The sport of tennis requires the player to own a tennis racket to play the sport, cycling requires the participant to have access to a bike whereas the sport of Basketball requires a basketball to be present to engage in a game of basketball. What do these 3 sports have in common, you ask? All 3 sports mentioned above require participants to have one or more sets of the respective equipment to participate in a select sport.
Muay Thai is of course no exception to this. In today’s blog, reporter J (yes, I’m back after a brief hiatus.) will be exploring the various equipment used in any Muay Thai session, understanding their functionality & explaining how these equipments are more than just things we use to participate in Muay Thai. In fact, they ensure that we can leave Jungle safely & with everything intact. (Only thing that will be broken is our member’s personal best 😊) We will go on & describe the equipments used in a systematic manner, starting off from top to bottom what is on us, followed by the equipment we use to train our kicks and punches.
Mouthguard: A mouthful & mouth-full of protection
Mouthguard, as the name suggests, guards/ protect our mouth & teeths, keeps our teeth intact & protects us against lip lacerations. Mouthguards are typically worn only during an actual fight or sparring due to the power exerted on punches during these moments. Muay Thai is quintessentially still a full-contact fight sport and getting hit in the face is all part of the sport. That being said however, accidents do occur from time to time in sparring, so wearing mouthguards can help to minimize or prevent oral damage. Moreover, the act of biting down also helps to stabilize the jaws thereby reducing the risks of jaw fractures or sprains. (Bet you didn't know that. Jaw-dropping is’nt it? Hope you saw what I did there 😛). After all, I’m sure that it will be smarter of an investment to invest in getting a mouthguard than to go & visit the dentist whenever some part of your teeth is chipped off. (Statistics have shown that Singapore is the most expensive country for any dental related treatment whereas our neighbour, Thailand is the 4th cheapest country boasting advanced dental related technology & treatment. So not only will your mouth still hurt after visiting the dentist, your pockets will as well.)
There exist 3 types of mouthguard on the market. “Ready-made guard”, “ Boil & bite guard” & “Custom mouthguard”. Ready made guard are mouthguards that are made into a prototype and can be found in any martial arts merchandising store. However, they may not fit accurately & comfortably due to it not being specifically for your mouth shape. Next we have the “boil & bite” mouthguards. The idea that exist with these guard is that they would soften when immersed in hot water and harden when its cooled which looks to emulate our jaw & mouth shape for a comfortable fit. Lastly, the custom-made mouthguards. Custom-made guards fit comfortably in your mouth and even allow you to have a proper conversation without sounding like you have a mouthful of marbles. The drawback between a custom mouthguard and the two above is a higher price tag, especially if you get one made at the dentist.
Handwraps: One of the few “wraps” you cannot eat.
Try hitting a heavy bag without any wraps and chances are, you will reel back in pain when your knuckles & fingers connect with the bag. Now, try putting on some handwraps and hit the bag again. Do your knuckles & fingers still hurt as much when they connect with the bag? If your answer is no, there you have it. That is exactly what a handwrap does. It seeks to protect and minimize the impact on your fingers & knuckles when they do connect with the bag. Handwraps do so through 2 main components, that of padding & compression. Padding ensure that the impact generated from hitting anything is cushioned & that we do not feel the full force on our hands. Compression on the other hand aids in tightening our thumbs & wrist to keep them in place so that even if we were to hit the heavy bag with full force, we are not likely to sprain our wrist.
What if you are a newcomer & do not have your own handwrap or gloves? Fret not, over at the Jungle, we understand that not everybody have their own set of gloves & handwraps and so we are able to provide you with a sanitized pair of house gloves for you to borrow for the duration of the class. Plastic gloves are also provided for you to use as a replacement for handwraps at absolutely no extra charge! However, plastic gloves may keep the virus away but do not keep the pain away. Handwraps are still considered to be an important equipment that we should be wearing to keep our hands safe due to the comprehensive protection it gives us ( A bargain to me if you ask me). Over at the Jungle, we understand that many of our members are busy, driven individual ( myself included :P) who do not necessarily have the time to head down to a Muay Thai shop to buy the relevant equipments needed. What The Jungle have done is to bring the store to you so you never have to worry about having to take off your busy schedule to purchase the required equipment. All you have to do is come to the gym slightly earlier before your class to browse through the different types and color of handwraps we carry in our gym.
Next up, we have the gloves that we put on. Some of the questions commonly asked are “ Why is there a need to put on gloves when the handwrap provides my hands with padding?” Technically, they are not wrong! Handwraps do provide our hands with padding as mentioned in the previous point, however they do not do enough to cushion the force generated from the impact of us hitting something or getting hit. That is why we need a pair of boxing gloves on top of handwraps to provide us with a comprehensive, all rounded protection for our hands.
Travel down to any equipment store selling Muay Thai gear and chances are you will come across gloves with different Ounces or oz for short marked on the gloves. Many Muay Thai coaches recommend that Muay Thai practitioner possess 2 gloves of different oz. A 16-18oz for sparring & 10-12 oz for training. What is the distinction you ask? Is’nt the oz depending on the size of your hand & body weight? Well, that’s partially correct. Your body weight and hand size is for indeed a determinant to the size of the gloves. However, why coaches recommend utilizing a gloves with a higher oz for sparring is due to the protection & padding it gives. A gloves with a higher ounces weight heavier and with it naturally come more padding within the gloves which translates to lesser impact on our hands which then translates to more protection. So there you have it! Why gloves are so important in the sport of Muay Thai!
