Boxing Mitts, Thai Pads, and other strike training tools form the cornerstone of partner training. In the hands of a skilled coach, these devices help a fighter hone their technique.
The type of strike training tool you choose will depend a lot on your experience level, your sport, and your training goals. A curved punch mitt is critical for a training boxer, but may not be as useful to a Muay Thai fighter. A kick shield can help train a variety of attacks, but doesn’t offer the accuracy training of a focus mitt.
We’ll break down the different striking targets and which one is best for your needs.
Partner training occupies a place between bagwork and full speed sparring. You can hit the bag when you’re by yourself, and it reacts in a consistent, repeatable way. Sparring requires, at the least, a partner (having a coach there would be good too), and it’s never going to go the same way twice.
Like sparring, working with boxing mitts, thai pads, or shields, still requires a second person, but it’s far less intense than a full-speed sparring session. Like bag work, the routines can be repetitive, but the action/reaction simulates an opponent far better than any standalone bag. This is where you being to perfect technique, improve speed and accuracy, develop timing, and start working on combos.
In order to achieve success in this type of training, you must select the right tool for your needs.
Boxing Mitts or Punch Mitts
For training your fists alone, boxing mitts represent the best option available. These devices are, in essence, a small cushioned pad attached to a glove on the back. Your partner wears one (or one on each hand). He or she places these targets in various locations in the space between you to set you up for certain punches or targets. You punch them based on the punch, cadence, or combination your partner calls out to you. In between punches, your partner may also swing back at you forcing you to slip, dodge, or move.
Today’s boxing mitts usually have a curved surface to provide greater utility. Typically, a curved pad helps a coach “catch” the punch as it comes in, making sure that doesn’t land in the center of the target won’t injure the fighter or the trainer. That being said, there are still plenty of boxing mitts that have a flat surface. These are usually better suited to building speed as they accommodate full-power punches less well than the curved type.
Choose a boxing mitt if you want to focus on improving your punching technique. Specifically designed to handle incoming punches, they do a poor job of handling kicks, knees, and other types of strikes.
Focus mitts are really a subset of boxing mitts. Very little changes in the basic design. Focus mitts primarily differ from boxing mitts in their size, being much smaller than standard punch mitts. The smaller target area of the Focus Mitt forces the fighter to train the accuracy and precision of his or her punches. These products also tend to have flat strike surfaces, though some manufacturers do offer curved versions.
Choose Focus Mitts if your want to improve your punch accuracy. This type accuracy training typically provides the most value for fighters who throw faster, lighter-weight punches. In those cases, it is imperative that the punches land EXACTLY where the fighter intends. Heavyweights can afford to be a little less precise, though they can benefit from increased speed and precision.
Coachspar mitts are the last of the options made to meet the exclusive needs of boxers. This style looks like a standard boxing sparring glove at first glance. But the finger compartment doesn’t curve over as much as a standard glove, and the palms of the gloves include a strike pad.
This tool provides a coach with far more options when training a fighter. When wearing these, the coach can switch between light sparring, throwing punches at the fighter, and holding up the hand for target training.
This hybrid glove style is really good for more advanced fighters. This type of boxing mitt allows a fighter and trainer to flow back and forth between light sparring and pad training. Coaches who want to incorporate more realistic counters into their mitt training may also want to pick up this style.
With Thai Pads, we move into a category of partner training tool that is suited for more than just punches. As the name implies, these devices originated in the world of Muay Thai boxing. Since then, they have become indispensable in the world of mixed martial arts, kickboxing, and a variety of other sports.
The Thai Pad incorporates a thick, shock-absorbing pad encased in leather. The pad is about as long as your forearm and about three times as wide. It has a handgrip at the top and one to two straps (depending on size) lower down to firmly attach the pad to the trainer’s arm. This allows the trainer to hold the pad (or two) at a variety of angles and heights to train many different strikes, from low kicks and knees to uppercuts and high roundhouses.
Because of their smaller size, Thai Pads are suited for more advanced fighters who want to focus on improving the accuracy of strikes. If you plan to use these to handle a lot of kick training, choose an option built with a curved strike surface. These will “catch” the kick a little better. If these will primarily be used for punches, then a flat surface will do.
Kick Shields are like the thai pads’ older sibling. They are larger than thai pads, offering a contact area that is three to four times as large. Often thicker than thai pads, shields are designed to take the impact of full-force kicks or the strikes of less experienced fighters.
Because of the larger number of grip points, these pads can also be used to train strikes, like front kicks, that thai pads aren’t as well suited to receive.
Ideally, a trainer sets up a kick shield to receive and train for one type of strike, like a roundhouse to the ribs, before moving on to the next training sequence. Choose this type of pad if your fighter is just getting started and you want to focus on developing specific strikes, or if you want to work on training power kicks and punches.
Strike Sticks & Target Paddles
These devices offer the smallest target area of all of the options shown. The strike sticks are simply round sticks 18 to 24 inches long, and two to three inches thick. Target paddle place a target about the size of a focus mitt or smaller at the end of a stick 12 to 20 inches long.
Because of their design, strike sticks aid fighters in speed and accuracy training. A coach can quickly whip these into numerous arrangements and locations, forcing the fighter to hit quickly and precisely. The increased reach and lightweight design also allow coaches a greater variety of counter moves and “teaching taps” during training sessions.
Choose sticks or paddles if you truly want to challenge a fighter’s strike speed and accuracy, regardless of strike type.
We hope that you now have a better appreciation for most of the partner training tools out there. If you’re ready to pick up your boxing mitts, thai pads, or shields, please check out our product offerings.
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