My journey into the world of Muay Thai started with a trip to Bangkok with my wife. We were naively talked into buying ringside seats by a ticket tout for a big fight in the Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium, as (apparently!) they were the only ones left…on arrival the arena was only half-full. It turned out that this mini-scam was one of the best things that ever happened to me. After watching in awe as various fighters masterfully kicked, punched, kneed and elbowed their way to victory, I fell in love with the sport.
So, on returning to Edinburgh and after watching multiple documentaries on the sport on the flight home, I just have to find somewhere that teaches Muay Thai. Unbelievably, Hanuman Gym is situated just a six-minute walk from my house. I’ve always been a fan of martial arts and have a background in Kung Fu, but that doesn’t require the need for gloves. On arrival at the gym, I am warmly welcomed and promptly given some beat-up shin guards and a pair of well-loved and incredibly sweaty boxing gloves. Before I know it, a friendly-yet-terrifying Polish chap is instructing me to throw various combinations on a punchbag. As a beginner, my coordination is understandably all over the place. But the main problem is, I am punching the bag as hard as I can yet doing it with the wrong technique and after a few minutes I feel a bone-crunching shock run straight down my right wrist. “Keep your elbow up when you throw a hook!” the coach says, seeing the wince on my face that I’ve obviously not hidden very well. This small yet vital piece of information makes all the difference and I see out the rest of the session, which includes some light sparring with other members who graciously take it easy on me. I leave the gym feeling exhilarated and run home to excitedly tell my wife how it had gone. But when I return, she looks shocked and asks me if I’ve been bare-knuckle boxing in the street. With all the adrenaline from the training running through my veins, I haven’t noticed that my knuckles are cut to pieces. And my hands smell. Really, really bad.
Due to my slightly obsessive nature, when I get into something, I really get into it. I’m that guy with all the gear and no idea. And I’m proud of it. So I immediately decide that I need my own gloves. My wife is much more rational and begs me to try a few classes with different gloves from the gym, just to make sure this is something I really want to do…and not like the time I wanted to join the circus. After finally after reaching double figures in sessions, multiple cuts on my knuckles and a continuous horrendous stench of a hundred other men’s sweat, she agrees that I’m allowed to get my own gloves. Not that I’m under the thumb or anything.
I excitedly begin my research. There is no way I was going to get a cheap pair of gloves that will fall apart and, due to the fact that I discovered the sport in Thailand, it is weirdly important to me that the gloves are made there. So when I come across Fairtex, all boxes are ticked. Founded in 1971 by Mr Wong, the great Muay Thai legend went on to build multiple gyms overseas to promote the sport. But after hearing reports of students getting injured from poorly made equipment and the sport of Thai Boxing – of which the Thais are so deeply proud – getting a bad name, he decided that it was his duty to make and supply his own equipment. Hence, Fairtex was born and the honour of Muay Thai was restored around the world.When my Fairtex BGV1 gloves arrive, I eagerly rip open the packaging and am greeted with the welcome scent of real leather. Due to their material, they are a little stiff and just like a new pair of leather shoes, will take few sessions to break in. Not a problem, as I intend to wear these a lot, maybe even in my sleep…if I’m allowed. One of the features that differentiates these Muay Thai specific gloves from traditional boxing gloves is the fact that they don’t have a hand bar. This allows the user to open up their grip when in a Thai clinch. Also, the cuffs are shorter than traditional gloves to allow greater flexibility in the wrist area, again to allow for clinch techniques. They are also extra-padded which is a very welcome addition that will protect my feeble wrists when blocking kicks.
Fairtex do make options with lace-up wrists but they are really only for competitive matches. And I’m way off that level. The great thing about these gloves having Velcro straps is that they are incredibly quick and easy to take on and off, which is very useful when swapping between striking and holding pads for a partner. I’ve gone for the 16oz version of these gloves, as any gym worth its salt won’t let you spar in anything less. Despite being the heaviest weight that is available in these gloves, the expertly made thinner padding makes them feel so much lighter than any similar glove I have used in the gym. This means that when I take them on their first outing, I don’t actually find them too heavy when using them on the pads or bags. The shape of these gloves suits my large yet fairly slim hands, and I imagine with hand-wraps they will fit even better. I went for classically coloured red gloves, as I don’t want to stand out in class any more than I already do. Maybe my next pair will be a more adventurous design… but I have a feeling that these will last me for years to come. If I do ever compete, I just hope I’m in the red corner and am able to use these incredible hand-made gloves.
To get yourself a pair of Fairtex gloves, just visit their website.
John Harfield is a travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh and one of our regular contributors.
Photographs courtesy of Fairtex
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