The fundamental part of any combat sport at any competitive level, whether you're new to the sport or a professional, is training. Every sport has its unique training drills and techniques that develop the required skills for the athlete. These drills usually require special equipment for the enhancement of an athlete’s striking and defensive capability.
For guidance and a better training experience, combat sports usually require the aid of a trainer or a sparring partner. The presence of another person during training keeps athletes motivated and concentrated. When training with a coach or an experienced athlete, your weaknesses can also be exploited by them, allowing you to overcome them.
Focus mitts and thai pads are two of the most widely used equipment for training an athlete's striking ability. Coaches tend to use them to guide their disciples of how to throw every punch, kick, elbow or knee properly and maintain speed and movement as they do so.
Focus mitts and thai pads may seem to have a similar purpose; to improve one's attacks. However, they are completely different from each other in terms of looks and their usage. In this article, we will be discussing these differences and which one is better to use on what occasion.
Focus mitts are padded targets connected to a glove and sometimes used to supplement sparring, with a greater emphasis on the puncher than the feeder, particularly to build good punch combinations and defensive movements like slipping, bobbing, and weaving.
Focus Mitts came to the USA in the 1700s via Muay Thai and Eastern Martial Arts. They were usually slippers worn on hands to absorb the impact of the strikes from the trainee and they became popular in the mid-1960s when Bruce Lee started using them in his training sessions.
The role of the person wearing focus mitts is equally as important as the fighter’s role of striking them. Trainers usually hold the Mitts and call out different combinations which are acknowledged by the fighter who attempts to produce them. It is very crucial for the trainer to feed the mitts to the fighter while he punches so that the energy from the fighter channels through them and prevents injury on both ends.
Advantages of Training with Focus Mitts
When the trainer uses Focus Mitts, he basically aims to be an opponent and provide realistic moves in which the actual fighter plans and plays their move with agility and precision. In result he gets to improve his speed, footwork, balance and most importantly work on his techniques. Some other benefits are as follows:
Real movements: In a real fight the opponent won’t be landing soft punches or shadow box which is why Focus Mitts provide the experience of a real person.
Defensive skills: Defensive skills such as slipping and blocking are very important for the fighter to save stamina and injury during a real time fight. Focus mitts provide real time fighting experience in which the person holding the mitts also attacks the fighter and he has to defend himself.
Light weight: Focus mitts are light-weight and perfect for coaches to change position of the mitts quickly after each punch. This allows a combination of speedy punches to occur, developing swift reflexes for the athletes.
Striking skills: Focus mitts perfects an athlete's punches in many ways which may involve enhanced speed, power and accuracy. It provides the ability to produce powerful blows that may result in knockouts during actual matches. Its training provides the fighters with combinations and improves their timing and angles which are very important to get through the defense of the opponent and lay a vital punch.
Disadvantages of Training with Focus Mitts
Mitts are all around useful to help boxers and mixed martial artists develop agility and power in their strikes. But despite being an excellent piece of equipment for training punch-oriented sports, they do have several disadvantages and therefore can’t be completely relied on as the only tool in your arsenal.
Punches only: The major disadvantage of focus mitts is that they are limited to punches only. They are not suitable for you to practice your kicks, knees and elbows. This is why MMA and Muay Thai practitioners opt for Thai pads instead.
Lack of grip: Some of the focus mitts don’t deliver a firm grip as they lack wrist straps and finger channels.
Vulnerable : Since focus mitts are solely designed for punches, they can’t withstand heavy blows such as from kicks and knees. Such strikes can damage the mitts.
