Buying Hand Protection

 

Let’s talk about gear that you might not automatically associate with Kali: boxing gloves.

Pangamot (empty-hand striking) is a key aspect of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali and required to rank up. We’ll occasionally mix in boxing drills along with our core knife and stick techniques. We’ll be punching focus mitts and elbowing Thai pads. Therefore, I recommend every student have some type of hand protection. The following is a look at the four main types:

 

BOXING GLOVES


Boxing gloves come in several sizes and weights. These are the best for overall hand protection. The cons are that they’re usually the most expensive and don’t simulate empty-hand striking distances because of the added inches to every punch. Still, they’re a great invest for long-term training, especially if you do or plan to train in other systems (kickboxing, Krav Maga, etc.).

Pros:

  • Great knuckle, wrist, and finger protection
  • Easy to use (if you get the hook-and-loop straps) and to store
  • Good long-term investment; applicable in many martial arts

Cons:

  • Usually more expensive ($30 to $150)
  • Don’t always simulate realistic punching distances
  • Can’t trap or grab

Recommendations:

If you have the money, I’d suggest investing in boxing gloves because they can be used for all sorts of training for a variety of fighting systems. Here are some that I suggest:

 

MMA GLOVES

As seen in the UFC, mixed martial arts (MMA) gloves offer maximum knuckle protection with minimal amount of bulk. They do come in a variety of sizes, weights, and quality, but all of them are fingerless and come with integrated hook-and-loop wrist wraps.

Pros:

  • Good knuckle protection
  • Fingerless design lets you trap/grab
  • Easy to use, take off, and store

Cons:

  • A bit more pricey than the above options ($30 to $100)
  • Incorrect usage can cause finger sprains due to fingerless design

Recommendations: 

These can be quite pricey just like boxing gloves, so you want to make sure they not only fit you but are right for you and your preferences. If you’re going to buy online, look for sites that’ll let you return or exchange. Here are some to consider:

 

 

GEL HAND WRAPS


Relatively new to the world of striking, this type of hand protection combines hand wraps, bag gloves, and gel padding. These fingerless slip-on gloves give you the knuckle protection and wrist support of wraps but the convenience of bag gloves. Some varieties are meant to be worn inside 16-ounce boxing gloves as a substitute for traditional fabric hand wraps.

Pros:

  • Easy to use, take off, and store (unlike fabric hand wraps)
  • Usually affordable ($20 to $70)
  • Fingerless design lets you trap/grab

Cons:

  • Limited knuckle protection
  • Incorrect usage can cause finger sprains
  • Questionable long-term durability

Recommendations:

I’ve never personally used gel hand wraps (only the traditional fabric hand wraps), so I can’t personally endorse them, but I have heard good things about them from students and friends. If you’re leaning toward this form of hand protection, research the following selections (listed here based on strong reviews):

 

TRADITIONAL BAG GLOVES

This type of hand protection is usually a slip-on glove with a thin layer of padding for the knuckles (about 1 inch of foam) and a plastic bar to wrap your fingers around to form a consistent fist. Premium versions are made of leather and have a hook-and-loop wrist wrap to support the wrist during punching.

Pros:

  • Usually affordable ($15 to $70)
  • Decent knuckle protection
  • Slim to simulate realistic distance when punching
  • Easy to pack

Cons:

  • Without wraps, no wrist support
  • Limited knuckle padding
  • Least versatile for overall martial arts training

Recommendations: 

These can be purchased at most sporting goods stores like Big 5, and sometimes even at discount shops like TJ Maxx or Ross Dress for Less. However, the quality can vary quite a bit. Consider the following:

 

Buying Training Sticks

 

There are four factors to consider when buying training sticks for Kali:

 

STICK TYPE

In Filipino martial arts, including our Pekiti-Tirsia Kali (PTK) system, rattan sticks are used for training. Rattan is similar to bamboo but its stems are solid. This lets them withstand plenty of abuse without transferring kinetic energy to your hands like harder woods might if you continually pound on them. (In the future, we’ll get padded plastic ones for sparring.)

 

STICK SIZES

While variations are inevitable and personal preference should be of the utmost importance, generally speaking sticks should have the following dimensions:

  • 1-inch diameter
    26-inch to 28-inch length
  • Unless you’re already familiar with a specific brand, it’s always best to get hands-on with a pair of sticks before putting money down.

