What equipment is required for sparring & sparring etiquette - PART 1

What equipment is required for sparring & sparring etiquette - PART 1

Are you thinking of getting into sparring? Every club has their own rules and protocol when it comes to sparring.  At Legacy, we allow students to spar as early as a few months in...HOWEVER, safety is paramount.


Standard across the board are 16oz gloves being worn when there are punches to the head. 16oz gloves have more padding than the 10, 12, and 14oz gloves (duh). The excess padding will soften the force of your punches and thus minimize damage to your training partner. If you weigh less than 130lbs, you may get away with wearing 14oz gloves to spar (but please confirm with your coach first). Kids ages 8-12 years can potentially spar with 10-12oz gloves. Please respect your training partner and wear the appropriate size gloves. It is all of our duty to call out those who are sparring with undersized gloves.

Take note that not all 14-16oz gloves are created equal. Many entry level brands like Kimurawear, Benza, Reevo, etc are adequate for bag and pad work but not sparring because their “16oz” gloves are actually lighter than what is stated. You can’t go wrong with gloves made by reputable brands like Fairtex, Twins, Top King, Windy, Yokkao, Boon, and Raja.

Shin guards should always be worn for sparring, with the exception of tech sparring where the intensity is kept under 15%. The top of the shin guard should sit just under the bottom of your knee to prevent the upper shin from being exposed. As this can be painful for your partner if you block one of his kicks on the bare part of your upper shin. Your shin guards should also have a padded flap that goes over your foot for added protection to your toes. Sock shin guards (1st photo below) can be worn for tech sparring but not for regular sparring sessions. Most muay thai branded equipment will do just fine, they include Fairtex, Twins, Top King, Windy, Raja, Boon, Muay Thai Brand, Legacy, RDX, Kimurawear, etc.


Another important piece of equipment is the mouthguard. Any generic self-moulded one will suffice. If you are looking for added protection and fitting, talk to your Dentist to make custom mouth guards that are fitted to your teeth and gums. I prefer the generic ones as I found custom mouthguards were too tight and snug for my personal liking. I also often misplace my mouth guards so I didn’t like to spend too much on them. Consider investing in a mouthguard case and clip it to your gym bag for safe keeping. If you do go for the custom guards, they can run you anywhere between $200-$800. Check your employment benefits as many do cover the cost of constructing one. Military and para-military benefits generally include custom fitted mouthguards at 100%.


Guys, do I need to say more? Most will opt to leave this one out until they eat a knee right in the “you know where.” Yes, this has happened to me many times, especially in the clinch. Now, I always take an extra couple of minutes before battle to put on my cup. Muay thai cups can be made of steel or plastic. You honestly don’t need something as hard as a steel cup but if you want to feel like a badass Thai fighter then go right ahead. I had both kinds throughout my fight career. Fairtex and Twins steel cups are quite reputable. Shock Doctor has some reliable plastic groin protectors.


With modern research showing that headgear does nothing to reduce concussions or force of punches, many muay thai gyms no longer require headgear for sparring. Headgear is optional at Legacy. However, note that Muay Thai has many more offensive options than kickboxing and boxing (punch, elbow, kick, knee, throws, sweeps, locks). Although the headgear may not protect you from blunt trauma, it can reduce the chances of you getting cut and scraped from an accidental elbow or knee to the head or face.

You can read this article as to why Olympic Boxers aren’t required to wear headgear anymore:

These can be worn for extra protection but take note that this is not an invitation for you to go bezerk and blast your partner with hard knees or sharp elbows. Elbow pads have a tendency to shift exposing your bare-elbow bone so be careful. NO KNEES TO THE HEAD, EVER. Knee pads and elbow pads will also protect your knee and elbow joints.

Light muay thai sparring (less that 10-15% power) using mainly kicks, knees, and clinch is known as technical (tech) sparring. The emphasis here is on technique, timing, and placement of strikes (accuracy and precision). Thai fighters are notorious for tech sparring. They seldom spar hard in training as they frequently compete, sometimes as often as every other week so they want to keep their body fresh and injury free. Western fighters do not have the luxury of frequent competition opportunities so we must incorporate harder rounds to stay sharp and fight ready. In anycase, for tech sparring you do not require much protective equipment, granted that both partners exhibit some self control. The choice of protective equipment is based on the style of tech sparring you are doing. Watch here:

With gloves and shin guards:

Without gloves and shin guards:





What equipment is needed for muay thai?

What equipment is needed for muay thai?

Below is a list of equipment you will need for a muay thai class as a beginner and up to the intermediate level.  As you progress in your training, you may require additional specialized equipment for higher level sparring and competition. 


1. Boxing Gloves

A quality pair of boxing gloves go a long way in your training so don’t cheap out on this item.  I have had students try to save money on gloves only to replace them some months later.  A good pair of gloves should last you several years at 3-4 training sessions a week and will cost anywhere between $75-$200.  Velcro straps are suggested as you don’t want to waste time fiddling around with the lace-up gloves.  Leather is best but synthetic leather can be just as good if it's from a reputable brand.  I suggest having 1 pair for heavy bag and pad work (view standard size chart), and 1*16oz pair for partner drilling and sparring.    

2. Shin Pads

Shin pads are used for partner drills, sparring, and in amateur competition.  They are there to protect your shins and feet from excessive damage.  They also act to reduce damage dealt to your partners during training.  From my personal experience, you can get away with a relatively cheaper pair of shin guards since they are not used as frequently as boxing gloves. The lowest you should spend for shin guards would be around the $65 mark and no more than $130 unless you are a competitive fighter who has a taste for the really high end stuff. View standard size chart.


