Starter Kit: All the supplies you need to start training martial arts

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Martial arts training is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. As a lifelong practitioner, I can confidently say that my experience with boxing, kickboxing, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Kenpo Karate, and Wing Chun has made me a better, more balanced person. Preparation is key, though, so before you start throwing punches and taking downs, take a look at some equipment that can help you get started.

How we chose these items

I have been training in various martial arts for almost 20 years. In that time, I have worn out countless pieces of gear and have developed as many preferences for gear as I do for protein powder. The list below includes some of my personal favorites, as well as a few that I think are great for anyone just starting out. Remember, as with any product, you need to find the gear that best suits your needs and budget.

GLOVES, SHIN GUARDS AND PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

“Protect your tools.” I’ll never forget those words from my first MMA coach. Good protective gear is essential for longevity in combat sports, even when you’re not competing. Whether you’re dishing out punishment or defending against it, you want to make sure your hands, shins, teeth, and whatnot are well taken care of.

Best universal boxing gloves: Hayabusa S4 boxing gloves

The seeing

Everyone needs a standard pair of full-face boxing gloves for training. They are perhaps the most fundamental piece of equipment for a fighter. They can be used for solo bag training, hitting the focus mitts with a trainer, or light drills with a partner. The Hayabusa S4 is a great starter glove that is the right size for almost any workout. Get 16s (ounces) if you anticipate sparring (most gyms have a minimum rule of 14-16 oz, depending on your weight class).

Best MMA Gloves: RDX Hybrid MMA Punching Gloves

The seeing

If you’re trying to grapple in your sparring sessions, you’ll want a glove with an open palm and fingers to create a decent grip. I have a pair of the black and gold RDX MMA gloves and I love them. The knuckle padding is enough to protect my partner from light strikes, but not too much to lock in a jiu-jitsu choke.

Best hand wraps: Ringside Mexican Styles 180cm Hand Wraps

The seeing

A good hand wrap is essential to keep your hand bones aligned when punching. I like the Mexican wraps because of the little bit of elastic they provide. It gives you a tight fit without cutting off circulation. Even with smaller hands, get a 6’ so you have plenty of material to work with. Ringside is a staple in the boxing world, so that brand is always a good bet.

Best shin guards: Fairtex SP5 shin guards

The seeing

I have more pairs of these Fairtex shin guards than I know what to do with. They’ve been a staple in my arsenal since I started training. They sit at the perfect middle ground between effectiveness, affordability, and simplicity. You’ll appreciate how easy they are to take off when your workout is over. They’re also made from Fairtex Syntek Leather, making them vegan and fighter-friendly.

Best elbow pads: Combat Sports Advanced IMF Tech Elbow Pads

The seeing

When you start putting on elbows, the amount of gear you're wearing will make you feel a bit like Robocop. That said, elbows can do a lot of damage, so proper padding will ensure you don't recreate Matt Brown's famous knockout during training.

Best knee pads: Adidas Wrestling Knee Pads

The seeing

Knees can take a beating during fight training, and not just from getting locked in a heel hook leg lock. Checking kicks and hitting knees during a roundhouse can be quite painful with poor form and no padding. The Adidas Knee Pads are low enough not to get in the way under your shin guards, and will protect your partner as you knead their ribs in the clinch.

Best mouthpiece: Venum Challenger Mouthguard

The seeing

Dental care is expensive and often painful, so it’s a good idea to protect your teeth. Most people I train with have at least one or two of these Venum Challengers in their training bag. I also wear them when I roll (the colloquial term for wrestling in jiu-jitsu) because I don’t scrape the inside of my mouth when my face is pressed against the ground.

Best groin cup: Venum Competitor groin protector

The seeing

Should I even “sell” this? A blow between the legs is painful for anyone, so protect those sensitive parts of your body as best you can. It's a traditional design that allows you to wash the garment and the cup separately.

Best hearing protection: Cliff Keen E58 Headgear

The seeing

For many, cauliflower ear is a rite of passage in combat (especially wrestling and jiu-jitsu). It causes large accumulations of scar tissue. For the rest of us, putting in earplugs can be more work than it needs to be. The Cliff Keen headband is nice because the shiny, nonporous material won’t absorb sweat or water, making it easy to rinse.

