This post is all about the stuff that will keep your injuries to a minimum. I’ve seen and talked with people who show up to class without owning/wearing some key equipment and see their reactions when they are injured in class. Baffled, moaning in pain, and — at that moment — utterly convinced that they need to make an investment in some more gear.
I am pretty sure there would be a fair amount of debate over what gear is essential vs. optional so I’m not going to go there. This post is about what I use and some of my rationale as to why it matters to me.
If you are a female reading this post you can safely proceed to the next item in the list (unless you have a male partner in training who hasn’t yet “seen the light” on this piece of equipment — believe me they will once they get clocked in the nuts once).
This, to me, is the most critical of all protective equipment for guys. I was stupid enough to show up to my first several classes without owning or wearing one, ignorantly believing that it was something you needed to invest in only when you started sparring. Dumb. Fortunately for me, I never got beaned in that area so I was one of the lucky ones. I did, however, become aware of this mistake when an instructor told us about the importance of one in class. I found the time to order one online the moment I got home. The HELL was I thinking?
Anyhow, as I found out, there are many brands to choose from but startlingly they haven’t changed shape since I wore one as a kid playing football. Same awkward pyramid shape which gives you the least amount of room where you need it most. Leave it at that, ladies. I went ahead and ordered the most highly-rated one anyhow (the Shock Doctor Men’s Ultra Supporter with Ultra Carbon Flex Cup) and wore it to my next few classes. It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be the most comfortable form of protection I was going to own. I immediately went searching and eventually found a standout cup that had rethought the whole notion of a cup, the Nutty Buddy.
My Nutty Buddy made a huge, huge difference and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a cup. Super comfortable and its design allows for you to slip in or remove the cup while you’re wearing the jock strap, making the drive to and from class even more comfortable. You should know that the customer service was non-existent and the order status on the site was completely broken but I got mine in a week in perfect condition and have been liking it a lot since.
Note: you don’t have to buy the compression shorts from Nutty Buddy. There is nothing unique about theirs and I think you can find cheaper ones elsewhere that are actually machine washable. Champion is a good brand to seek out for these.
Ankle Supporter Wraps
I was finding that my ankles were turning during sharp turns and could use some more support during some of our bouncing around. I got my hands on some Muay Thai ankle support wraps (more like heavy elastic socks with the heels cut out really) and have felt a lot more confident in class as a result. I have big ankles and calves and these tend to really hug me tight but so far my feet haven’t turned purple and the benefit outweighs the slight discomfort so I’m sticking with them.
Clearly not needed for most people but I have had a history of knee problems starting about 20 some-odd years ago when I dislocated my right knee and subsequently tore my MCL. I was having a heck of a time with knee pain after class and a trip to my doctor (and an X-Ray later) I found out I have arthritis in the knee. Anyhow, a good OTC patella knee brace from McDavid (the 421R, Protection Level II for me) really did the trick. Yes, I can still tweak my knee but this little neoprene wrap does wonders to supply a little stability and keep me aware that danger lurks beneath if I’m not very careful.
This is somewhat of a “luxury item” and some folks in class wouldn’t bother with them as it detracts from the tough image they are trying so hard to cultivate in class. Nevertheless, I found that during partner routines when bag holding was needed, these gloves have saved unnecessary injuries to the ol’ hands and made it easier to keep control when I am disgustingly sweaty, which for me is pretty much all the friggin’ time.
I actually prefer weight-lifting gloves over the MMA ones since most (if not all) MMA gloves have the flesh of your palm exposed. Some nice, lightweight weightlifting gloves have full coverage and, unlike the MMA ones, the palms are actually lightly padded, making holding a bag like a tombstone a cinch — no chafing of the hand or slippage due to sweat.
A spray bottle? Yeah, just a regular old spray bottle filled with water and maybe an ice cube or two if you’re into that. Works wonders during those super-quick hydration breaks in class. Just close your eyes and spray your overheated noggin liberally. You’d be surprised what a refreshing break this can make. And, hey, in the Summer the dojo can be insanely hot and humid; I need all the help I can get!
Good Gym Bag
I think it’s essential to have a really good gym bag with loads of compartments. This keeps all your stuff in an easy-to-find location and allows you to get to it quickly. You should find one with pockets for your keys, wallet, gloves, water bottle…. that kind of thing. Also, if you can find one with ventilated compartments for wet towels and shirts — even better. I see so many people show up without gym bags, juggling their stuff as they come and go to class. Just seems like a real unnecessary hassle to me when a decent gym bag is between $50 and $100.
IMPORTANT: Err on the side of getting a bag too large rather than too small. You’ll be hauling a lot of equipment to and from class like boxing gloves, chest protectors, shoes, towels, etc. You want to make sure you don’t need to cram things into the bag because you went too small.
I have heard stories from friends and parents of students of ringworm. Gross. Despite the name this is actually a super nasty fungus called Dermatophytosis that you can pick up, often in the feet, from a sweaty gym surface — like a mat or shower floor. It’s pretty easily cured but a really uncomfortable condition to have. Even the cleanest of dojos/gyms can have this danger so I protect myself as much as I can by wearing sandals in the common areas. I have to take them off, of course, when I enter the training area but when I show up and am walking around prior to and after class I always slip on sandals to keep as safe and protected as I can.
I handle mine carefully when I remove them since it’s safer to assume that there are germs on the sandals. I wipe them down occasionally with Lysol wipes or spray them with Lysol spray.
If you are serious about training you will sweat — and sweat a LOT. I find it’s helpful to have a towel or two handy for a couple of reasons. One, to clear the sweat from my eyes (stings like a bastard) and two, to mop up the mat where I have been creating a pond of sweat. Not only courteous but also safe (see Sandals above). To perhaps state the obvious here, these are two completely separate towels!
One thing you can be sure of in Krav Maga and that is that you will be handling other people’s sweaty bodies during the course of any class. Whether it’s a clinch, a throw, or choke maneuver, you will be getting their sweat and germs all over you, particularly your hands. Once class is over you most likely put your shoes back on then head back to your car. Germs find their way onto your keys, steering wheel, and everything else. Not to sound like I have OCD or anything but this is how germs spread. Better safe than sorry (and decrease the gross factor), you can zap these germs with some hand sanitizer, Wet Ones, or even a trip to the rest room for a quick wash before leaving the dojo for the night. I actually think dojos should have those dispensers hanging on the walls but hey, maybe that’s just me…
That’s about it. I am not a fan of over-equipping myself but I’ve learned that this stuff makes all the difference between a painful workout and a comfortable and SAFE workout. My advice is: don’t skimp on this stuff. Overall, this is an inexpensive sport as far as equipment goes and you might as well make the investments to keep safe. I am not yet into sparring though when I am you can bet I’ll be buying a good quality mouth guard. For now I am on the fence about that as it really isn’t warranted quite yet.
Last note: keep this stuff CLEAN. Don’t cheat and wear equipment for weeks if it should be washed (i.e., jock straps, braces, wraps, etc.). You won’t be doing anyone any favors if you are wearing these Petri dishes to class and getting germs all over you and the dojo (again, see the note about ringworm in Sandals).