I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Muhammad Ali
Taking lessons in Muay Thai – one of the most comprehensive full body combat sports there is – means equipping oneself with a rather substantial set of Thai boxing equipment and sportswear in order to avoid injuring oneself and actually to protect one’s opponent too.
In Thailand, Muay Thai is so widespread and well-received that the practice of Thai boxing has enabled approximately 200,000 people (usually young people) to live off and make a professional career out of the sport. Be it as boxers, instructors, personal trainers, managers or promoters, to name but a few.
In the West, the kick and fist boxing that epitomises Thai boxing is classed as a form of Martial Arts. As most boxing enthusiasts will tell you, this national sport of Thailand is ever-growing in popularity in the UK too where specialist classes and training sessions are offered by hundreds of gyms across the country.
If you want to join Thai boxing classes at your gym or try out a local Thai boxing club, then read on! This guide will give an in-depth introduction to all the Muay Thai equipment you will need.
Muay Thai originates from ancestral fighting techniques and practices traditionally used in Thai martial arts. The sport requires the practitioner to be in excellent physical condition as all parts of the body are engaged when in combat – as they say, ‘all blows are allowed’.
Muay Thai is an ancient form of martial arts originally practised by the Thai military. (Source: MaxPixel)
That is why Thai boxers nowadays believe it is so important to wear boxing gloves and hand wraps, mouth guards, shin guards and ankle supports. However, this hasn’t always been the case.
Thai boxing was originally the sport of Thai kings and it was the monarch, Naresuan the Great, who made Thai boxing – also known as Muay Thai – an obligatory part of training for his soldiers at the end of the sixteenth century.
Over time, this royal martial art gained popularity and more and more people began to flock to Thai boxing training camps, which then, in turn, led to an explosion in the number of injuries resulting from the sport.
Thai boxing fitness was introduced as part of the regular physical education of young children in the 1920’s. By the 1930’s however, it was already one of the reasons for the excessive number of injuries sustained by its practitioners who at that time, had no professional equipment with which to box.
Former Muay Boran practitioners (boxers who would combat unarmed without any protective kickboxing equipment at all) would wear short trousers which were made of cotton and fell just above the knee. Thai Boxing practitioners and fighters are known as Nak Muay and this traditional boxing trouser-wear is known as Gung gaeng kaa guay.
Traditionally practitioners would also wear a long piece of cloth approximately 1m – 1.5m long, which was wrapped around one’s waist like a kind of Thai sarong and is known as a Paa kao maa. This traditional clothing item was not solely worn for boxing though, it was multifunctional and also often used as towels, belts and headscarves.
Traditional Thai boxing sportswear placed a strong emphasis on the comfort of practitioners, enabling agile and fast footwork and a protection – albeit a relatively rudimentary one – of the genitals.
Groin protectors had not yet been introduced to combat sports!
Fighters were also equipped with a Mongkon, which is a small bandana that would be worn around one’s skull and was intended to protect and bring glory to the boxer!
Gradually as time went on, boxers began to cover their fists with wraps and hemp in order to increase the power of their punch and avoid injuries caused due to fighting with bare hands. The Kaadchuek is a traditional hand wrap that could be as much as 20 metres long!
By the 20th century, this famed Thai sporting discipline had considerably evolved from what it once was and had even been influenced by elements of standard boxing and Savate practised in the West. It has also become internationally standardized as protective boxing gear became obligatory for amateur and professional kickboxers alike.
That does not mean it is without its dangers though! Injury and even death are still common among Muay Thai fighters the world over.
Muay Thai gloves were first used by fighters under the rule of King Rama VI in the 1920’s, which marked the beginning of a transition from military training to an autonomous sporting discipline.
Thai boxing gloves and inner gloves (boxing mitts and hand wraps) help to minimise the impact of blows received from and aimed at one’s adversary. Hand wraps are especially used to protect the phalanx and metacarpal bones as well as to regulate sweating of the hands.
Avoid choosing boxing gloves with drawstrings when preparing your boxing wardrobe! (Source: Visual Hunt)
Gotta protect myself so that I’m not boxing with bare hands – OK, but gimme leather and velcro!
Thai boxing gloves have two main functions – safety and hygiene (a glove that guards against humidity and perspiration will last longer).
As in standard boxing and savate, the weight of Thai boxing gloves is calculated in ounces (Oz) and range from 6 Oz to 16 Oz.
It is worth noting that the heavier the glove, the larger the surface area it has when striking. Thus, the less impact you want your punch to have (to protect your opponent), the larger the glove should be.
This is why heavier Thai boxing gloves (14 Oz) are recommended when you are acting as a sparring partner and training with somebody else.
