Upon starting your journey down the path of mixed martial arts you will notice a wide variety of gear worn while training the various constituencies of the sport.
The most iconic and crucial pieces of training gear for any striking sport are gloves. Each style of glove is unique to its sport in that Kickboxing gloves vary from Muay Thai, American boxing, and MMA gloves.
Choosing the right glove may feel overwhelming but a great place to start is with kickboxing or Muay Thai kickboxing gloves.
Learning to strike is essential for an MMA fighter and kickboxing gloves will offer the most versatility in your training, especially as a beginner.
Why Learn Kickboxing?
Learning to box is an American pastime, and while Karate and Taekwondo are beautiful striking arts, kickboxing (whether it be traditional American, Dutch, or Muay Thai) is the real deal.
Kickboxing has been proven effective in many MMA matches and is widely regarded as the most applicable striking style for a real fight.
Many successful fighters have made their careers on a kickboxing oriented style. Alistair Overeem used a Dutch style to dominate his opponents; Joanna Jedrzejczyk overwhelms challengers with her unrelenting Muay Thai; Stephan “Wonderboy” Thompson has used his traditional American style of kickboxing (albeit mixed with some unique karate techniques) to rapidly rise through the ranks of the UFC.
All of these fighters train kickboxing on a regular basis, donning appropriate training equipment.
While the MMA glove is all the rage in the octagon, kickboxing gloves offer more support and protection, which equates to harder and longer training; the ultimate elixir to becoming a world class athlete.
What Makes Kickboxing and Muay Thai Gloves so Special?
Kickboxing gloves come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and weights, but typically differ from regular boxing gloves in several important features.
Firstly, Kickboxing gloves tend to have more padding on the back and sides of the hand in order to enhance the fighter’s ability to block punches and parry kicks.
American and Muay Thai Kickboxers rely on more than just their punches to defeat opponents so the padding on the knuckles is a bit thinner.
They also lack the “grip bar” found in the majority of traditional boxing gloves. This, combined with their increased flexibility, allow for greater grip and dexterity, which is better for controlling your opponent in the clinch.
Muay Thai Kickboxing gloves sometimes come with a straightened thumb pocket for this same reason. The clinch is a position most commonly utilized by Muay Thai fighters, so being able to grip and control their opponents head is crucial.
Muay Thai style gloves offer the most versatility in training. They are comfortable, durable and equally useful for hitting the bag during a boxing training session while blocking body kicks during a kickboxing sparring session.
If cost is a limiting factor and you are looking for one pair of gloves to be used for training various martial arts than a good pair of Muay Thai Kickboxing gloves is a great investment.
MMA Style Kickboxing Gloves
So far we have covered two types of Kickboxing Gloves which are fairly similar, but with the growth of mixed martial arts as a sport, many people are now opting to use MMA style Kickboxing Gloves.
These gloves differ from traditional boxing and Muay Thai Kickboxing Gloves in almost every way imaginable. For starters, they are fingerless gloves which allow for greater dexterity than other glove styles.
However, the reduced protection increases the risk of breaking one of the fragile bones in your hand and wrist. MMA style Kickboxing Gloves weigh only four ounces, meaning they have significantly less knuckle padding than other glove style.
When training with these gloves it is essential that your wrist wraps are very sturdy and avoid throwing full power punches especially into a heavy bag.
One of the benefits to training in MMA gloves is the improved striking precision. Since your hand is smaller in MMA style Kickboxing Gloves, you can slip punches through your opponents guard more easily.
Wearing these gloves during training will also help teach you to control your output, as you will inevitably begin to feel the lack of padding on your knuckles and naturally compensate by reducing the energy behind each punch.
While training in these gloves is potentially dangerous, it is also extremely fun. Getting the feel of sparring in four ounce gloves will transform how you watch UFC, Bellator and other MMA fights.
The ability to move your hands faster more closely mimics a street fight than when wearing Muay Thai style Kickboxing Gloves.
Finally, the obvious benefit towards owning a pair of MMA style kickboxing gloves is wearing them to train MMA!
Similar to the benefits of practicing Jiu Jitsu with no-gi, it’s essential for success in the modern MMA environment to practice with an MMA style glove to maximize training and performance.
Additionally, utilize these tools to train both striking and grappling in the style of gloves that you will be wearing during competition, even if you never plan to fight competitively, it’s a valuable experience that will help you better understand the feel of a true octagon experience.
For a more detailed guide on the best MMA gloves, check out this article here.
Rules for Gloves in Competition
There are very specific rules for the type of gloves used in the top level Kickboxing promotions. Glory Kickboxing sells two types of gloves:
Hayabusa and Leone Professional Fighting gloves.
The Hayabusa Kickboxing gloves are top of the line training gloves for any striking sport. They are well constructed with extra padding and wrist support to prevent injuries during training.
The Leone Professional Fighting gloves are pro fighting gloves that feel very different from training gloves. They follow the parameters for a professional fight, meaning they come in the specified weights for fighting weight classes (10 ounces, 12 ounces, 14 ounces, and 16 ounces).
I strongly advise trying them out and., make sure you get gloves that are the correct size for your weight.
The glove size that you are allowed to use during competition is determined by the weight class in which you compete.
For example, fighters weighing 145 will generally wear smaller gloves during a kickboxing match than 200 pound fighters.
