Any good martial arts school will have sparring as part of the curriculum, usually towards the middle of progression. When it comes time to purchase your gear, you may wonder which set to get.
As a beginner should you splurge on the $400 set, piece together an MMA set, or purchase a mid-range set to get you started?
When I had to make this decision, I decided to pick up a decent set by Pro Force and upgrade to the nice sparing set after hitting black belt. I wanted to get some wear and tear in before going too crazy in spending money.
I purchased this set through my instructor with a martial arts supplier to get my gear. I have provided Amazon links to each part down below for your convenience.
Table of Contents
Pro Force Lightning Head Gear
The Lightning Pro Force Headgear does its job in protecting your head and your ears. It does not cover the face, besides the forehead.
To put it on, simply put it over your head, just as you would with a helmet, and pull the chinstrap over to velcro to the other side.
As long as you sized the headgear properly, it fits snugly without impeding your vision. It’s not exactly comfortable, but it’s not bad. Plus you also look goofy wearing this thing.
After your sparing session, you will have a nice red mark across your forehead due to the pressure, regardless of how tight the chinstrap is.
Pro Force Lightning Gloves (Punches)
The Lightning Pro Force Gloves do a good job of protecting your fingers, knuckles, and wrists. Punches and backfists feel great to execute.
To put it on, simply slide your hand through the underside of the glove, slide your thumb and fingers through the loops, allow the softer flat plastic to rest against your palm, and wrap the wrist strap around your wrist to velcro to the top of the glove on the wrist area.
Once again, as long as you sized the gloves properly, they fit snugly on your fists without impeding your punches or backfists.
Comfort is more of a miss here. The thumb and finger loops are hard plastic and the flat palm guard slices into your thumb muscle and lower palm area. The index finger loop and the pinky finger loop are also open, so your fingers can slide out. I understand that this design choice was probably made for durability but it’s still not as fun to wear.
After your sparing session, you will have a little irritation on your palm from the flat, softer plastic grip to keep your hand in place.
Pro Force Lightning Feet Gear (Kicks)
The Lightning Pro Force Kicks do a decent job in protecting your feet. Although I never got hurt kicking with them, my feet kept sliding out of the bottom, so the potential for injury was there.
To put it on, simply slide your feet through the top of the kick, like you are about to put on a shoe. Make sure your feet sit on top of the flat plastic catches on the bottom of the kicks. Once your feet are inside, wrap the foot strap around your foot from top to bottom. After one wrap, take the strap and wrap it around your ankle from inside to outside to be able to velcro the strap to the outside of the kicks. This helps to secure the kicks on your feet.
Now, the fit for the kicks is different. I ordered my shoe size and these kicks were too big. Like way too big.
I was even wearing the shin guards with the instep and they were still too big. The protection on the backside slid up a little, sometimes exposing my heel. My toes also kept sliding down off of the front flat plastic catch, making the kicks a little wobbly. The protection (as in material quality) was there, but the fit was inconsistent, making the protection worthless sometimes.
Comfort is really bad here. The flat plastic catches are very uncomfortable, and so is the strap (it’s long enough to wrap it the way I did without giving too much slack). I also understand that this design choice was probably made for durability but it’s still not as fun to wear. Although, these kicks were the first sparring gear pieces to crack and break down. I don’t fault this too much since kicks make a harder impact than punches.
After your sparing session, you will have a little irritation under your arch from the flat, softer plastic grip to keep your feet in place. These gear pieces were the first ones I took off as I had to constantly adjust them. Maybe things would have been different had I ordered a smaller size.
Besides the Pro Force Lightning gear, I also wore the Pro Force Shin Protection with Instep, a mouthguard, and a cup. Some people wore forearm guards, but I never did. This was adequate protection for fighting with multiple sparring partners at varying intensities. Some guys wanted to play a game at 60% to 75% speed and others went all out like they were trying to win the UFC championship.
The gear set is made of vinyl-covered foam so sweat makes this gear super slippery after a good sparring session. At the same time, this set is super easy to clean and care for. Just use a mild soap and water and then wipe it down. Easy.
So far, I think this set will last until hitting black belt.
Overall, I’m satisfied with this choice of gear. It’s keeping me afloat until I hit black belt and get better gear to wear in.
If you use this gear set, let me know what you think of it as well.