If you do full-contact martial arts, such as a mixed martial arts program, then you likely already know what’s going to be on this list. But even for those who do not engage in regular full-contact sparring, we’ve made a list of three absolutely essential pieces of gear and why they cannot be overlooked.
1. Padded helmet
If you’ve ever sparred before a day in your life, you know how important it is to protect your head. Repeated concussions from hard falls, throws, or strikes can result in permanent brain injury. There’s no sense in risking your own livelihood on the mat of a practice match.
Look for padded helmets which are rated to absorb blows and include a chin strap. A lot of head injuries occur not from the impact but from whiplash and the head striking against another surface like a wall or floor. As dorky as a training helmet looks, the benefits of wearing one far outweigh the cons.
2. Training gloves
If you’re into boxing, you can’t step foot into the ring without regulation gloves on. There are different weights associated with different gloves, so each martial art may require varying degrees of protection. In general, medium weight gloves that secure the fingers from being pulled apart and pad the complete top portion of the hand are recommended for most light to moderate sparring.
Fingers are a source of great misery in practice sessions. They can accidentally fly up and strike others in sensitive areas like the eyes, nose, throat, and groin. They can also be broken or pulled out of socket. Neither is desired.
The single most important piece of equipment that gets overlooked is a properly fitted mouthguard. Since we all started playing sports in school, we should have all become acquainted with the process of fitting a mouthguard to fit our gumline and teeth.
For those who may be unfamiliar, there are mouthguards which you can momentarily drop into boiling hot water and then bite down on. These create a lasting imprint of precisely where your teeth and gums are located. This means when you absorb an impact, instead of rattling your teeth or chomping on your own cheeks, your mouth is secure throughout the fall.
Shop for a mouthguard which is specifically designed to be form fitted to your mouth. Generic mouthguards can work in a pinch but they will not be as effective as a mouthguard that fits your mouth perfectly.
After each use, wash in a solution of light baking soda and rinse with some hydrogen peroxide. This will keep your mouthguard clean and ready for when you are.
As silly as it may sound, a mouthguard is also not a bad thing to keep with you at all times. To be perfectly honest, it keeps your teeth aligned and can act as a sort of retainer. Additionally, if you do end up getting into a potentially hostile situation, it’s one less thing that can get damaged – though undoubtedly that’ll be the least of your concerns at the time.