3. Hand Wraps

A hand wrap is a strip of fabric that wraps around your hand and wrist to protect the knuckles and bones from damage induced from punching as well as give additional support and stability to your wrists.  It is absolutely essential that you make it a habit to wear hand wraps every heavy bag and focus mitt workout as they are often overlooked by beginners.  Impact at the wrong angle on a punch can see you with a broken hand and weeks or up to months of recovery time.  You should be washing your wraps after every session so I suggest you have at least 2-3 pairs of hand wraps. 


4. Thai Shorts

Training muay thai isn’t the same without a pair of Thai shorts on!  The high cut of the shorts allow for a wider range of motion, enabling you to kick higher and with ease.  They also do a great job of "wicking" sweat to the fabric's outer surface while drying faster than your average cotton shorts.  Even if Thai shorts are not mandatory for  classes, you can show the coach that you are taking your muay training training seriously by wearing them :).


5. Mouth Guard

A mouth guard should be worn every partner drilling or sparring session to protect the jaw, tongue, and reduce head trauma from punches.  Even when you think it’s going to be a “light” training day, you never know with some partners who always seem to go a little too hard.  You also cannot prevent accidents from happening.  Another reason why you should wear your mouthguard in training is so that you can get used to breathing with a mouth guard on as this will help you easily adapt to that feeling for when you are sparring or competing and required to wear one.

6. Headgear (optional)

These may not be needed until you start sparring, but if you have the funds a headgear is a great addition to your fight kit since you will eventually need one.  For beginners and intermediate who want added protection, go for the headgear that has the padded cheek protection.  The open-face headgear is best for more serious competitors as they allow for better vision while offering a little less face protection.


The 5 best fight books

The 5 best fight books

Knowledge is power, and one of the best ways to acquire knowledge is from reading books. Lots of them. Most of my success in fighting and in business can be largely attributed to the many books that I have read or audio books that I have listened to. Your training does not have to end at the gym. Grab a book and do your homework to increase the rate at which you progress. Here is a list of my personal 5 best fight books that will surely help you with your muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu journey:

A Fighter’s Heart: One Man’s Journey Through the World of Fighting
By Sam Sheridan

A man travels around the world to learn and train with the highest level coaches and fighters in an attempt to understand why we fight and what it means to be a fighter. Many fight disciplines are covered in A Fighter’s Heart including muay thai, boxing, jiu-jitsu, MMA and many more.

Great for aspiring fighters looking for inspiration and to learn about the different types of combat systems and what they entail.
Difficulty: Easy to read. Easy to listen to as an audio book.


The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game
By Sam Sheridan

Sheridan continues his adventures abroad interviewing, training, and fighting alongside the best in the hurt business. Here he explores the psychology behind mental toughness and what it takes to be a world class fighter in the many different fighting arts (muay thai, boxing, jiu-jitsu, MMA, wrestling and more).

For those who want to toughen up and get that mental edge.
Difficulty: Easy to read. Easy to listen to as an audio book.


The Art of War
By Sun Tzu

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise by military strategist Sun Tzu. There are 13 Chapters, each covering different military strategy and tactics. These teachings in The Art of War have been adopted by the leaders of today to better understand many areas of life including martial arts, sports, and business.

This book will help you strategize for sparring and competition as well as give you a different mindset when confronting battle.
Difficulty: Hard (requires deep thought to grasp concepts and teachings). Read instead of listen on audio book to better absorb complex topics.


The Book of Martial Power
By Steven J. Pearlman

The Book of Martial Power explores fundamental principles and philosophies of combat that is translatable in all the varied martial arts including muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It covers key concepts such as timing, footwork, angles, relaxation, distance management, economy of scale, the list goes on.

Another book that will aid with your sparring and competition.
Difficulty: Average to Hard (depends on how much analyzing you want to do)


Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee
By Shannon Lee

Lee’s daughter summarizes her father’s work including martial art concepts, principles, and philosophies in Be Water, My Friend. Shannon shows how one can overcome life challenges and self-actualize through the practice and understanding of Bruce Lee’s teachings.

A great book for all combat practitioners who appreciates the art and philosophy behind life and martial arts.
Difficulty: Average to Hard (does require some critical thought)
These books all have a special place it my heart as they are greatly aided me in my fight training back in the days. 

NOTE: Keep in mind that the more complex the subject matter, the more difficult it is to follow along on audio as you may need extra time to absorb the information thoroughly. I find reading as opposed to listening better for more in-depth, complex, and philosophical topics.



Accountability: "Stickk" to your goals

Accountability: "Stickk" to your goals

Being accountable to just yourself can be difficult.  A little trick that works for me is finding a friend or group to hold you accountable for showing up and putting in that work.  Nothing like a bit of peer pressure!  Don’t feel like working out this evening? Text a friend and ask him or her to join you.  This will increase your chances of following through because you wouldn't want to cancel on your buddy now do you?  No one likes a flopper.  

I found a neat little website called Stickk (https://www.stickk.com/) that may help you “stickk” to your goals.


1. Create your goal(s) and set the parameters.

2. Sign a “Commitment Contract” which is a binding agreement you make with yourself and the organizer of the site.  This will increase the chances of you following through because it utilizes the psychological power of accountability and loss aversion.

3. To further ensure that you will accomplish your goal(s), you have the options of:

i. Putting money on the line and if you fail to meet that goal you lose the money.

ii. Inviting friends to cheer you on along the way.

iii. Choosing a referee (friend or family member) who will hold you accountable by verifying that you are adhering to the reports and Commitment Contract that you have signed.  

There are 53 million dollars on the line, 534 000 commitments created,  and 1 million workouts created.

Let me know how it works out for you if you end up using Stickk.  I would also love to hear about all the different methods and tricks you guys have implemented to stay motivated.