The following article was submitted to Fight Quality by Ron King III, an active Muay Thai fighter and coach.
As an avid practitioner of any sport, having all of the correct equipment is a necessity and combat sports such as Muay Thai are absolutely no exception.
I’ve had 20+ amateur bouts and I also coach Muay Thai athletes along with new students as well. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding the right equipment but after nearly 10 years of training I’ve finally got it down. As a note, this guide is specifically geared towards fighters or those who plan on competing in Muay Thai very soon because I know all too well that the general practitioner or hobbyist doesn’t really need half of this stuff. However even if you are new to the sport, still check this out just in case because for all you know you could get to itch to compete at the moment when you least expect it!
First thing’s first, before we get into all the specifics of the actual training equipment, I’m just going to let you know right now that you need both a DURABLE and SPACIOUS gear bag to fit all the necessary equipment you need as a fighter. The current bag I use is the Datsusara Seabag which fits all of the equipment I’m going to list while being extremely portable and durable (the last Datsusara Bag I owned for training lasted me 7 years and I only replaced it a few months ago for aesthetic reasons). I’m no expert on sports bags so for this section all I’ll say is to just invest in something that has enough space for your gear and won’t tear apart on you in 6 months.
The Three Pairs of Boxing Gloves You Need as a Nak Muay
Ever since I started competing, I’ve always had at least three different pairs of boxing gloves on me. Now to be fair, most fighters will do fine with just two (sparring and padwork gloves specifically) but I’ll explain why I personally use three different types and you can decide if you want to take that route yourself.
1. Sparring Gloves
As a coach I don’t care if you never plan on competing, but if you’re going to use only one pair of gloves then you need to buy a pair of 16oz gloves. For fighters, if you plan on fighting then you need a good pair of sparring gloves that are no less than 16oz (if you’re a bigger person then I suggest you look into getting an 18oz pair) whether they’re velcro or lace-up. The ones I’m currently using are the Sabas ProSeries TC Lace-Up Gloves and I absolutely love them. They’re more of a traditional boxing glove though so if you’re hard-pressed for a sparring glove made specifically by a Muay Thai brand then my personal recommendation are the Boon Sport Classic Velcro Gloves.
2. Bag Gloves
These are the gloves that you can honestly live without even as fighter so let me explain why I added them to this list anyway. Because of the small size of the bag glove (usually around 6oz) I find these gloves to be very useful in making sure that my punching technique is flawless even if it means I’m not throwing constant knockout shots on the pads or bag. There’s very little room for error with these gloves so I find that they help out those who get lazy or need help improving their punching technique because they’re too used to using bigger gloves that pad their knuckles and thumbs more. And even then, if you can hit with power in these gloves you can hit just as hard with any pair of fight gloves. The ones I use are the Boon Sport Bag Gloves.
3. Padwork/Mittwork/Fight Gloves
Everybody who competes in any striking sport such as boxing, Muay Thai, or even kickboxing should own, at the bare minimum, a pair of sparring gloves and pair of padwork gloves. The purpose of padwork for a fighter is to throw full speed and full power combinations that you would use in a fight meaning you want it to be as realistic to a fight as possible. What better way to remain authentic than to use the same size gloves you would be using in fight? Not only will it get you comfortable striking 100% with the lighter gloves but it also keeps you humble once you understand that 16oz sparring gloves cover the face way more than an 8oz glove so your defense must also remain sharp even it’s just padwork or drilling. The pair I consistently use are the 10oz Boon Lace-Up Gloves which I’ve had for six years and they still look damn near brand new. Since I compete between 57-60kg, my fight glove size can range anywhere from 8oz-10oz in the states. For the bigger guys out there (73kg or higher), I’d suggest sticking with padwork gloves that are either 10oz or 12oz.
To finish out the boxing gloves section, let me also remind you that you should also have at least two pairs of handwraps. As a fighter, the absolute last thing you need is your hands getting messed up in training because you didn’t wrap them.
