Ultimate Martial Arts Glove Guide

Ultimate Martial Arts Glove GuideEvery martial art has the unique protective equipment. Gloves are the most commonly required gear. Without these crucial tools, students can and will develop painful stress injuries early on in their training. The chances for serious injuries dramatically increase without the right gloves, and students need to make sure they have the correct gloves for the task at hand before they set foot in a classroom. This martial arts glove guide will help you figure out what kind of glove you need before you join a school or gym. We’ll share tips to help you find quality gloves, learn the purpose of different gloves, and even give you discipline-specific suggestions.

Types of Gloves

While the actual size and weight of your gloves will depend on a great deal on your personal weight, different gloves are designed for specific purposes. Bag gloves are specifically designed to protect your hands against the stresses of heavy bag work. Repeatedly hitting a bag is very different from sparring against another student, and it’s easy to do serious damage to your knuckles and wrists during training. Bag gloves are the best way to protect yourself during solo training.

Sparring gloves protect not only you, but your opponent as well. This usually means extra padding along the striking areas of the gloves. This makes sparring gloves heavier than bag gloves. Again, your weight will determine the appropriate weight of the gloves, but sparring gloves should be about two or three pounds heavier than your bag gloves.

Casual students can save money with multipurpose gloves. These tend to between the weight of the bag and sparring gloves, since they’re meant to perform both functions. Obviously, these gloves are not as effective at either purpose as gloves designed to serve a single function. However, they are more cost effective than buying two separate pairs of gloves. A single, well-constructed pair of gloves is also better than two substandard sets, which will not protect your hands or your opponent.

In a few cases, students may need grappling gloves. Rather than the mitten-like gloves that protect hands with a solid dome of padding, grappling gloves have a space for individual fingers, and actually leave the majority of the fingers bare. Padding over the knuckles and back of the hand protects the user and opponent. These are not suited for heavy bag work and only appear in a handful of martial arts styles.

How to Recognize Quality Gloves

Quality gloves require multiple layers of padding, strong materials, and sturdy construction. While multiple layers of the same padding work perfectly well, varied materials might protect you and your opponent better. The most expensive gloves use leather. Leather stands up to a lot of abuse, but today many artificial leather substitutes are just as effective. Just as not all leather is the same quality, not all artificial replacements meet the same standards. The best way to judge the strength of gloves’ material and construction is to carefully review previous buyer feedback.

All gloves, regardless of their size of type (grappling gloves excepted), need to leave enough room inside for hand wraps. Your knuckles are extremely delicate joints. It’s easy to fracture bones or develop serious stress injuries, even with gloves. Hand wraps work differently than gloves, and they provide a critical, secondary level of protection.


Unlike many other major disciplines, karate rarely demands heavy bag training. While instructors may hold small bags and pads to help students develop their striking technique. These bags, however, don’t create the same stresses that heavy bags do. Karate students usually only need a single pair of gloves, and they can use them for both bag work and sparring.

Karate gloves are usually made of thick, contoured foam. They rarely feature leather, but the quality of the covering varies greatly between brands and products. This makes it especially important to check feedback from other users.

Whistlekick Karate Sparring Gloves Product Review


Unlike many other brands, these gloves come with finger grips to keep the gloves fixed to your hands. This ensures the padding goes where it needs to be. This grip is made of soft plastic without sharp edges. A double-reinforced palm seam and enhanced reinforcement around common tear points add to the gloves’ durability and longevity. The gloves are also designed with better airflow than most karate gloves, which helps minimize slippery pools of sweat. Gloves come in sizes appropriate for men, women, and children.

Whistlekick Karate Sparring GlovesClick here to see reviews and prices for the Whistlekick Karate Sparring Gloves on Amazon.com

Customer Sentiment

Not only are these gloves popular with beginners, but previous buyers with years of karate experience praised these gloves’ comfort and durability. Even students who regularly attend tournaments praised this gear. On average, the gloves last for years, whereas many other brands only last a few months. According to buyers who’ve had dealings with the company, the customer service is excellent.


  • Very durable
  • Finger grips built in
  • Ventilated
  • Testimony from long-term students and competitors
  • Good customer service


  • One or two cases of mis-sized products


Boxing gloves are probably the most iconic martial arts gear ever used. They have a distinct shape and feature heavy padding. Most also include grip bars. These help users make a fist and give students the feel of wielding rather than just wearing a glove. However, not all boxers like this feature, and it’s possible to have the bar removed, or to find a product without the grip bar. Boxing is one of the main martial art forms to use both bag and sparring gloves.

The best boxing gloves typically use leather. It’s important to look at the stitching and check for frayed edges. The lining of these gloves is also important. Moisture wicking technology is best, but there are many different materials that can keep your hands dry inside the gloves.

Venum Contender Boxing Gloves Product Review


These gloves come in a variety of sizes and colors to fit as many boxers as possible. They’re available in weights between 8 and 16 oz. Multiple layers of varied-density foam protect your hands from impact. Although these gloves do not use genuine leather, they do feature a high-density alternative specifically designed to resist tears. The wide Velcro strap at the base is easy to secure and helps keep the gloves in place while also offering some wrist support.

