Like the tools that an expert carpenter has in his toolbox, the tools of the trade for MMA gym owners is the protective equipment they use to protect themselves from their students. Putting as much pad between you and a punch or kick can allow to get up close and provide proper instruction to the athletes in your gym. Without strike targets, you give up your ability to encourage proper technique and spot the flaws in their technique up close.
Strike targets fall into two separate categories: equipment to develop accuracy and equipment to develop strength. Large kicking pads are used to protect a coach against aggressive kicks, whilst hook jab pads—padded gloves worn on the hands—can help a coach teach kick accuracy to their students as they provide a moving target to hit.
Think of strike targets as a protective shield, whilst boxing gloves are striking equipment. Both strike targets and gloves provide the same function—protecting people from the force of punches—but a strike shield is utilised to train combat sports athletes. After cushioning the blow from a devastating front kick, a strike shield can be pushed out of the way to allow the coach to take the offensive in order to train his student’s ability to recover and deflect a strike after attacking. Strike targets are mobile punching bags, which in the hands of a professional can be moved and shifted to the perfect position.
In terms of an athlete’s development, strike targets are integral components of training. Fighters need to practise at 100% intensity to develop the right match rhythm and timing. A kick target can take the abuse and transfer the kinetic energy away from the wearer. The best strike targets are the ones that will stand up to the daily abuse and continue to cushion blows, and the strike targets at Martial Arts Mats Ireland are quality items made from high-density EVA foam wrapped in polyurethane.
From Taekwondo to MMA, kicking shields are utilised by pretty much every sort of martial arts training, assisting competitors with training their technique and honing their precision. Not every kicking shield is made the same, nor are they all made for the same purposes.
Arc Shields are a thickly padded bag with a slight arch, which is an amazing design feature to protect training partners. These are the go to training shield to protect a coach training a student. You want your students to go hard, fighting with the same intensity that they’d show in the ring, and the kicking pad is the perfect equipment to observe the slips in technique and to encourage your students.
The curvature of the bag is incredibly important because curved bags are easier for fighters to adjust to. Since there are an extra few centimetres between the coach and fighter, the slight curve at the bottom of the bag is an added safety feature. Sometimes it takes months to figure out training equipment, and spotters bear the brunt of missed kicks. However, this innovative curve extends the reach of the bag, covering your legs from stray kicks.
It should go without saying that arc shields may not be the perfect shield for all your purposes, and instead it fills the power niche. Arc shields are designed to protect against intense kicks, but they’re not the best to train for accuracy. As mentioned above, these strike targets are designed for heavy kicks, cushioning the blow and redirecting the force, but they’re not the most mobile targets. They’re bulky and not meant for training precision strikes. Think heavily armoured centurion, rather than swift, lightly armoured gladiator.
This is the lighter, more mobile cousin of the arc shield. It can be easily moved to alter the movements of the bag, and this can simulate the unpredictable movements of a real opponent. Easily deployable to different positions to teach complicated combinations, the strike shield gives you the ability to customise your training to fit the needs of the students.
Place your arm into the two Velcro straps at the back, and you can easily move the strike shield to protect against punches and kicks. Being able to place this shield in almost any position, this piece of equipment is especially useful when practising high kicks or sweeping movements like a hook. It melds into your arm, almost becoming a part of you as you instinctively wave the shield to protect against blows.
As we progress through the different types of strike targets offered at Martial Arts Mats Ireland, we’re moving from power to finesse, from heavily padding bags to protect against aggressive strikes to small mobile hook jab pads to hone accuracy. The Strike shield is the perfect balance between resistance and mobility; it’s not quite the bulky Arc Shield, but it’s also not the mobile hook jab pads.
One suggestion is to purchase a wide variety of strike targets to create a well-rounded training experience for your students.
Hook Jab Pads
These pads are designed to test your accuracy by providing a small target to hit. Compared to the Arc Shield, the hook jab pads may seem to have sparse padding, but the palm padding is actually fairly thick, ensuring that the pad takes the beating and not your palms.
The Hook Jab Pads are the prototypical support equipment in boxing gyms, but they’re also handy in almost every other MMA discipline, especially Muay Thai. In the hands of an experienced trainer, these pads become moving targets which help to refine every aspect of your students’ technique, from timing to foot movement.
Hook jab pads are also incredibly useful for athletes who want to work on their defence skills. Standing toe-to-toe with a training partner wearing pads helps to teach distance, and the timing required to counterattack.
Unlike the shields listed above, a training partner wearing hook jab pads can actually throw dummy punches, which encourages sidestepping, counter punches, and blocking.
While wearing the pads, always hold the pads facing toward strikes. Brace yourself with a fight stance, either orthodox or southpaw, with your lead foot forward and your back leg bent slightly. Be sure to offer some resistance to the punches and move the pads around to better mimic an actual fight.
Head Target Bayflex Strike Pad
Although probably the weirdest looking training equipment on this list, the Head Target is actually more useful than what you may initially think. It’s essential a surrogate target used to emulate the real features of a human head, including possessing a slight gummy feel when striking it. This head target can be used to train for lifelike strikes to the head. There’s a handle in the neck that allows you to easily move and manipulate the head to the perfect position.
Placing enough padding between a training partner and your punches will keep a strong relationship going forward. Repeated kicks and punches in training can wear down the patience of your training partner, and that’s why having a strike shield in place can help protect those you ‘re training with. Whether you’re training the strength or accuracy of your punches, you’ll be able to hone your skills while using any of the strike targets listed above.
Author: David Van Kooten