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.
PART 1. WHAT EQUIPMENT IS REQUIRED FOR SPARRING
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:
KNEE AND ELBOW PADS
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.
TECHNICAL (TECH) SPARRING
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:
PART 2: SPARRING ETIQUETTE