One of the most common questions that I get asked by people that are new to Mixed Martial Arts is “What type of sparring gear do I need for training MMA?” I’m going to breakdown the basics of what every grappler, striker or mixed martial artist needs whether they are a beginner or advanced.
Gear that Every Martial Artist Needs
A Strong, Flexible Cup – I trained without a cup for years, only wearing one for competitions until very recently. The tough thing about the cup, especially if you have big legs, is that it digs into your groin muscle and tends to get in the way of movement.
Luckily, some good cups that have strength and a ton of flexibility on the side have been coming out. Jaco has a pretty good cup system, but shock doctor has a great Carbon Flex Cup.
A Quality Mouthguard – Don’t get caught without a mouthguard. When I started, I didn’t wear a mouthguard unless I was sparring hard. After I managed to chip a tooth and dislocate my jaw a few times, the idea to start wearing a mouthguard came through my thick skull.
The main reason a quality mouthguard is so important is that it keeps your jaw locked in the proper position. When your jaw is hanging loose and it is knocked to the side, you can get knocked out or cause nasty damage to the joint. You don’t want that.
Your best bet is to get a custom mouthguard made by your dentist or from one of the many sites online. If you don’t want to spend $80+ on a mouthguard (although it’s worth the investment to do so), alot of the guys that I train swear by the Power Gel Nano Mouth Guard.
Fight Shorts – Get some good board shorts that aren’t too baggy. Make sure that if they aren’t MMA specific that they allow for flexibility. If they are tight in the groin and you can’t stretch your legs out, your grappling and striking will be limited. You’ll be fine with two or three pairs of training shorts when you’re starting out.
Rashguard – Rashguards are good because they don’t get snagged up when you’re training, and as the name points out, they’re a great barrier to rashes and other abrasions. Buy a couple of rashguards or wear t-shirt that isn’t baggy (Understand that t-shirts tend to get torn and stretched fast).
Athletic Tape – Injuries, small and large, are often inevitable in any sport to you or the people you train with. Be one of the few, and come prepared. Make sure to have a roll or two of athletic tape in your gym bag.
Notepad and Pencil – If you want to get good, take notes when you learn something that you want to remember. One of the biggest mistakes I see 90% of people at just about every gym I’ve trained at make is to not take notes! Why show up to class if you aren’t going to retain the knowledge that you are gaining?
What Gear Do I Need for Muay Thai or Boxing?
16oz Gloves – These are the gloves you’re going to use for sparring. If you plan on staying in the sport a long time and want to make your gloves an investment, buy leather gloves because they’ll last longer. There are a ton of different types of gloves out there. Find a pair that you like because you’re going to be spending a lot of times with these gloves over the next few years.
My favorite gloves are made by Rival. They’re very high quality, but are also very expensive. Everlast’s boxing gloves will certainly do though, and they’re much less expensive.
Hand Wraps – Wrapping hands is an art. Learn the basics of this art, and you’ll be able to protect your hands from silly breaks that could have otherwise been avoided.
When you’re looking for wraps, make sure that they have some elasticity to them. Stiff wraps are useless. You also want wraps that are long enough. 180″ will do for just about anyone. I have several pairs of Combat Sports semi-elastic handwraps that I love.
Shin Guards – There are two major types of shin guards. Grappling shin guards are contained in a sleeve and allow you to slip them on and are relatively seemless so they don’t snag up while grappling. I’ve seen complaints about them tearing and being hard to put on, but I have no problem with mine. There are also pure striking shin guards that strap on with velcro or a buckle.
Hayabusa has a very light, very strong shin guard that is top of the line, but very expensive. CSI also puts out a good pair, and it’s reasonably priced.
Headgear (For Hard Sparring) – Get some good headgear if you plan on sparring hard. There are a ton of different types with varying levels of protection. some simply protect the sides and top of the head while others cover the cheaks and jaw. Make sure that you get one that is adjustable. I’ve got a big head so I had to get one that is a little more open.
There are a ton of options out there, but like with the other gear, stick to a reputable company, and figure out what type of trade-off your want between restriction of breathing/seeing and protection.
What Gear Do I Need for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Grappling?
A Good Kimono/Gi – Get a good Gi for $125 when you’re starting out. Make sure you get the right fit, and make sure it’s blue or white. Don’t be that douche that rolls in with a camo or pink gi thinking you’re making a statement.
I have atleast a dozen kimonos that I’ve gone through over the years and none have held up to the test of time like the Sirius Gi, and it’s cheap! Howard Combat and Fuji also put out cheap, high quality Gi’s.
Kneepads – Do yourself a huge favor and invest in a good pair of wrestling kneepads. Crawling around on your knees without some extra padding and support is terrible for the joints.
Brute and Asics put out high quality. The Brute torq wrestling knee pad is by far the best I’ve found. You’ll thank me later.
What Gear You DON’T Need for Training MMA
Ironically enough, I recommend against buying MMA gloves when you’re first starting out.
The little MMA gloves are meant for protecting your knuckles not your partner, and they don’t even do a good job at that. If you want to practice ground and pound, use the full gloves so you can strike. It’s much better to emphasize controlling your opponent on the ground rather especially when you’re starting out.
Anything you think I left out? Post your comments below if you have anything to add!