PART 2: Training Gear
Body Opponent Bag
You can use it for most hand strikes, some kicks, even some techniques with training weapons — whatever will benefit from making contact with a humanoid target. There’s no better way to learn precision than with BOB.
RELATED! A suit composed of pads that cover most of the body is great for making contact, provided you have a training partner and the cash. It will enable you to finetune your precision with the added excitement of a live target.
This is a time-tested way to teach your body how to hit hard. Your workouts will strengthen your wrists and toughen your shins. The traditional version of the heavy bag hangs from the ceiling, and that’s great if you have a suitable area. Otherwise, look for a free-standing model with a water-filled base. Bonus: This type of bag can be moved from room to room fairly easily. RELATED! If punches are your go-to techniques, you can benefit from buying a speed bag. The workouts will improve your hand speed, timing, rhythm and precision.
If you’re a striker, this is what you’ll wear for everyday training. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but don’t scrimp if you want durability and comfort.
RELATED! If you spend a lot of time on the mat, get a grappling gi, too. Skip this purchase and roll a few times with your lightweight gi, and you’ll be in the market for a new lightweight gi. You’ll be shredded, and not in a good way.
Martial Arts Headgear
This product will help protect you in case of accidental contact with your opponent or the floor. Most, however, are not designed for full-contact fighting.
RELATED! If you’re feeling full contact, you need to purchase the appropriate protection. FWIW, this type of head pro is normally categorized as “boxing headgear.”
Similarly, dipped-foam hand protection is not designed for fullcontact sparring with another person — and neither are those more substantial-looking gloves that bear the label “bag gloves.” The easiest way to be sure you’re getting gloves meant for sustained human contact is to search for “boxing gloves.”
RELATED! If you’re going to spend a lot of time at point tournaments, grab a pair of competition gloves, as well. They’ll help protect you and your opponent during occasional contact.
Mats for Your Home
You should consider getting mats for your home only if you have the space, of course, but keep in mind that most people can rearrange their spare room or garage to make space. Having mats at home doesn’t eliminate the need to train at a dojo, but once you get used to the convenience of being able to work out on a soft surface anytime you want, you’ll wonder how you got along without them for so long.
RELATED! Whether you spend most of your time on the ground or on your feet, you’ll benefit from enhanced flexibility. An efficient way to get there is with a stretching machine. Some are high-tech devices that do a wonderful job, especially for kickers, but people who lack the space or the funds can opt for a more economical model.
Whether your fave is a sword, a kali stick, a three-sectional staff or a kama, you should have a safe and preferably soft version of it. Why? So you can fine-tune your technique on a live human being. Will it make you score better in your next
tournament? Maybe. Will it augment your understanding of the weapon and how it was meant to be wielded? Definitely.
RELATED! If your weapon of choice is a handgun, consider buying an identical Airsoft version of it. Airsoft guns fire small plastic pellets that won’t break the skin if they happen to hit a human. (They can take out an eye, though, so always wear eye protection.) An Airsoft gun will enable you to hone skills you should never practice with a real weapon — like force-on-force training and gun disarms.
Even if you don’t intend to carry a knife, it’s worth buying a trainer because using one is the only safe way to practice knife defense. To prevent injury, think soft and dull. If you carry or plan to carry a live blade, get a trainer that’s identical, except for the dull edge and tip, to your carry knife.
RELATED! Many experts will argue that carrying a knife can even the odds in a street fight. If you’re on board, buy one that matches your trainer. Then you won’t have to think about whether it’s being carried tip-up or tip-down and whether your thumb should search for an opening-assist stud or an opening-assist hole. Be sure to check your local laws before you carry and make sure you know the regs in other states you frequent. Finally, get one that’s practical for everyday use because you’ll be opening packages with it way more often than you’ll be fighting.
Engaging in contact sparring without one of these is asking to have a tooth chipped or knocked out — or worse. So get a good mouth guard and use it. The better ones are designed to be dipped in hot water so you can bite down on them for a better fit to your choppers.
RELATED! If you can afford it, consider a custom-made mouth guard. These are crafted from a mold of your teeth and, consequently, fit like a glove — which makes breathing a whole lot easier. And they won’t pop out by accident in a match. They will, however, cost you, usually several hundred bucks.
If you train primarily for competition, you can get away with foot pads, but if your goal is hardcore self-defense, you’ll want shin pads. Then, when you strike with nature’s baseball bats, your partner will remain functional.
RELATED! As important as protecting your shins is, you’ll also want to guard your groin if you engage in any type of sparring. Even though almost everyone tries to avoid groin shots in training, accidents do happen.