It's worth noting that Muay Thai isn't a cheap sport to enjoy. This point isn't just about money as while gear can be expensive, it usually lasts many years. It also considers the cost on your body from injuries and strain, and how that impacts your everyday life. Nonetheless, investment in your time, efforts and the best gear can ensure you get a substantial return.
Given the committed practitioner trains 2 or more times and week and undertakes all types of training, they need a wider range of equipment and numerous sets of some particular items (e.g. gloves, hand-wraps and shorts).
It's also important that more money is invested, so you get the higher-quality gear which is more durable and comfortable. That will be the focus for many of the items listed below (many of which are also in the beginners guide) and we'll be distinguishing some of the key points that make the higher-quality goods better than the lower quality goods.
Get two pairs of gloves and keep their functions separate. Have one pair for pad and bag work and the other for sparring. For the pad and bag work, have any size (even bag mitts), ideally high-quality leather gloves as they're likely to take the most punishment. For the drill work and sparring, ensure they are 14-16oz gloves. Frankly, these don't need to be as high quality as they aren't going to take as much punishment and won't consistently be absorbing the full power of strikes against hard surfaces. However, if you want to ensure they last, again go with high-quality leather gloves.
Make sure the sparring gloves are actual Muay Thai gloves and not Boxing gloves. The differences are slight but important. Firstly, Muay Thai gloves have a raised, separate padded area on the outside/underside of the hand to assist with blocking and catching kicks. Secondly, they have a different shape which provides additional hand flexibility for clinching, catching and more. It also enables the padding to be focused at the top of the hand and front of the knuckles. Finally, some Muay Thai gloves have a different thumb positioning to Boxing gloves which provides better hand motion, especially useful for clinching.
The market for top quality gloves which feature excellent padding, premium leather and cool designs is vast and ever expanding. Fairtex are arguably the most historically renowned manufacturer of premium quality goods, not least their gloves. Followed closely by Twins Special and Top King. Yokkao is a relatively new addition to the market but their goods rival the older brands in terms of quality and their designs set them apart.
As the frequency and intensity of drill-work and sparring increases, you should invest in a high-quality pair of shin guards which are as durable as they are comfortable. Unless injured, avoid hitting pads and heavy bags with your shin guards as you'll diminish the padding and leather – you'll also want to use that time for shin conditioning. Keep them for your person-on-person training.
If you don't grow or shrink in height or weight, a pair of top quality shin guards should last a good while. Just like gloves, the best are made from leather with premium quality hook-and-loop enclosures and internal padding. All the best brands provide premium shin guards and it's often the ones who make the best gloves who also make the best shin guards. That said, the price tag can vary but are often as expensive as good gloves: £70 - £130 for a pair. You can usually get matching designs and colourways for your gloves and shin guards.
Like a gumshield, having a groin guard is a must have for your personal protection. It can be a painful lesson to learn if you don't wear one when doing drill-work and sparring.
There's a few different styles of groin guard but, given the price range is quite low, there are really there only two things you need to consider – protection and comfort. Protection because it's no use wearing one if the cup is soft and breaks easily. Comfort because you need to ensure full range of motion and easy movement, without the need to constantly readjust.
The most common outside of Thailand is the slip-on groin guard, used in a wide-variety of contact sports. This is either a strong plastic or metal cup that you can slide into your underwear or accompanying shorts which are specifically designed with a cup holder (they are often sold with said cup). These range in price from £8-£30. Naturally, the lower the price, the lower the quality of materials used.
Another groin guard, which is very common in Thailand, is the metal cup with rope. You have to tie this around your waist and groin for security on this, which can be a little awkward and time-consuming at first. However, once secure, their comfort and protection is top-tier. The price range for these is usually between £15-£30. The advantage of this groin guard is you can use it whether you grow or shrink in size or weight thanks to the abundance of rope tied onto the cup.
Why two pairs and not just one? When you're training 2, 3 or 4 times a week, that's a lot of sweat, dirt and potentially blood that will accumulate on your training apparel and hand-wraps. To avoid the inevitable stench that will arise from regularly used yet irregularly washed wraps, have a second pair available.
The higher-quality wraps by the renowned brands provide the most comfort and are far less likely to lose colour and durability from regular hand or machine washing.
The only rule-abiding garment in Muay Thai is the iconic Muay Thai short. Muay Thai shorts are unique in their design, construction materials and considering the fact they are, strictly speaking, used in no other sport. Given the history of Muay Thai, there are many historic brands well renowned for their variety of Muay Thai shorts, which come in all shapes, sizes, colours and fabrics. They can be anything from short shorts with flamboyant designs to simple with bold colour designs, and everything in between.
