The road to functionality and functional Wing Chun training literally begins from the ground up, much like pouring the foundation of any building or house precedes going to Home Depot to pick out which blinds you will hang in your living room window or what crown moulding will go in your front room.
The gloves you use will make or break how realistic, practical, functional and effective your Wing Chun training is both for self-defense and the street, as well as for the application of Wing Chun for combat sports. In order to fully experience and functionalize your Wing Chun skills, I have found that there are 3 best types of gloves you should be making use of regularly to truly gain all the benefits from training.
Different Uses, Different Attributes, Same Goal…
Functionality begins with structure. Once the root structure is established- and properly trained with the right footwear- the next step involves CONTACT being made. There’s no other way around it, you need to hit and get hit if you have any hope of being able to use this stuff in a real-life scenario.
Gloves are the only way-unless you’re some Irish gypsy who gets off on getting punched in the face-to bridge the gap of theory and application. This isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach, though. In order to get the most out of training and train the right way, you have to use different gloves at different times to train different attributes, highlight different situations, place you in different ranges of combat and address different shortcomings in your game-all for the same goal: raining hellfire down on some shitbag who made the colossal mistake of approaching you with the intent of doing you harm.
The Holy Training Trinity of Ass-Beating: The 3 Types of Gloves You Must Have
I have found that anyone who is serious about making their Wing Chun work for them; sharpening their skills and abilities like a butcher does a cleaver or a fireman an axe, has 3 main gloves at their disposal. I’ll break each one down and explain their benefits as well as their limitations and why I feel each one is an invaluable asset to your wing Chun toolkit but here they are:
- MMA training gloves: (note that I said “training” and not “competition” that was not an accident, and I’ll explain why
- 16 oz. boxing gloves: (again the 16 oz. is important, for reasons I will get into as we go along)
- Kempo gloves: These are the most obscure gloves on this list for many I’m sure but for Wing Chun training they are unique and highly useful for bridging the gap between the less-padding, more-tactile MMA gloves and the heavy padding but next to no gripping ability of boxing gloves. Bruce Lee fans out there know them as the gloves he wore in the opening scene of Enter the Dragon while kicking Sammo Hung’s ass in a pair of leather shin pads and a black Speedo banana hammock.
MMA Gloves: As Close to Nothing As You Can Get
I know, sounds a bit risque and a little dirty, but it just presented itself like a “Trojan” horse (get it?) so why not. What makes MMA gloves such a valuable tool for training is their minimal weight, high degree of movement in being able to grab and use the palm and their dense, compact structure which allows for full power striking and protection for the knuckles.
A good pair of MMA training gloves opens the door for reality-based Wing Chun gor sau (sparring) along with a solid face cage helmet (which we will discuss in the next post) as well as being able to apply trapping drills and parries in a more live-fire environment; in essence, taking the aliveness of the chi sau model and making it more expansive.
Out of the many gloves in this variety I have used, I have found that the Combat Sports Pro-Style MMA Glove most effectively satisfies all of the criteria needed for inclusion into my training bag. At a weight of 5.5 oz, it is light yet fully padded and the wristwrap is a double wrap which gives the wrist added stability. You are able to roll in chi sau, work on your pak sau, lop sau, gum sau and parry with your wu sau all with minimal hindrance to your motions.
For kung fu tournaments (not the “ASAAAHH!” point karate stuff) sparring matches tend to follow a continuous format, with a running clock and rounds of either 30 seconds on/30 seconds off per round or one 2-minute round of a running clock. I feel this is a much more realistic use of sparring instead of the hopping flicky round kick/clash/break/judges call points/set up/repeat-style of matches. The good news is that I was always able to use these type of gloves and not the MACHO dipped foam gloves and gear (ugh.)
Pros and Cons
- The chief benefit to this glove is the price and the added padding for training.
- The drawbacks for me center chiefly around the thickness of the padding and the stitching. The thickness of the padding makes it a bit hard to really “feel” a good hit land. I mean, c’mon, it feels soooo good to really nail someone and feel it all the way through your arm down to your rooting. Sometimes, the extra thick padding deadens that feel a bit. No worries though, it makes you just have to work a bit harder to score that much cleaner a shot.
- My other beef isn’t really that big but hey, I’m just being honest so here goes: the stitching on the padding covering the knuckles tends to come loose around the pinkie/ring area but that could just be from normal use especially since Wing Chun folks use the bottom 2 knuckles and not the top 3 like most everyone else.
Other than these 2 minor issues, this is a great glove and both the price and Combat Sports’ more than impeccable track record with me make this one a no-brainer for me.
Yo Adrian, You Need These Too…
One piece of equipment that most Wing Chun folks don’t give much thought too-but should-is a pair of solid, dependable and well built boxing gloves. Why? Although many Wing Chun folks-myself included-cross train in boxing, kickboxing or MMA having gloves for that purpose is just one aspect. The main reason for Wing Chun people to plunk down an d pick up a a pair of boxing gloves is that they provide the missing link between form and function by allowing you to take hard shots thrown from various angles.