Speed and suppleness are master qualities to acquire in Muay Thai. It is important to consider the weight when choosing your gloves, not only to increase your speed and flexibility but also as unsuitable gloves can damage your hands when fighting in the boxing ring or training with a punching bag.
You can use the following scale when selecting the weight of your gloves, note that 1 ounce = 28,3495 grams.
Highly qualified boxers working on a professional level always train and fight with leather boxing gloves (as they are very resistant). Beginner level boxers will usually opt for plastic or synthetic boxing gloves or boxing gloves made of fake leather because they are a lot less expensive and mean that one can start training without having to worry about ruining the high-quality material.
You will find that Muay Thai boxing accessories are often sold directly at your local boxing club. Nonetheless, you might still like to compare prices on the boxing market, which is why we have listed the prices from some online sports catalogues below.
The best brand to choose for Thai boxing gloves is Fairtex. Although quite costly (prices range from £75.99 to £209.95), Fairtex products are are durable and can be used for Muay Thai training as well as actual combat.
Kickboxing contestants should also protect their jaws by wearing a mouthguard. They also need to protect their lower body, so that they can be hit without getting too severely injured. These are the essential items you will need to take part in safe Thai boxing training practice where you are protected from injury
There are two types of mouthguards – single and double
To ensure that it works efficiently, a good mouth guard should mould to the shape of the jaw and the teeth to prevent them being exposed or bang against each other when on the receiving end of a powerful kick or punch (uppercut, coup direct or crochet).
A veritable war of kicks in the teeth! (Source: Visual Hunt)
Thus, it is necessary to mould the tool after boiling it. Simply take a big bite into it – like an apple – to accurately mould the shape of your jaw.
Single mouth guards are between £2.99 and £14.99 whilst the price of double mouth guards can climb as high as £45.00 (Everlast, Venum, Fairtex, Sleeppro).
Required for training, protective boxing headgear is an obligatory part of amateur Muay Thai competitions as it protects the head and prevents injury (although it does not defend against brain contusions and bruising).
Good protective headgear – or a full coverage head guard– is defined as being of a size and material adapted for shock absorption. Quality Thai boxing head guards contain specially designed padding to absorb the impact of a punch or kick to the head.
When choosing your Muay Thai head guard, you can select it according to the following criteria:
In Thai boxing, elbow punches and knee-kicks are authorised; to achieve the best possible protection many Muay Thai boxers also use other pieces of Muay Thai gear to absorb the impact of blows to the upper body. The most commonly used additional accessories are elbow pads and body protectors.
Elbow pads are an essential part of Muay Thai training practice. They consist of an elastic belt attached to a foam padded section and help to prevent violent shocks when fighters’ elbows clash together.
The price of Muay Thai elbow pads ranges from £6.99 to £42.99 depending on the quality that you desire.
A body protector (otherwise known as a body shield or chest guard) allows you to take hits to the chest or torso. Often covered in an outer layer of leather, a body protector is a kind of armour – think bullet-proof vest for boxers! Except, of course, it’s not actually bullet-proof…
Made of PU leather (bi-cast leather), PVC or polyester, they help to soften blows whilst not taking away any of the force of your kicks and punches.
The cost of body protectors ranges from £36.51 to £159.99 with brands such as Top Ten, Title, Sandee, Lonsdale and RDX.
‘I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times’ – Bruce Lee, Mixed Martial Arts Artist
A boxer does not care about his appearance, he develops a mind of steel and wears an armour of protective clothing in order to outperform his opponent. These are the necessary lower body protective items needed by any Muay Thai boxer.
In Thai boxing, boxing shorts must be in line with a specific dress code. Muay Thai shorts are a light piece of sportswear made of satin – red satin, black satin, white satin or yellow satin – with a large opening so that they are baggy. These specially designed shorts will allow the wearer to jump and bounce around and execute difficult leg movements.
Luckily my shorts are loose fitting! Even a champion of the world needs to look after his Thai boxing equipment! (Source: Visual Hunt)
Online, the cost of Thai boxing shorts ranges from £19.95 to £44.45 with brands such as RDX, Danger Thailand, Sandee, Blitz and Twins.
Of all Muay Thai gear, (as with all other contact sports) Muay Thai shorts are an accessory that are largely chosen for subjective reasons. Choose your the colour and style of shorts according to your own personal look!
Why use a Groin Protector Cup for Thai boxing?
Well, the key is in the name. In order to protect your groin and genitals from blows made by your opponent’s feet and knees, you will need a groin protector! Wearing a groin protector for any kickboxing activity – be it sparring training or an actual fighting match – is strictly obligatory in all boxing clubs.
