By Rochelle E. Brenner
Remember that video of Kobe Bryant showing up to practice an hour early and running sprints until he was exhausted? In flip-flops? Oh you don’t? That’s because it doesn’t exist.
That’s because Kobe Bryant is a famous prototype of a championship mindset. He was at practice early and stayed late. Could he run sprints in flip-flops? Probably. Fast, I’m sure. But I’m also sure he wouldn’t do that because he owned sneakers that are the correct equipment for his sport and he was prepared.
What is the point? The point is: if you aren’t wearing gloves in your martial arts training, you look more like a chump than a champion.
You aren’t proving your toughness or getting stronger. Gloves are a crucial piece of martial arts equipment for both technique and safety.
1- About a quarter of our body’s bones are in our hands. They are tiny and fragile. Gloves protect against fractures, sprains, strains, cuts and scrapes.
2- The padding even trains you to punch harder because it takes more strength to feel the punch through the cushioning.
4- Gloves help keep our hands and wrists in the correct position.
5- When people don’t wear gloves, they tend to pull their punches, instead of fully committing to the strike. This leads to weaker punches.
6- The purpose of the padding on gloves and targets is to absorb the power so that the athlete can strike hard without getting hurt. It’s what the equipment is designed to do.
7- Do gloves prevent all injuries? No. Punching harder than your body is used to, or using incorrect form, increases the risk of injury. Don’t have a false sense of confidence that gloves will prevent all risk of injury.
8- A lot of people think gloves don’t help because they are more sore in gloves. That’s because they’re punching harder. It takes time to build up the ability to punch hard repeatedly, just like people have to slowly increase the amount of weight they lift regardless of using safety equipment.
9- Gloves protect your knuckles and reduce the risk of bruises. Gloves support the wrist and hand to reduce strain on joints.
10- Gloves improve stability, accuracy, consistency and technique. But if your technique is off, gloves won’t fix it. Just like running shoes.
Finally, there are some legitimate, reasonable exceptions.
1- If you are 3 or 4 years old, or you have low muscle tone, you probably won’t be able to punch hard enough to hurt your hand.
2- If you aren’t punching targets, you will be fine without gloves punching the air. However, the only way to demonstrate and increase power is to hit something.
3- If you are such a serious fighter that you want to build up scar tissue around broken bones so you can’t feel the pain. All the respect in the world to people on that path, but Action Karate is not the martial arts school for you. We don’t train that way or for that purpose. Our goal is strength, skill, self-improvement and self-defense, not permanent, deforming injury.
4- If you are teaching martial arts and not actually punching the target. The same way Bill Belichick doesn’t need a helmet to coach football.
5- You are old school and are already so injured and weakened by age and injury you don’t care about further injury. In this case, you aren’t being a great role model and you are coming off as defending not wearing a seat belt.
6- You’re practicing a style or drill in martial arts that doesn’t involve directly punching a target – blocks, kicks, self-defense, etc.
Professionals or serious competitors will wrap their hands in addition to gloves. That’s another level of protection required for expert-level strikers.
The use of gloves was not always common practice. In the early days of boxing, which can be traced back to ancient Greece, fighters would often use bare fists or wrap their hands with cloth or leather strips. Injuries were brutal, and gloves were incorporated to make the sport safer.
One of the worst boxing injuries I saw in the ring is when my opponent broke her hand on my face. I wasn’t hurt nor did my face intentionally cause it, but her hand wrap wasn’t quite right. I also once interviewed Panama Lewis, the boxing coach who infamously got a lifetime ban from boxing for rigged hand wraps that ultimately resulted in the opponent’s traumatic injury.
Every time I see someone punch without gloves, I cringe. Every time. Embrace the champion mindset instead of cheating yourself out of becoming a better martial artist.