Shin Guard Do’s and Don’ts
As far as shin guards go, there are so many good brands out there that deciding which one to go with is a waste of time and beside the point of this section. Instead, I’ll do a quick rundown of what to do and not to do when getting a pair of shin guards as an active fighter. For those who want to know though, the pair of shin guards I’ve been using for the past three years have been the Top King full leather ones.
- Get a pair that covers both the shin and the instep
- You need to protect your tools of the trade at all costs since kicking is one of the highest scoring techniques in the sport, so get an actual pair of Muay Thai shin guards.
- Try to stick with leather, synthetic leather is fine too
- Leather is way more durable in the long run but there a plenty of brands that make excellent synthetic leather shin guards that also have anti-odor elements.
- Make sure you know your size before purchasing
- I suggest you try on a partner’s or a spare pair of shin guards at the gym to get a gauge of what size you are because it varies depending on the brand sometimes and you don’t want to deal with the headache of getting the wrong size.
- Get a pair a cloth shin guards
- No fighter should be training with cloth shin guards in my opinion. Muay Thai has the strongest kick out of any combat sport and anybody who has good technique is going to do major damage if they decide to go harder with those thin pads. Plus, those cloth shin guards will not protect your shins at all if you accidentally kick someone’s elbow or knee.
- Focus too much on price
- This should go without saying but don’t get so hung up over the price that you end getting the cheapest pair of shin guards possible. I’m not saying you should be shelling out $120+ on a pair of shins but do your research and spend your hard-earned money on something that’s actually going to last you.
- Only use the spare pairs from the gym
- The spare pairs are spares for a reason and if you’re fighting you should’ve already had all the gear by now. Do not subject your training partners to the smell of old and worn-down shin guards when they’re training with you, that’s just not cool…
Other Important Protective Gear
To wrap up the important stuff, it should go without saying that if you’re sparring that you need both a mouthpiece and cup. In addition to this, a Muay Thai fighter should also look to get a pair of elbow pads in they plan on competing in full rules or train with people who do compete in full rules. Get comfortable throwing elbows in the gym with the pads on to prevent cuts from occurring and it also gets you used to how the elbow pads will feel in a fight (if you still fight with elbow pads). But remember, the elbow pads don’t give you free reign to start throwing as hard as you can with them because it’s a dangerous technique no matter what and all it takes is for the pad to slip a little bit to expose your elbow.
Here’s the list of protective gear I use:
- Custom mouthguard from impactmouthguards.com – If you’ve been training for a long time you probably have the basic boil-and-bite mouthguard which is normal, but honestly treat yourself to a custom mouthguard if you can afford it because the difference is ASTOUNDING as far as being able to both breathe better and speak clearly to my students without having to always take out my mouthpiece during drills or sparring.
- Lo Bloo Thai Cup – Had this for years and it’s the best cup I’ve ever used with nothing else coming close.
- Venom Kontact Elbow Protector – Very good elbow pads that rarely move around and have a snug fit, I hear many good things about Nationman elbow pads as well.
These items aren’t as important as the ones noted above but if you even think you plan on fighting or even training for a very long time here’s a list of items that you should keep in your bag just in case:
- Namman Muay Liniment/ IcyHot/ Biofreeze/Tiger Balm
- Jump Rope
- Athletic Tape
- Electrolyte Powder
- Protein/Meal Replacement Bar
- Lysol Wipes (or Spray)
- Extra pair of shirts, underwear, shorts
Hopefully that information wasn’t too overwhelming but as I stated earlier, these are the essentials that every Muay Thai fighter should invest in eventually. It is obviously up to you to decide which brands you want to buy as far as your own personal gear set, but if you’re having issues take a look at the links of recommended gear I use. Most importantly, stay safe, have fun, and enjoy what is bound to be a memory filled journey as a Muay Thai fighter!
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