You see, the boxing glove’s weight of 16oz. (which is the standard weight of training gloves, not competition gloves) serves a twofold purpose for us. First, each 16 oz. glove acts like a mini-weight in each hand to train our shoulders to relax and our hands to stay up and second, getting hit with a 16 oz. glove instead of a 5.5 oz. glove like the MMA gloves mentioned above allows for a much greater whallop which will really rattle your shit if your structure isn’t dialed in and secure.
By using a pair of boxing gloves in training, you can tee off on your partners and they can do likewise without fear of hurting you or hurting themselves since wearing a little pair of MMA gloves leads to pulling punches, both mentally out of a sense of fear of injuring one’s friend as wella s the reality of banging your knuckles off of someone’s elbow which SUCKS.
CAUTION: This element of increasing intensity must be done progressively. Pick one drill, such as working on your pak sau against a straight punch or practicing your straight punch as an interception to a hook delivered with progressively more power by your partner wearing a pair of these 16oz. beauties. That way, if your hand is down or your structure isn’t moving as one unit, you’ll get bipped and your junk will get rattled around. Then just expand this model to other drills, self defense scenarios and the like…now you’re off to the races.
Pros and Cons
- The chief benefit to these gloves are their size and padding, as well as the price. Are there more compact, heavy and dense feeling gloves that feel like you have battering rams on each hand and can punch through a wall? Sure. Will they cost 3 times as much? You bet your ass. These gloves are solid, durable and sturdy and for the price, especially as part of a general training program to pay that much seems quite stupid to me, frankly.
- They only come in a limited set of colors which doesn’t bother me at all but again, if you simply MUST have the flames painted on the side, the American, Mexican or Brazilian flag, a shark head with pointy teeth sleek design embroidered all down the sides or any other crazy shit just because, these will disappoint you. If all you need is a dependable, “meat and potaters” (as Karl from Sling Blade would say) glove at a reasonable price then pick these up.
Kempo Gloves (AKA the Enter the Dragon Gloves): The Granddaddy of the MMA Glove
ANYONE who loves Bruce Lee flicks has seen these gloves. They were the ones Bruce wore in the now iconic opening Shaolin Temple fight scene of Enter the Dragon.
As I have heard tell, these originally were used as riot gear gloves for the Tokyo Police Department and were incorporated into Bruce’s JKD curriculum for their padding and mobility, being able to fully grip with each finger and apply open palm strikes, eyejabs (each finger can be wiggled separately) while their approx. 10 oz. weight made them suitable as boxing-esque sparring gloves. In essence, these were truly the granddaddy of the MMA glove as we know it.
BONUS: they also work perfectly for the weapons practice of “de-fanging the snake,” in essence, striking the hand holding the weapon to disarm the weapon, which will ramp up your luk dim boon gwun (six and a half point pole) and especially baat jaam do (butterfly swords) practice.
The Pros for adding this glove to your gear bag are the easiest out of the 3 types of gloves I have reviewed here.
- These gloves are beefy enough to serve as a sparring glove of sorts, allowing you to play the “attacker” to a partner as well as being able to spar with someone wearing boxing gloves while being able to apply Wing Chun.
- You can grapple in them, albeit being a bit more cumbersome than the MMA gloves and they are perfect for weapons sparring.
- You can apply a biu jee eyejab, pak sau, grab and lop sau, pin with a gum sau and chain punch with these.
- The structure and layout of these gloves make your training realistic and functional.
- They are a bit too bulky for pure Wing Chun sparring (though not impossible) due to the elbows needing to be in; they are ideally suited for using Wing Chun in a free sparring environment.
- Chi Sau with these is out of the question, that is definitely MMA glove territory.
- Structurally, I have found that the leather palm interior tends to rip around the pinkie and ring finger tops after making fists repeatedly but then again I’ve had mine for several years-if that’s the extent of the damage then I’d say it’s pretty damn good.
Roping It In
There you have it, gang-my top 3 picks for usable, functional and practical gloves for your Wing Chun gearbox. Each of the gloves listed here has a very specific purpose in your training, specifically as it relates to functionalization of your Wing Chun skills for both self defense and full-contact sparring for combat sports such as MMA, boxing and kickboxing.
According to reality-based self defense pioneer and jeet kune do master Paul Vunak, there are 4 stages to any skill development:
- First, you LEARN the technique or skill.
- Second, you PRACTICE the technique or skill.
- Third, after repeated practice and effort you MASTER the particular technique or skill. This does not mean you can use it when needed; it simply means you know how to do the technique or skill well.
- The fourth and final step is that you must FUNCTIONALIZE the technique or skill. This is where proper and progressive training comes in. Only after you FUNCTIONALIZE your skill can you call upon it whenever and wherever you need to.
While steps 1 though 3 are all essential, they quite frankly don’t mean shit if step 4 isn’t achieved. This is the end result of all the hours spent training-functionalizing your Wing Chun training for self defense and combat application.
Remember, what makes for reality is equal parts form and function; structure and application. Once your foundation is locked in and you are wearing the right shoes to train that way, contact needs to be made, both on bags and pads and someone else’s body. Finding the best glove for each phase of training is the essence of such training.
Train Smart, Stay Safe