 

PEELED OR UNPEELED

Unpeeled rattan sticks usually last longer. Peeled means their skins have been removed and they’ve been decorated for aesthetics. As always with PTK, we always go for function over form, so unpeeled is suggested. Though, keep in mind, with time and/or intense training, both varieties of sticks will eventually start to wear down. (All the more reason to get the tougher unpeeled versions at the outset.)

 

WHERE TO BUY

Online: Amazon and eBay can be hit and miss, so I suggest Century Martial Arts. They have a variety of options and the price is decent for a large franchise.

In Person: I usually suggest going to a brick-and-mortar martial arts store if there’s one in your neighborhood (they’re going extinct, unfortunately). Nothing beats being able to hold the stick in your hand before purchasing it.

Specialty Supply Stores: Go to your local cane/wicker supply store. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard good things about Frank’s Cane and Rush Supply in Huntington Beach, California. Its prices seem to be about 40% cheaper than most martial arts stores.

 

Buying a Training Knife

 

We sometimes practice reality-based drills at speed involving knife draws from our pockets. So it goes without saying that having the right training knives will be vital. For new students or those who have yet to purchase gear, here’s a quick primer on how to select the right training knife for you.

 

Folding Knife Replica

The best training knives I’ve used replicate real “folders” in look, feel, weight, and operation — but have blunt blades and rounded tips. Since you will fight the way you practice, you should practice the way you fight. This folding knife replica will help you do just that.

Pros:

  • Represents the most commonly carried type of knife.
  • As realistic as you can get.
  • You’ll feel the “cut” without getting maimed.
  • They’ll take a beating and last forever with proper care.
  • You can safely practice realistic draws under stress.

Cons:

  • More expensive than other types of trainers
  • Don’t simulate longer blades, such as kitchen knives or Bowies

Where to Buy:

Generally, I recommend going to a brick-and-mortar store to find the right trainer that fits your needs and preferences. But there are plenty of online options. Click on my top 3 recommendations for folding knife replicas below:

 

Aluminum Fixed Blade

The second-best training knives I’ve used are made of aluminum and resemble fixed blades. They also have blunt edges and rounded tips for safety.

Pros:

  • You’ll feel the “cut” without getting maimed.
  • Aluminum construction lasts longer than wood, plastic, or rubber.
  • Resemble fixed-blade knives in shape and length, adding a bit of a psychological edge to your training.
  • Usually cheaper than the more expensive folding knife replicas.

Cons:

  • Don’t fold like most knives found on the street.
  • Lighter than real knives, meaning a less realistic feel.
  • Requires an extra sheath when practicing drawing techniques
  • Can get scratched up or dinged, which could potentially scrape your skin.

Where to Buy:

There are plenty of options available in stores and websites. Here are a few:

 

Rubber Knives

Training knives made of rubber (or more likely one of its thermoplastic duplicates) are the cheapest option and will do if you have no other tools … but they also have the most disadvantages.

Pros:

  • Usually the most affordable option

Cons:

  • Don’t fold like most knives found on the street.
  • Far lighter than real knives, meaning a less realistic feel.
  • Bend easily, resulting in damage or complete breakage of the knife
  • Offer no physical or psychological threat and prevent realistic responses.
  • Usually don’t have compatible sheaths, so you can’t practice realistic draws.

Where to Buy:

I discourage students from buying rubber trainers. But if you’re low on funds and saving up money for class tuition instead, then consider these more rigid and realistic models from Cold Steel:

 

Wooden Fixed Blade

A staple of edged-weapons training for millennia, the wooden knife has proven to be a safe training tool. But how realistic is it?

Pros:

  • You’ll feel the “cut” without getting maimed.
  • They resemble fixed-blade knives in shape and length.
  • With care, holds up better than synthetic-rubber knives

Cons:

  • Don’t fold like most knives found on the street.
  • Lighter than real knives, meaning a less realistic feel.
  • Aren’t made with compatible sheaths, resulting in unrealistic drawing techniques.

Where to Buy:

I generally dissuade my students from buying wooden swords. However, if budget constraints leave this type as your only option, consider researching eBay, Amazon, Century Martial Arts, and other online sites. Also, I’d recommend going to a brick-and-mortar store to handle one in person.