Summary of pros & cons
- Provides a feeling of fighting with a real person
- Developes defensive capabilities by allowing practitioners to slip and block and even perform counter attack
- Light-weight mitts provide faster combinations of strikes and easier for coaches to handle
- Perfect for enhancing the power, speed and accuracy of the strikes
- Only appropriate for punches
- Some mitts unable to provide proper grip
- May tear from taking heavy blows such as from kicks and knees
Methods of Training with Focus Mitts
Focus mitts are worn by the trainers on their hands similar to gloves. This is to catch incoming punches from the practitioner. It's also used by coaches to teach head moments and defensive capabilities. There are multiple drills used by trainers to properly train athletes with focus mitts. These drills mostly revolve around enhancing speed and reflexes which are essential aspects to win any fight.
Striking drills: The most efficient way to train punches is to make your fighter throw different combinations on the mitts while you catch them. Note down their mistakes and give them advice on how to fix these mistakes. This drill teaches the practitioner how to properly throw a series of punches and movement while doing so.
Power and speed drills: In this drill, the fighter is allowed to hit the mitts with all his might and speed. It may seem impressive but it does not develop any skills in terms of combat. However, the athlete gains stamina and is perfect to burn fat.
Defensive drills: While hitting your opponent may seem the goal in combat sports, defending yourself from their attacks is just as important. In defensive drills, the trainer throws punches back at you, expecting you to dodge their attacks through sways. It’s an easy way to practice dodges as the coach does not randomly throw punches at you but instead does it after a fixed combination of punches. It increases your reflexes and agility.
Accuracy drills: A missed strike during a fight is a hazardous mistake as you can easily get countered for it. That’s why training yourself to land every punch is essential. Accuracy drills allow you to hit the mitts while the placement and timing is randomized by the pad holder.
Types of Focus Mitts
Focus mitts come in a variety of forms, each of them having unique qualities. They vary in shapes and sizes which also distinguishes them from each other in terms of usage and advantages. Despite having multiple forms, each type of focus mitt is best suited to withstand punches only.
Long mitts: A large surface area is provided by the long focus mitts, making it easier to hit. The main goal of these mitts is to focus on developing the power of each punch with less to zero chances of missing. Although long mitts are perfect for training power strikes, their large size reduces agility of the holder, rendering it difficult for athletes to train their movement and speed strikes.
Micro Mitts: As the name suggests, micro mitts are the smallest types of mitts which is why they’re lightweight. The attribute of these mitts being lightweight provides trainers with speed and agility. This helps athletes perform multiple combinations, increasing their punch speed and movement. To train for defense, trainers often throw punches in between the combination to enhance the practitioner’s reflexes by ducking them.
Air Mitts: Air mitts are a special type of mitts that provide air ventilation systems. These air vents keep the instructor’s hands cool during training. Air mitts are best suited to train heavy hitting opponents while maintaining agility and precision due to its compact size.
Speed Mitts: For fast paced workout sessions and agility training, speed mitts are used. To allow such training, the speed mitts are made compact. This feature also provides a firm grip for the holder, making movement easier and swifter.
Thai pads are the most essential piece of equipment used in training for Muay Thai. Athletes use defensive and attacking techniques like grappling, punching and kicking. To practice all these combinations, it is important to first train using thai pads. Thai pads consist of a padded target area and includes forearm straps, usually one, two or even three. The importance of the pad holder is as much as the importance of the pads themselves.
The pad holder feeds the fighter with a series of numbers, and one must interpret that information into a combination. Other than that, one must keep a good ground grip because unlike boxing, in Muay Thai the fighters use all their body weight and strength to attack or produce a combination. A good pad holder can train you to be a very good fighter but a bad pad holder will only provide you a target to hit and you won't be able to practice your own techniques and combinations nor will you be able to put all your force in your strikes.
Advantages of Training with Thai Pads
Thai pad is a versatile piece of equipment used by muay thai practitioners and martial artists to train their kicks, elbows, knees and punches. They help the athlete to develop power, accuracy and agility with each strike. There are several benefits of using thai pads when training using your entire body.
Full body workout: As mentioned earlier, Thai pads are best for developing speed and power for each limb. Unlike focus mitts, you can practice your knee and elbow strikes as well as punches and kicks.