Groin protectors can be found ranging from £6.99 for cups that offer minimal protection (Blitz), £25-£30 for mid-range products (Adidas, Title, RDX Sports) to as much as £158 for high-end professional protectors (Kozuji, Rival, Title).
There is significant knee-contact and stress on the knees in boxing and other combat sports, but especially in Thai boxing. This is why it is so important to protect your knees before combat even if they are not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of easily injured body parts. Shocks and blows to the knee can cause bone and joint problems, especially as one gets older or increases the intensity of training.
Costs starts from as little as £3.95 (NeoPrene) and £5.39 (KickFit) for basic pads and go up to as much as £30.98 (Venum) for extremely strong knee pads that offer intense knee support to prevent ligament strain and injury.
The last accessory you will need is shin pads! Remember that this form of boxing is practised barefoot, so no need to purchase any costly boxing shoes!
Shin pads are recommended for Muay Thai training and obligatory for matches. This regulation has been introduced as a way to preserve one’s legs and avoid any irreversible fractures occurring.
Muay Thai – the spectacular national sport of Thailand! (Source: Wikimedia)
The Thai paradox – the national sport of the Land of Smiles is actually one of the most violent in Asia.
All the same, you are advised not to wear shin pads when hitting boxing shields, punch bags, punch pads or bear paw gloves.
In order to get used to receiving blows to the shin and to harden one’s legs.
Hardening and strengthening one’s legs in this way is an effective way of preventing direct contact between your tibia and other parts of your opponent’s body.
Composed of a plastic shell covered in foam and designed to soften blows and absorb shock, shin pads cover the legs from the knees to the ankles.
The price range for shin pads starts at £9.59 (for beginner level boxers looking for pads with a simple foam protective layer) and goes up to approximately £78.99 (for more professional level users looking for shin pads made of superior quality leather, double velcro fastenings and ventilation with an opening at the back).
For a complete boxing kit you need to prepare a certain budget (probably around £400 to £500 for a good protection from high-quality Thai boxing gear). Although fairly pricey, this equipment is likely a worthwhile investment last for several years.
Note that these prices are indicative.
|Boxing Accessories||Sellers||Brand||Price Range|
|Boxing Gloves||Decathlon, Sports Direct, Flight Equipment UK, RDX, Made 4 Fighters,||Domyos, Addidas, Outshock, Everlast, Lonsdale, Reebok, Fairtex, Sandee, Venum, Twins, Revo||£7.99 to £219.99|
|Mouthguard||Safejawz, Fruugo, Made 4 Fighters, Amazon||Shock Doctor, Everlast, Venum, Fairtex, Sleeppro||£2.99 to £45.00|
|Headgear||RDX Sports, Amazon, Sports Direct, Decathlon, Blitz||Fairtex, Blitz, Venum and RDX||£20.00 to £124.75|
|Elbow Pads||Made 4 Fighters, eBay, Amazon, Blitz, Fruugo||Venum, Honeycomb, Islero, Fairtex, Boom||£6.99 to £42.99|
|Body Protector||RDX Sports,||Top Ten, Title, Sandee, Lonsdale and RDX||£36.51 to £159.99|
|Boxing Shorts||Flight Equipment UK, Sports Direct, Fruugo, Athlete Shop, Blitz||RDX, Danger Thailand, Sandee, Everlast, Blitz and Twins||£19.95 to £44.45|
|Knee Pads||Amazon UK, Made 4 Fighters,||Neoprene, KickFit, Venum||£3.95 to £30.98|
|Shin Pads||RDX Sports, Fruugo, Hyper Trade, Flight Equipment UK||RDX, Title, Blitz, Twins||£9.59 to £78.99|
Find out what you need for Savate boxing.
This is just a quick run through of some of the most basic definitions to ensure we are all on the same page!
Also known as Muay Thai, Thai boxing is a martial art classed as being a type of fist and kickboxing. The sport is derived from Muay Boran, which is one of the ancestral martial arts of Thailand.
With a history spanning over 2 000 years, Muay Thai used to be a royal sport without many specific sporting rules and regulations. In the 20th Century, the sport began to gain more international influences and became one of the most comprehensive sports there are, but also one of the most violent.
When we talk about boxing equipment we are referring to all the sporting accessories that are needed to prevent injury and are usually used to protect oneself and one’s opponent when hit.
Thai boxing equipment is a fundamental form of protection needed in order do training safely and usually consists of boxing gloves, mouthguards, shin guards, groin protectors and headgear, other equipment that is also recommended for Thai boxing but is not obligatory are elbow pads, knee pads and ankle supports.