Gearfest, part 2 - Gloves
A few months ago we looked at equipment, specifically what any student of muay Thai should have in the gear bag. Let's focus solely on GLOVES for a moment. Gloves, as one can likely imagine, are the most important piece of equipment in a thai boxer's bag. Without them your hands are susceptible to massive amounts of damage hitting mitts/thai pads, heavy bags, and others during sparring. I see gloves of all sizes, brands, colors, weights, and other characteristics on the hands of a lot of people other than "when's my next fight?" I'd bet questions about gloves come up more frequently than any other.
Here are my responses:
"What size do I need?"
Gloves don't come in traditional "sizes" like S, M, or L, they come in weights. Typically in ounces, marked on the equipment as "oz", the weight tells you how much padding is inside the gloves. For example, a 10oz glove has 10 ounces of padding stuffed under the leather. Suffice it to say, the lower the weight the lesser the padding will be. Generally speaking, lower weighted gloves (8, 10, 12oz) are used for bag and mitt/Thai pad work and heavier weights (14, 16, 18oz) are used for sparring/contact drills. Most vendors note the "use" of the glove in the item title, often as "training", "bag", or "sparring", to help the buyer know what the intended use of that piece of equipment is.
Ideally your bag will have TWO pair of gloves in it one for bag and pad work (8-12oz), another for sparring (14-18oz, depending on your size the bigger you are, the heavier your glove should be).
Keep in mind that gloves are as much for your training partner(s) as they are for you they're intended to protect your hands and his face and body. You can hit the bag with sparring gloves but you can't (shouldn't) spar in bag gloves I don't care if you're a 125lbs flyweight, you're not stepping in to my ring to spar anyone of any size in 10 or 12oz bag gloves. Also worth noting, gloves wear down when they're used for bag and pad work the padding breaks apart, shifts, or in some cases falls out because of this inevitable fact, your bag/pad gloves shouldn't also be your sparring gloves if you can avoid it. Your hands and your partners will thank you for investing in two sets of gloves.
"What brands are good?"
I stick with a tried and true method to determine this experience with a brand, and the choices made by the top gyms in Thailand. I don't recommend buying the cheapest brand you can get in order to save a few bucks you'll end up spending way more than a "good pair" when you have to repeatedly buy gloves throughout the year. My first pair of gloves I bought from my coach, Tomer Litvin a slick pair of 16oz all-leather Windy's, fresh out of the plastic wrap. They're still in use today, almost 7 years later. For that matter, my 2nd (Fighting Sports), 3rd (Yokkao), and 4th (Hyena Hybrid gear) pair of gloves are in excellent shape and still being used they range from 2.5yrs to 3 months old. Brands like Windy, King/Top King, Fairtex, Boon, and Yokkao are commonplace in the best gyms in Thailand as well as the smaller, lesser knowns. American brands like Ringside and Title are gaining popularity in muay Thai training equipment, as are some models of Everlast, though I believe there is a difference between a "boxing" glove and a "muay Thai" glove, even if it's just in my head. Thai gloves lock the thumb in tighter, in my opinion, and the padding is set up differently across the knuckles and top of hand. That said, many of the Art of Eight athletes spar in Ringside IMF Tech, (the top end) Everlast, and Title gloves and have had no problems with their hands or their partner's heads.
"What should I spend on a pair of gloves?"
This one's pretty simple as much as you can, keeping mind good gloves aren't cheap and cheap gloves aren't good (I've looked for the exception to the latter but have not seen it yet). Top quality gloves are handmade, constructed of leather, and filled with layers of padding of various density and thickness, not mass-produced on an assembly line by machines that miss-cut materials, drop stitches, or otherwise detract from the skill of a craftsman making these things one at a time. If your budget allows you spend $35 on a pair of gloves, understand that you should start saving for the next pair immediately as you'll likely be replacing the ones you just bought within 6 months (if that long). Unless you got the deal of the decade, you probably bought a pair of gloves made out of polyurethane (PU), held together with a fishing line-like thread, and the same padding as an fiber-filled pillow. They'll protect your hands initially, but they'll wear out quickly. On the other end of the scale, the most expensive gloves on the market aren't always the best, Winning and Cleto Reyes brands being the exception they are the most expensive and they are the best but there are plenty of excellent options at much cheaper prices. A glove advertised for $200 on sale for $99 is a $99 glove, end of story. Don't be lured in to spending a ton of money thinking that the more pricey options are better. In my opinion, you can get a great set of gloves made by a reputable Thai manufacturer for under $100, in some cases around $75.
I'm going to put a pre-emptive apology of sorts in this section because I know certain makers of low-priced gloves will read this article and are going to privately flog me for insinuating their gloves aren't among the best on the market. Simple fact: they're not. They're massed produced, made from cheap materials, and they're falling apart quickly. You don't see it because you're not in the gym every day, you're not having conversations about hand damage with the guys wearing your brand, and you're certainly not getting blasted in the face by those using them, however we are. Your gloves provide a good introductory hand cover for newbies who lack the skill and power to punch hard, but mid- and top-level athletes are wearing your gloves out to the detriment of their sparring partners. If you believe you have a quality product, prove it. Bring a few sets by the gym and let us try them out for several months.
If I'm wrong I'll publicly apologize to you in any social venue short of taking an ad out in the newspaper.
This could probably go on for much longer than you're willing to read so let's end it on a simple
note: buy the best gloves you can, at a weight appropriate to your intended use, from a reputable manufacturer, in a model that you can either get first-hand review data on or have seen in action. Our gym doesn't use equipment that's not been tested, either by us, a top gym, or by someone hitting us.
We've never bought the newest, coolest, or trendiest gear just to back a brand or be in favor we use gear we know will last, and will protect all involved in its use. Nuff said. Now go spend your holiday gift cards on some new gear and get you're a$$ in the gym!
Patrick Christie is the Muay Thai trainer for The Art of Eight Muay Thai, the Muay Thai program of Vaghi Martial Arts and St. Charles Mixed Martial Arts. You can contact Patrick at email@example.com. Please visit teamvaghi.com and stcharlesmma.com