Sturdy: Thai pads are made to withstand powerful blows mainly from kicks and therefore are extremely sturdy. There’s little to no risk for them to break or tear apart from training, making it very durable.
Large size: The larger the target is, the more accurate the strikes will be. The large size of the Thai pads makes it difficult for the practitioner to miss. This especially helps in enhancing accuracy of every strike you practice.
Easily controllable: Thai pads have multiple adjustable straps, making it easier to hold and control. This also gives a good grip and provides comfort to the handler.
Disadvantages of Training with Thai Pads
Thai pads are one of the most essential equipment in modern combat sports required by athletes for training their strike with their entire body. Despite their multiple advantages, Thai pads fail to benefit in some instances mainly due to their large size.
Heavy weight: Although it’s easy to hold Thai pads comfortably, their heavy weight can be problematic as the holder can eventually get tired after holding it in place for too long. This is especially the case if the training sessions are long. It also makes it hard to carry it around with you.
Handling: If the pad holder is physically weaker than the athlete, heavy blows to the pads could cause injuries to the trainer and can even knock them down. This is why the pad holder is required to be the same size or physically superior to the striker.
Minimized curve: Thai pads are rigid blocks and some Thai pads have a minimum curve. Less or no curve can damage the wrists of the puncher even with protective gloves on
Summary of pros & cons
- Training to strike with the entire body and each limb
- Are able to withstand powerful blows
- Large surface area develops accuracy of the trainee
- Provides a comfortable grip for the trainer
- Becomes tiring to hold onto it for too long
- Requires a strong trainer who can resist powerful blows
- Some pads provide minimum to no curve which can cause injuries to the striker
Methods of Training with Thai Pads
There are many ways to train with thai pads to increase balance, intensity of the strikes and striking speed. Some of them are stated below.
Limited combos: The fighter should have simple combos. If a fighter executes a combo of 5-6 hits they will definitely exhaust themselves and the final intensity of their strike will be lower as compared to the rest of the strikes.
Balanced power: A fighter must always keep their power in balance with the combo. It is important for the fighter to finish their combos with the same power and force as the first strike of the combo. For example if the fighter strikes with 100% force they should end it at 100% rather than lowering the power levels. This method will help with speed and the damage done to the opponent will be greater.
Utilize core muscles: Always use the core muscles to generate power. It is vital for the athlete to have a strong core, which also builds up gradually. All the force generated should be through the core. This will help in keeping balance and delivering a force full strike.
Types of Thai Pads:
There are different types of Thai Pads which depend on the curvature of the pads, the quality of foaming used and the leather of the pads, the number and type of straps used for gripping the pads. Other than these few physical features they have the same purpose which is to transform a fighter into a warrior.
The Verdict on Focus Mitts or Thai pads
Both Thai pads and focus mitts are capable of providing fighters with a compelling training experience, depending on which combat sport you focus on and which striking limbs they wish to utilize. Deciding which equipment is best to train with also depends on which technique the practitioner wishes to improve.
Enhancing defensive capabilities can be best done with the use of focus mitts as the trainer can throw punches during training, expecting you to dodge and counter them. To improve strike speed and agility, focus mitts are used by trainers as their small size makes it easier to move them around in quick succession. However, focus mitts are best used to condition punches and elbow strikes as they are not capable of withstanding heavy blows.
To overcome the limitation of focus mitts, Thai pads are used by kick and knee oriented strikers. These pads have a high tolerance of impact, making it perfect for kicks, knees, elbows and even punches. Muay thai practitioners use them to learn different striking techniques and enhance their power for each blow. Although they are heavy and large in size, they provide the trainer with a firm grip on them. Despite the many advantages of Thai pads, its size and weight makes it difficult to practice movement and speedy combinations.
For effective training, one must understand their weakness and improve on it accordingly. In order to do so, you can benefit from both thai pads and focus mitts depending on your weaknesses.