Muay Thai Gloves Vs. Boxing Gloves
With the rise of Muay Thai as a striking discipline in MMA, it’s not a surprise that Muay Thai boxing gloves are also hitting the market in bigger numbers; however, most people would have a hard time telling them apart.
Fortunately, a little bit of a look at the sports themselves should give you the answer.
Boxing style gloves
With western boxing, you’ve got an entirely punch-based competition; as such, western boxing gloves are going to have a lot of thick padding on the knuckles, a grip bar to help steady a punch, and a stiffer overall design to support the wrist for, you guessed it, a more powerful punch. They don’t flex very much because, in boxing, they really don’t need to.
Muay Thai Gloves
Muay Thai, however, takes a more overall approach. Because you can kick, elbow, knee, and effectively attack from the clinch, Muay Thai boxers don’t have to rely entirely on their knuckles. As such, the padding on a Muay Thai glove is going to be less on the knuckles of the glove and more on the back of the hand as a blocking tool. Because throwing knees from a clinch is a viable strategy in Muay Thai, the glove also flexes a bit more than its western counterpart and emphasizes a grip bar much less, trading out a rigid wrist for some flexibility in grappling.
Which of the two you should use, however, depends on your style and your training. Take a look at the styles used at your gym, assess your training goals, and discuss them with your trainer to figure out which style would work best for you.
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Type of Gloves
When you’re starting out, you don’t need to specialize too much; all you really need is a good multi-purpose set of gloves. This is the niche that training gloves fill, combining a medium-density foam with a sturdy outer shell. You can use a good set of training gloves for everything in the gym, from sparring to heavy bag work and everything in between.
Of course, they’re definitely Jack-of-all-trades pieces. They do everything well, but they don’t really do anything great. Still, if you’re on a budget, or you’re still too green to really appreciate too much of a difference, a good set of training gloves will do everything you want.
Bruce Lee said it best in Enter the Dragon: Boards don’t hit back. Naturally, a big part of your training should consist of actual sparring, and sparring gloves help you get the most of it. Unlike your general purpose gloves, sparring gloves have a softer foam padding so when you land a good strike (hopefully more than one), your partner isn’t too badly injured to keep up the fight.
These are strictly one-purpose pieces though. Using sparring gloves on the heavy bag or too often with mitts and pads can break down the glove’s foam padding, leading to essentially hitting your sparring partner with bare knuckles. Some of your higher end gloves from good companies, like Winning, don’t have this problem, but they’re the exception; the rule is that soft-foam sparring gloves are strictly for sparring.
Heavy Bag Gloves
Going back to Enter the Dragon (and incurring the wrath of Bruce Lee for contradicting him), there really is a need for some board-punching, or in this case, heavy bag punching, to isolate and build strength and technique. The absolute opposite end of the padding spectrum from your sparring gloves, heavy bag gloves are the most padded gloves in your arsenal, usually lined with denser foam to support a lot of repeated strikes.
However, much like the sparring gloves, you want to use these for their intended purpose. While you won’t break your bag gloves using them in a sparring match, the denser, heavier padding will do a lot more damage to your sparring partner. Like your equipment, you should use your sparring partner the right way (IE, not knocking him out five times a day) to get the most benefits and, as such, use a glove that isn’t designed to do unnecessary damage.
Heavy bag gloves should be one of your first purchases, allowing you to start building good form on a stationary target. Fortunately, they’re fairly affordable, so even if you’re on the fence about MMA, it’s not a huge loss if you find out it’s not for you.
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Weights and Sizes
While you’ve got a lot of variation in gloves, the most obvious details to notice are size and weight. Boxing gloves can weigh anywhere from 8 ounces (for professional gloves) to 34 ounces (for heavily weighted gloves), and in most cases, what you use depends entirely on your body type and the type of training you’re doing. Naturally, smaller people would want to use lighter gloves and larger people would want larger gloves; however, you should take a good look at your body type as well. If you’ve got a lot of muscle in your arms, you might be able to go heavier than others in your weight class, while someone with a lot of leg muscle might want to shift down.
For bag work, having heavier gloves is a good bet. Not only is it better protection for your knuckles, but working with heavier gloves in training makes you much faster in sparring; if you’re used to punching with 18 oz gloves in practice, sparring with 16 oz gloves feels much easier, and fighting with 10 oz gloves easier still. For sparring, however, you have to take your partner into consideration. Most gyms are going to insist upon 16 oz gloves for sparring, just for the sake of not decking your partner five times a night. As for size, boxing gloves, like clothes, can’t seem to agree on the same definition and dimensions for a “medium” glove. Not only are the dimensions fairly uneven, but the proportions are difficult as well; a good option would be to just try on a pair from the brand you’re going to buy. Even if you don’t like the model of glove, you at least know whether the model you’re buying is going to fit.
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Lace-up or Velcro?
Lace-up gloves are the older style of boxing glove, designed to tighten around your whole hand and give you a nice snug fit. The pros are pretty obvious there; a tight fit keeps your gloves from sliding around in the middle of bouts. However, putting these on and taking them off are strictly two-man jobs. If you know for a fact you’re always going to have someone around to lace up your gloves, then these are definitely the way to go.
Also called “hook and loop” gloves, Velcro, on the other hand, is all about convenience. You can slide them on yourself, tighten them up yourself, and slide them off yourself without much hassle. Of course, you do get a slightly less snug fit, so a badly-sized glove is a much bigger problem for velcro gloves than lace-ups. If you plan to do a lot of solo training, you’ll find that the convenience of Velcro gloves far outweighs any negatives.
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Vinyl Or Leather?
When choosing what material your gloves are made from, your two major choices are going to be either leather or vinyl. Vinyl is usually going to be much more affordable but less durable; as such, a set of vinyl gloves would be good for beginners or non-bag workouts, like shadow boxing, mitt punching, or basic technique training. Once you start getting into heavy bag work or tougher workouts, you’re going to want to move on to leather gloves. While they cost more, it’s all for a reason; leather gloves are made to take as many punches as you can throw, and, if you get a really good pair, a few more above that.
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Your gym, if it’s a reputable one, is a wealth of information about the right kinds of gloves for you to use. Don’t be afraid to ask around in your class about who is using what and why. Your instructor can usually point you in the right direction as well; after all, if he’s setting the workouts, he knows what will work best for them.
If you’re new to a brand of fight gear, your best bet would be to ask a friend who owns a set to try them on, or just to visit a brick-and-mortar store and try on a pair. Even if it’s not the model you want, trying on what a brand’s definition of a “medium” glove is can give you a good idea of what to expect from the rest of their line.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. It’s okay to admit that, even though a brand is top-notch, it just doesn’t work well for you. It’s not worth messing up your technique or your hands just for the sake of having a “cool” brand. Everyone’s hands are built differently; at the end of the day, you’re going to have to pick a glove that works best for you.