Venum Contender Boxing GlovesClick here to see reviews and prices for the Venum Contender Boxing Gloves on Amazon.com

Customer Sentiment

Due to their weight range, most previous buyers chose these as bag gloves. Customers found that the wrist support and shape of the gloves helped ensure correct boxing technique, which further protected their hands. The most common complaint involved sizing issues, and a few previous buyers clearly did not understand that the gloves were not made from actual leather. Buyers who understood what they were buying seemed very pleased with their purchase. The artificial leather proved to be a cut above the rest and demonstrated great durability in action. The gloves were also slow to develop a smell thanks to the gloves’ lining.


  • Support good technique
  • Wrist support
  • Multiple density foam construction
  • Slow to develop bad odor
  • Strong artificial leather


  • Not made of genuine leather
  • Some sizing issues

Muay Thai and Kickboxing

These gloves are most similar to boxing gloves. There are several important differences, though. First and foremost is the shape. Muay Thai and kickboxing gloves tend to have an elongated shape that covers about half of the forearm. These martial arts use somewhat different strikes from boxing, and it’s important to wear gloves tailored to protect against these unique stresses. Both of these disciplines use bag and sparring gloves.

Like boxing gloves, the most expensive Muay Thai and kickboxing gloves use leather. Plenty of high-quality artificial materials are available, however, and previous user responses are key to making an educated purchase. Often, gloves with artificial leather will have the exact same construction as more expensive products. However, since even high-quality artificial materials are cheaper than leather, they come at a reduced price. The best Muay Thai gloves usually come from Thailand. Although many other brands make for strong competition, Muay Thai masters know what gloves do and do not suit the sport better than anyone else. These local manufacturers often cater to the Muay Thai camps and schools in Thailand, where competitive champions train new students. It’s always best to go to the source of a martial art for equipment.

Top King Gloves Product Review


Available in multiple colors and made of sturdy leather, these gloves come straight from Thailand, the home of Muay Thai. Multi-layered, contoured foam protects students from shock damage, and extra padding over the wrist prevents disabling accidents. Although the range of sizes makes them suitable for multiple purposes, they work best as sparring gloves and are designed for combat in the ring.

Top King GlovesClick here to see reviews and prices for the Top King Gloves on Amazon.com

Customer Sentiment

Previous buyers who enjoy these gloves are quick to warn new users that these are traditional gloves that go about halfway up the forearm. Since this poses the arm for a strike, most Muay Thai enthusiasts enjoy the shape. People with large hands may struggle to fit hand wraps inside, however. On the other hand, previous buyers who’ve used the gloves for a number of months say the gloves loosen a bit with time, and their wraps fit once they broke in the new gear.


  • Leather
  • Multi-layered foam
  • Great striking gloves
  • Made in Thailand
  • Pose arm for strike
  • Extra wrist support and protection


  • May be too tight at first for hand wraps


MMA gloves are very different from those listed above. Unlike the other disciplines we’ve discussed, MMA uses a wide variety of gloves. Competitors may use full sparring gloves in the ring, or bag gloves for training, but a common sight in MMA gyms are grappling gloves. Since these gloves allow users to grip and tumble without losing all protection, they’re very popular.

MMA, of course, stands for Mixed Martial Arts. It makes sense that students would need a variety of gloves to train in the different disciplines that combine to make this form. For example, MMA fighters may also use boxing or Muay Thai gloves during heavy bag training. Since students in the ring need to know how to throw and tumble with opponents in judo-style attacks as well as punch and block like a boxer, their gloves face a mixed bag of demands.

RDX Maya Hide Leather Grappling MMA Gloves Product Review


Although it isn’t real leather, RDX’s Maya Hide is a highly durable alternative that’s as stubborn as the fighters who wear it. These gloves feature contoured, multi-layer padding over the knuckles and the top of the hand prevent impact injuries. The wide Velcro closure allows a secure fit and great wrist support. The design allows for excellent moisture control in addition to a thumb sheath for added protection.

RDX Maya Hide Leather Grappling MMA GlovesClick here to see reviews and prices for the RDX Maya Hide Leather Grappling MMA Gloves on Amazon.com

Customer Sentiment

Previous buyers attest that the gloves are flexible enough to allow a good range of motion, but have enough padding to protect knuckles and opponents alike. Several mention how great the wrist support turned out, and most agree the gloves run true to size. As one previous buyer notes, these gloves are not appropriate for work with a heavy bag.


  • Good knuckle protection
  • Extra protection and support for the wrist
  • Great moisture control
  • Thumb sheath
  • Sturdy Maya Hide


  • Artificial leather

Final Thoughts

Gloves are mandatory training tools. Finding the right pair to suit your discipline and training involves far more than just grabbing a set at random. While a karate student doesn’t need gloves thick enough to protect them from heavy bag training, their unique foam gear is the best option for sparring. MMA gloves allow grappling and striking in the ring, a trick no other glove on our list can claim. The weight of boxing and Muay Thai gloves determines whether they’re best suited to the ring or heavy bag work.

These gloves aren’t interchangeable, and finding a quality product that fulfills your specific demands is a challenge. However, even if none of the gloves above caught your fancy, hopefully the tips and descriptions for each discipline will help you find your perfect match. For more ideas, check out our other articles and guides with detailed information about discipline-specific gear.

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