CLOTHING

You’re going to be twisting and turning your body, sweating a lot, and even your clothes are going to get pulled on when you train, so it’s important to dress appropriately on the mat. I’m usually pretty pared down when it comes to my workout gear and will just run my old band t-shirts into the ground, but a well-made jiu jitsu gi or comfortable Thai shorts can go a long way.

Best jiu-jitsu gi: Elite Sport BJJ Gi

The seeing

The gi is probably one of the most iconic pieces of martial arts gear. Virtually identical cuts are used in jiu-jitsu, karate, taekwondo, judo, and a ton of other disciplines. It even has its own emoji. You can get really fancy with gis, but I like this basic Elite Sports BJJ gi to start with. It’s cheap, does the job, and the black with red piping makes me feel like Kylo Ren.

Best All-Around Training Rashguard and Shorts: Half Sumo NoGi Bundle

The seeing

MMA and the UFC have really popularized no-gi jiu-jitsu over the last few decades, and guys like Gordon Ryan have shown what mastery in the sport can look like. Half Sumo is a New York-based company that prints wild art and patterns on top-quality clothing. I would even wear these off the mat because they look so good. The tight-fitting material prevents bunching and chafing. It also wicks away sweat effectively.

Best Thai shorts: Yokkao Carbonfit Shorts

The seeing

Yokkao is one of the most recognized names in Muay Thai, and for good reason. With GOATs like Saenchi on their team, it’s no wonder people train at their facilities and wear their gear. The Carbonfit shorts are nice because they don’t have any fancy materials and are easy to throw in the wash. They’re short for maximum range of motion, and the wide waistbands keep them in place.

Best boxing shoes: Hayabusa Pro Boxing Shoe

The seeing

If you’re a fan of the elite-level movement of recent champion Vasily Lomachenko, you might want to practice your footwork. I’ve never been a fan of boxing shoes myself, but guys I train with swear by the Hayabusa Pro Boxing shoe for its versatility and style. The high reach offers ankle support, and the textured bottom provides traction without the risk of tripping.

Best all-round tracksuit: Adidas Men's Sportswear Basic 3-Stripes Tricot Tracksuit

The seeing

The Adidas tracksuit is a classic for a reason, and to this day, most of my non-sports specific workout clothes come from their store. I actually have several, and each one has its own place: one tracksuit for when I go to class, one tracksuit for when I go to practice, another for when I go running, and yet another for when I get a bagel and a cup of coffee on a Sunday afternoon.

PERIPHERALS

Carrying all that gear and being able to train independently requires a few more essential items. Make sure you've rounded out your checklist with these final few fighter gadgets.

Best training bag: Superare Carcico Gear Bag

The seeing

Superare is one of the best (and last) fight shops in New York City. They have the best fight gear in Manhattan and also have some awesome custom gear themselves. I just got their gear bag this year and I love it. It fits my gloves and pads, gi, extra clothes and easily converts from a duffel bag to a backpack. You can't go wrong with it.

Best pain reliever: Tiger Balm Sport Rub Pain Relieving Ointment

The seeing

I have seen Tiger Balm in dojos and martial arts schools for as long as I can remember. I honestly don't know if it works from a clinical perspective, but I do know that we all swear by it in the martial arts community.

Best Timer App: Boks iTimer app

The seeing

I use this app every day. It is simple, easy to use and effective. So many apps have a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles, but the Boxing iTimer App just gets to the point. It is one of the few free apps that I pay for, simply because I use it so much.

Best basic fan: Vornado 133 Small Air Circulator

The seeing

The more you train, the more you sweat, simply put. One of the most effective ways to keep your gear from smelling like hot garbage is to keep it dry. I religiously place my gloves and shin guards in front of a fan until they’re dry after every training session, and I do the same with my jiu-jitsu gis (after rinsing them) if I can’t throw them in the wash right away. It’s more effective than all those disinfectants and charcoal inserts combined.

Best skipping rope: Twin Muay Thai Rope

The seeing

Other fighters will know you mean business when they see you jumping with the classic blue or green Twins Muay Thai skipping rope. It’s heavier than a regular rope and will kill your toes if you get caught, but it will make your cardio unrelenting and turn your shoulders and forearms to steel.

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