Perhaps you’re considering taking up MMA, 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.
MMA, standing for Mixed Martial Arts, is the combination of various martial arts into one sport. MMA started off as a competition to see how martial artists of different arts compared to each other, however over the years has developed into a competition requiring a much more all-rounded approach to be successful. Because of this, MMA often incorporates stand up skills from arts such as Muay Thai or boxing, and ground skills from arts such as Jiu Jitsu or wrestling.
Because MMA incorporates striking, with knees and elbows also allowed, 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 MMA there are a number of essential items which are needed to practise safely.
MMA fighters use a small light weight glove which offers less protection than boxing gloves, but allows you to use the hands for grappling as well. The open palm and fingerless make means that the right areas are protected without them feeling too bulky. While they may not look like much, the amount of protection compared to a bare fist is a big difference. Some MMA gloves are designed specifically for training and have a larger, more rounded padding for the extra protection. For MMA sparring and training, these are a must have.
When training MMA, 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.
As well as MMA gloves, MMA fighters also have their own style of shorts. Which have a longer design but still have a great amount of flexibility. If you really aren’t into MMA shorts, there are other options available. Many fighters prefer to wear Muay Thai style, or Vale Tudo style shorts. Some compression shorts work well too, and many include built in groin cups.
We’ve reviewed a range of shorts in our Clothing Reviews section.
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 MMA, 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 which are also more secure for fighting on the ground. For MMA you should really be using grappling shin guards, as there are nor straps or other bits to catch, however many people prefer to use striking shin guards when focusing only on their striking. 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 MMA, 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. MMA fighters often look for ones which are lightweight and don’t get in the way, often choosing the Thai style steel cup, or a cup which fits into compression shorts or a jock strap.. 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.
Boxing gloves aren’t a necessity for MMA. For most purposes MMA gloves will work just fine. Boxing gloves do provide a better experience when focusing solely on boxing skills however.
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.
For help choosing a glove which is right for you take a look through our Boxing Glove Reviews.
Hand Wraps/inner glove
When using boxing gloves, hand wraps should also be used. 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.
Ankle supports are often work by fighters 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.
Elbows are often not used 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. Elbow guards consist of a padded layer over the elbow to reduce the impact of the blow.
Head gear isn’t as common in MMA as it is in boxing for example, mainly because sparring is more all-rounded, and not focused so much on the head. Many methods of sparring are also often usually lighter and more playful than other boxing 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.