Shinguard : Strong shins for a fighting machine
Shinguard is not an equipment exclusive to the sport of Muay Thai only. In fact, many other sport outside of martial arts such as soccer, ice hockey also uses shinguard to protect the participant’s shin which only goes to highlight how important (and painful….) it is to protect our shin. Our shin is one of the most if not the most sensitive part of our body and being hit in the shin can feel bone-crushing both literally & figuratively…. That is why it is a necessity in sparring where the deadly combo power and speed really do have the ability to wreck havoc on our shins.
The first considerations when purchasing a shinguard is mobility vs protection. Technically speaking, the wider the shin guards, the more protection they offer since they cover a larger area of your legs. The downside however is that they are bulkier and will slow down your movements to a certain degree. In terms of protection, this also extends towards your sparring partners. A thicker shin pad feels less excruciating on the ribs of your sparring partner than a thin one. On the other hand, the narrower the shin guards, the lighter they are and the faster your movements will be. However, you are also more likely to get bruises on the uncovered area of your legs due to its lack of comprehensive protection.
The second consideration to consider when deciding on a shinguard would be sizing vs fit. Shin guards typically come in general sizing of small /medium /large/X-large. So, the taller you are, or the bigger your calves are, the bigger size you will need. If your shin guards are too big, they will shift a lot during sparring and you will need to readjust them constantly. If they are too small, they might not offer enough protection; fit too tightly; and can be uncomfortable to wear. The fit of shin guards also varies from brand to brand. For the same size, Brand A might fit wider than Brand B. Therefore, if you want shin guards that fit you exactly the way you want, it is critically important that you try on a few brands to find one that you like.
Punching Bag : Punching your way to greater heights
Now that we have finally gotten all of the equipment on us out of the way, lets move on to first of 2 equipment we see and use every training. The punching bag, also known as a heavy bag. What is the purpose of a punching bag ? Is there any benefits to a punching bag? That is exactly the same questions I ask myself whenever I am tasked to engage in bags drills and thus I have make it a mission to investigate the benefits of a punching bag so you do not have to question the purpose (and possibly your existence) when our coaches instructs you to punch/ kick the bags for 2 minutes. Below are 3 benefits of practicing on a punching bag.
1) It improves our boxing technique
One of the most jarring benefits of hitting the heavy bag is that it improves our boxing technique. Many people are under the impression that boxing is all about who can best throw punches, but this could not be further from the truth. Sure, punching power is important, but boxing is also about executing each movement with proper form and precision. Throwing some straight punches while maintaining good form will not only improve your punches overall, but your body movement and overall performance as well. In fact, unlike shadowboxing, a heavy bag workout allows you to experience the force of impact with every punch you throw, making it an ideal way to improve one’s boxing technique.
2) It improves strength and power
Heavy bag workouts are great for strength training and enhancing power because it focuses on building as many muscles as possible. The muscles in your upper body like your arms, chest, back, and shoulders, as well as your lower body's legs and even your core are all engaged during a heavy bag training session, making it an extremely effective full-body workout. With a heavy bag, you can practice punching and kicking with the greatest possible force, which can improve your strength and power over time.
3) It builds our endurance
If you have ever given a heavy bag workout 100% maximum effort, then you know first-hand that it is no easy feat. This extra challenge to give it your all will push you beyond the boundaries of your cardio comfort zone, which will build up your endurance as you train. The more you push past your limits, the more you will be able to endure. Whether you are in the ring sparring with a partner or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator, you will notice the impacts on your endurance from heavy bag training over time.
So there you have it, some benefits and the reason why at The Jungle, we put a great deal of emphasis on the heavy bags & bag drills. All of this serve to allow you to be a better & more well-rounded fighter both in training and in the ring.
Muay Thai Pads : Pads to pad our fighting attributes in the ring
The last equipment that we use for our training is the pads. Pads are a essential part of the Muay Thai training at Jungle because of the benefits it brings to us and is often seen as the most direct manner to get into shape and sharpen our own personal style. Below are the 2 benefits & reasons why padwork is considered an integral part of Jungle’s Muay Thai training session
1) Padwork helps to build up a fighter’s cardiovascular endurance
Stamina Pad work can be as intense, maybe even more intense, than an actual fight. A trainer/ partner may choose to mimic ring action with 3 to 5 rounds of 3-min pad training or stretch this up to 8 minutes. This also ensure that Muay Thai practitioner are always in tip-top performance which is a very much needed attribute for them in an actual fight to ensure that they can still stay focused despite being out of breath.
2) It Improves our hand-eye coordination
Let’s face it. How many times have you struggle to sync your hands and legs according to the combo shouted out by your partner or coaches? ( I too have not that well of a “hand-eye coordination” so I perfectly understand how that feels!) However, the encouraging thing is that, it will not always remain that way! Consistently engaging in padwork would improve our hand-eye coordination and allow our limbs and arms to be able to move & sync as they should. A good hand-eye co-ordination translates to faster reflexes which makes all the differences in sparring or an actual fight where reflexes determine if you are either knocking down someone or being knocked down yourself.
In conclusion, the equipments that we wear or use in our training sessions have its benefits of either protecting us or developing various aspect of our Muay Thai game. With that said, let’s all also be good steward of the equipment ( punching bag & pads) that we are using & return the equipment back to where we took it from & the condition that it was in. This includes wiping away our sweat after we finish using it & more. You can read more about the various etiquettes of martial arts in a blog post we have previously written about ( https://www.thejungle.asia/post/kindness-goes-a-long-way-martial-arts-etiquette). Hope to see each & everyone around in the gym!