If you're committed to Muay Thai, and not just striking or kickboxing, get yourself one of more pairs of Muay Thai shorts. Not only will a good quality pair of comfortable Muay Thai shorts help you maximise your training but they are a great way of expressing your character and brand/gym loyalty. If you train 3 or 4 times a week, get numerous pairs so you can cycle through them and clean them at all once.
Cleaning Muay Thai shorts is easy. You can hand or machine wash them but you should do so in cold water with a little detergent which won't harm the delicate fabrics.
The price range on shorts is wide - £15 to £65 – with plenty of choice at all points of the scale. That said, if you buy a premium pair of shorts and look after them, they should last you years – unless you grow out of them.
This goes without saying really. Due to the high amount of drill-work and sparring, it's crucial you have an effective gumshield that's well fitted. SafeJawz and Shock Doctor produce high quality gumshields which are easily moulded using the boil-and-bite method.
However, if you're keen on maximum protection, get a custom made gumshield made by your dentist. They typically cost at least £100, however, they provide the ultimate protection and comfort and can be made in wide-range of designs and colours.
Considering the amount of gear you'll take to training, it makes sense to get a dedicated gym bag that's large enough to store everything and comfortable enough to wear on your journey to and from the gym. Keep it separate from any other bag you use as the dirt & sweat you accumulate on your gear and apparel will make their way into your gym bag.
There's plenty to choose from and you don't need one made by a Muay Thai brand to ensure sufficient space and storage. A good gym bag can range from £20 - £100 and should last you a while.
Skipping rope is one of the most cardio intensive exercises and a fantastic way to warm up your entire body. The benefits of the exercise on it's own are well documented, so there's no doubt as to why Muay Thai athletes and Boxers often use skipping rope to warm up and build cardio. As such, it's important to have your own.
While some gyms provide skipping ropes, length and weight can impact how effectively you'll skip. Therefore, get your own (considering whether you want it heavy to build your arms or light for speed) and fix the length so you can comfortably skip for extended periods. Prices for a light, speed rope can be anything from £2-£5 while the heavy skipping ropes usually cost £15-£25.
Useful add ons
Here are some more items which are worth having in your gym bag as reserve items or for use before and after training. While not essential, having them tucked away in a pocket of your gym bag will ensure you can quickly use them to maximise training when needed, mitigate the risk of injury and even treat an injury should one occur.
Anklets or ankle guards aren't particularly popular in your average gym, especially outside of Thailand. However, they are a useful bit of equipment to have in your gym bag should the need to use them arise.
They're designed to retain heat around the ankles as to aid motion and mitigate the risk of injury, while also helping recovery from injuries. Furthermore, they absorb sweat that drips down your body so it doesn't drench the floor beneath you. Although, there's conflicting opinions as to the usefulness of ankle guards for either of those purposes. Nonetheless, if you have trouble with your ankles or get an ankle injury, they're worth using.
Many brands make ankle guards and there are many similarities in designs and materials used by them all. For ankle guards made by the premium brands – Twins Special, Fairtex, Windy etc. - prices range from £12-£25 a pair and will last as long as they're treated well and cleaned properly.
These are arguably a must have, however, using elbows in sparring isn't too common unless a partner is preparing for a fight. It's popular to simply show the elbow when sparring so you and your partner are mindful and adapt accordingly. As such, elbow guards are in the nice-to-have section.
Elbow guards are slip-on and feature a round, thick bit of padding over the elbow. These help training partners hit one another with elbows, without the risk of opening cuts. There aren't many options for elbow guards and their price range is typically £15-£30.
While they may not get used too frequently, it's certainly worth having a pair in your bag for relevant drill-work and sparring so you can maximise your efforts and test your techniques.
Tiger Balm & Liniment
The pungent scent of Tiger Balm and liniment is loved by many a committed Muay Thai practitioner and many swear by the stuff. - so much so many would make it a must have.
That said, it's not essential to train but certainly does contribute to effectively warming up, loosening muscles and recovery. Both ointments are cheap and, depending on how much you buy, often cost less than £20 for a bottle that'll last you months, if not a year or more.
It's always handy to have either, or both, ointments in your gym bag. Even if you don't use them to warm up, they'll inevitably come in handy when you take a nasty knock or pull a muscle in training.
First Aid Kit
Every gym should have a fully kitted first aid kit on-site which is easily accessible, along with at least 1 first aid trained member of staff on-hand. This is dictated by law, insurance and good practice.
However, that's not to say you shouldn't have you own first aid kit which you can keep in your gym bag. It's good practice to have your own anyway, even more so when you practice a physically intensive, contact driven sport. You can fill it with the various bandages, ointments and medicines you use most regularly and which are best suited to treating the common types of injury that arise from Muay Thai training. Fortunately, most first aid kits already come equipped with such goods. Prices range depending on the size and number of items within. That said, you can get a small, useful kit for as little as £10.