz gloves.
For help choosing a glove which is right for you take a look through our Boxing Glove Reviews.
Hand Wraps/inner glove
Hand wraps aren’t a necessity to actually train, but they are definitely a necessity for training safely. Every punch you throw creates sudden pressure on the 27 small bones that form the hand. All it takes is one bad punch and you can easily break something. To prevent this, fighters use hand wraps. Hand wraps are rolls of fabric wrapped around the hand to form a protective shock absorbing layer. They support the hand in a way boxing gloves can’t, making sure that there is no accidental movement in the wrist or hand.
Inner gloves are favoured by some people instead. These typically offer more protection for the knuckles than the hand itself, so can’t quite match the protection of hand wraps, however they are much quicker to put on, and add that extra layer of protection.
You can find our hand wrap reviews in the Accessories section, where we’ve compared hand wraps from a range of brands.
When training Muay Thai, it’s important to remember that kicks and knees are a large part of the training, so it’s important that you wear shorts which fit well but still have the flexibility to move however your body does.
Traditionally, Thai boxers have their own style of shorts. While they may look a bit crazy to beginners, they are designed to be short so that they don’t get in the way at all. They’re often made of Satin as well, which makes them comfortable to wear even for long periods of time.
If you really aren’t into the traditional shorts, there are other options available. Depending on the gym, they may be happy for you to wear MMA style, or Vale Tudo style shorts, however in competitions almost all Muay Thai fighters wear the traditional style shorts.
We’ve reviewed a range of Thai shorts in our Clothing Reviews section.
What you need for sparring
When sparring you will need a few more items of gear in addition to those mentioned previously. These ensure not only your safety but also the safety of your sparring partner.
Shin guards are the equivalent of boxing gloves for your kicks, formed of a thick padded layer covering the shin and instep. Using shin guards mean that you can practise kicks fairly hard whilst both you and your opponent feel much less of the blow. Most gyms won’t allow you to spar without shin guards.
There are two main styles of shin guards used in Muay Thai, striking shin guards and grappling shin guards. Striking shin guards are sturdier and offer the most protection, while grappling shin guards are lighter shin guards, originally designed for MMA, which are also more secure for fighting on the ground. Striking shin guards are preferred for Muay Thai, however many people prefer to use grappling shin guards because of the closer fit. Some shin guards claim to be a ‘hybrid’ fit, which often means they find a good mid-point between the two styles.
For advice on different shin guards, take a look at our Shin Guard Reviews.
The body is good at healing itself when injured, but one of the things that can’t heal are teeth, which is why it’s extra important to protect them. Gum shields (also referred to as mouth guards) are made for this purpose, absorbing the shock and protecting the teeth from impacts. Many people believe that gum shields reduce concussions, however this unfortunately isn’t true.
At a professional level, most fighters get custom fit mouth guards, which can be fairly expensive, so most amateur fighters opt for boil-and-bite mouth guards, which can still offer strong protection. Some gum shield manufacturers add different features to their gum shields, such as breathing holes, or being double sided for both upper and lower protection. Most of the issue with boil and bite gum shields is finding a brand which has a tight, comfortable fit.
You can find our thoughts about various brands under Gum Shield Reviews.
Okay, so this is mainly one for the men out there. The groin is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and is at high risk of damage when hit by a hard impact. That’s on top of the fact that a strong groin strike can render the toughest of men useless. In Muay Thai, there is always the possibility of a kick accidentally hitting the wrong area, so it’s more important than ever to keep everything protected.
There are a variety of different groin guard styles, however Muay Thai fighters tend to prefer a certain style of steel cup which is tied in place with either laces or straps. Other styles of groin guard are often fine to use, however the larger boxing style groin guards can sometimes limit the flexibility of kicks.
If you’re looking for a new groin guard why not look through our Groin Guard Reviews.
Some pieces of gear commonly used by Thai boxers can improve comfort, safety and performance. While these aren’t necessary, they are good investments which many fighters use frequently.
Ankle supports are often work by kickboxers and Thai boxers for a few reasons. The elasticated nature of ankle supports sit tightly around the foot, offering the joints a little more comfort as they move. They also keep the joint warm which allows it to function better, and less likely to pull or strain the tendons. They also offer a tiny bit of protection when kicking pads or bags, however this depends on the materials.
You can find our Ankle Supports Reviews in the Accessories section.
Similarly to ankle supports, compression shorts sit tightly against the legs, and keep the body warm. They also provide a comfortable layer to wear underneath Thai shorts, which don’t rub at all, and ‘breathe’ to reduce sweat. Many compression shorts also have a built in holder for a groin guard too. These aren’t worn by all fighters, but can provide an alternative option to wear underneath Thai shorts, which also can improve performance.
Our Compression Shorts Reviews can be found in the Clothing Reviews section.
Elbows and knees are often not used much in sparring at a beginner level because of the dangerous nature of the hard bones and how easy it is to accidentally hurt your sparring partner. For anyone looking to incorporate elbows into their sparring it’s a good idea to use protection to protect your opponent. these consist of a padded layer over the joint to reduce the impact of the blow.
Head gear isn’t as common in Muay Thai as it is in boxing for example, mainly because sparring is more all-rounded, and not focused so much on the head. The Thai way of training is often usually lighter and more playful than other boxing and kickboxing training and more focused on technique than hard strikes. For anyone training often though, or who want to go hard when sparring, then a head guard is a good way to ensure that training doesn’t have a negative impact on them over time.