This is because larger fighters tend to utilize more power shots to achieve victory, while smaller fighters are inclined to use speed and accuracy to rack up a larger volume of significant strikes on their opponents.
The glove size which correlates to a particular weight class varies based on the sport in question.
Kickboxing gloves in the International Kickboxing Federation are 8 ounces for all professional bouts up to and including Welterweight (147 pounds max), and 10 ounces for all weight classes from Super Welterweight (147 pounds – 153 pounds) to Super Heavyweight (235.1 pounds and up).
As a rule of thumb, amateur Kickboxing fighters use gloves 2 ounces heavier than professionals at their same weight class, and when selecting training gloves you should select a pair of gloves that will be 2 ounces heavier than the gloves in which you intend to compete.
The exception to that rule is if you are an actual giant then you should wear 16 ounces gloves to train. The glove sizes of weight classes for professional boxing bouts are subject to change as decided upon by the state boxing commission for whatever locality has jurisdiction over the area in which the competition takes place.
Most recently, this issue came to light just ten days before the professional boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted to allow the two trash-talking superstar fighters to wear 8 ounce gloves during this historic event even though 10 ounce gloves are usually worn for bouts above 147 pounds, and they competed at the 154 pound weight class.
Many argue that McGregor gained the advantage as he was used to competing in four ounce MMA gloves, while others argue that Mayweather gained the advantage because lighter gloves would make each of his punches more damaging.
Either way, it is important to note that the two ounce difference in glove size was hotly contested because it demonstrates the critical importance to professional fighters.
Training Gloves, Bag Gloves, Speed Gloves and Pro Fighting Gloves
There are so many different types of gloves that it can be difficult to tell exactly what type is best for you. Amateur kickboxers will typically benefit most from a pair of training gloves.
These gloves are usually two ounces heavier than the gloves you would use for competition at your body weight.
Bag Gloves are very similar, but they actually have even more protection and wrist support than training gloves. This is meant to allow fighters to carry out intense training sessions on the heavy bag without risking the health of their hands.
Speed Gloves, while attractive sounding, are almost completely useless. They are very light gloves meant to protect your hands when hitting a speed bag or speed pads. In almost any situation that you wear speed gloves you can get away with just wearing hand wraps.
Pro fighting gloves are what I would refer to as “classics.” They have evenly distributed padding and support, but do not have many of the new technological advances offered by many training gloves such as wrist reinforcement, excess padding, or a Velcro closing mechanism.
All pro gloves are lace-ups, and this is so that the fit can be adjusted based on your particular wrist wrapping style.
As a beginner the only gloves you need are training gloves, but it is certainly worth it to try out a pair of pro fight gloves to see the difference.
Glove designs vary based on the sport for which they were designed and the manufacturer producing the equipment. Many brands of fight gear offer an impressively wide variety of glove styles, but rarely provide any insight for what gloves are required for different fights, training drills, sparring or other situations.
Make sure to try out a few different styles before settling on what fits you best. Kickboxing gloves should feel like an extension of your hands when you wear them, allowing you to block and strike as naturally as if you were bare-knuckled.
Beware of “toy gloves” or gloves that are made of extremely low quality materials. These gloves are not intended for actual training, and do not offer the correct protection and support.
Make sure the gloves that you buy are from a respected brand with good reviews.
So What Are the Best Kickboxing Gloves Out There?
The best brands of boxing and Kickboxing Gloves is a debate that has been going on since before MMA even existed. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference but there are a few brands and styles that are a cut above the others.
Remember that your gloves are an investment, and should be researched thoroughly. Make sure you get the right size for your weight and avoid knockoffs or discount brand gloves.
You can't train with a broken hand and you can't get better if you don't train.
The Everlast MMA Kickboxing Gloves training gloves are a specially designed MMA style glove that offers extra support for the structure of the hand and wrist.
By adding extra layers behind the wrist and around the thumb, this glove allows fighters to throw full force punches without having to worry as much about damaging the bones in their hands.
If you would like a pair of Kickboxing Gloves that can also be worn for MMA training, but are designed to keep your hands and wrists safe, these gloves are your best bet.
If you plan on doing some actual Kickboxing sparring then you will need a pair of top of the line traditional or Muay Thai Kickboxing Gloves.
Anthem Athletics offers some of the highest performing sparring gloves on the market. Their Stormbringer gloves are such high quality that they feel like a luxury item in your hands.
They are made from buffalo leather which makes them tough enough to last through years of intense training.
Fairtex Kickboxing Gloves are another luxurious piece of gear, but with a much more modern feel. Rather than leather, these handmade Thai style gloves use an odor resistant microfiber which is every bit as durable as leather.
In my opinion, these are the best Kickboxing Gloves on the market (even though their high quality is reflected in their prices).
As we mentioned before the Sanabul Essential Gel Kickboxing gloves are an excellent choice. They are the result of years of striking experience combined with high end craftsmanship.
Perfectly engineered, reasonably priced, and amazing styles, these gloves are truly top of the line.
If you are a beginner looking to seriously pursue the sport of Kickboxing then I highly recommend you invest in a pair of high quality gloves like these.
Regardless of what gloves you end up choosing for training and competition, remember to enjoy them, be safe, and have a great time!