Proper Wing Chun training for self-defense involves contact (and lots of it) aimed at the most sensitive and pain-inducing areas on an opponent’s body: their eyes, throat and groin. Every male on Earth knows which one is the worst to get hit, which is exactly why the first piece of equipment you put on before each and every training session should be a groin cup. Choosing the best groin protector/guard, also known as a groin cup, is vital for proper and productive Wing Chun training in any capacity (be it for self-defense or for full-contact training for combat sports such as boxing, kickboxing, muay thai or MMA) for 2 main reasons:
- First, and the most obviously, a solid and high end groin protector will protect you from shots in training that would normally cause serious injury. Wing Chun is a self-defense oriented fighting art, and in the fighting arts contact is made. As a Wing Chun student it is no one’s responsibility but yours to ensure your own bodily safety.
- Second and equally important, though a bit less obvious, wearing a quality groin cup/protector will allow you to move in against your partner with a higher degree of intent and authority. Too many times in training, the fear of being hit or taking a shot leads to moving in hesitantly or with some hesitation. That is not good for realistic training. Training with a high-quality groin cup or protector is one of the fastest ways to build confidence and assertiveness in motion. I have seen it happen and had it happen to myself too many times to count in my Wing Chun training: when you are engaging in aggressive and assertive Wing Chun drills such as chi sau, pak/lop/gum sau entries or even an aggressive stepping drill, the aim is to bisect your opponent with your forward leg, stepping through their centerline. Moving in aggressively in this manner with the proper Wing Chun structure, you run the risk of slamming your thigh into your opponent’s groin. Sounds weird and damn near impossible, I know, but anyone who has gone at it Wing Chun-style knows what I’m talking about. As a defender, you run the risk of slamming into that guy’s front leg with your nether-regions. Conversely as an attacker, if your partner has solid structure and moves in to meet your attack (which we all know is how good Wing Chun people should always answer an attack, right?) you will run into his or her leg or knee with the added benefit of being on the receiving end of your forward momentum and pressure bouncing off your balls. I can think of better ways to spend a Saturday.
Check out the following video of just how little effort it takes to get put down by even a mild shot to the balls. Note how just before getting clipped I was alert, engaging and very much in the fight and then-just like that-I’m down, incapacitated and for all intents and purposes, momentarily helpless…and that is while wearing a groin protector and with a heightened level of awareness due to participating in a combative activity, so you can only imagine how much more devastating a groin shot is when there is actual intent behind it and an attacker is not mentally engaging in a mutual “fight” or “sparring session,” but rather expecting little or no resistance!
3 Keys To Selecting The Right Groin Guard/Protector For Your Needs
When choosing which groin cup or protector to add to your Wing Chun and sparring training gear lineup, the following questions must be asked and honestly answered. Getting clear on these 3 questions will make the choosing of the right or best groin protector for your Wing Chun, self defense or combat sports training that much more streamlined and effective.
- PURPOSE-What aspect of my Wing Chun game am I seeking to train? A full-contact sparring session carries with it a different risk of injury to your groin than a chi sau session or Wing Chun entry drill. Can you use the same groin protector for both? Sure. Is it the most ideal way to go about this? No. Regular class training, self-defense scenario drills and full-contact combat sports training such as boxing, kickboxing such as sanshou or muay thai, grappling or lei tai tournament fighting are all different beasts and their respective needs are demonstrated in the differences in gear.
- STYLE-Is the groin protector designed to be worn under the clothing or on top of it? Full contact sparring-style groin guards, sometimes called “diaper-style” are designed to be worn on the outside of your clothes, since they are much more padded and bulky than a standard athletic cup/jockstrap combo, also called an athletic supporter-style groin guard, which is designed to be worn underneath your clothing. The upside to the sparring-style cup is that it offers much more protection and also covers your hips and bladder area, making them an ideal choice for sparring and self-defense scenarios but a poorer choice for regular class drills or grappling on the mat which an athletic supporter-style protector is geared towards. This is just one example of how selecting the proper style of groin cup/guard boils down to function and usage.
- PRICE- How much are you willing to invest in your training? Unlike other aspects of choosing the right gear, groin guards or protectors tend to be more reasonably priced than other pieces of training gear or equipment but price should never dictate which groin guard you decide on-in fact, if there was one specific piece of training gear to NOT skimp on, this would be it! For decades before the use of hand and foot gear, early martial artists donned only a mouthpiece and a groin cup before sparring. That should tell you the prominent role a groin cup plays in the hierarchy of training gear right there!
2 Main Styles of Groin Protection
When discussing martial arts training in any capacity, specifically as it relates to us as practitioners of Wing Chun and its’ application for both self-defense and combat sports participation, groin guards/protectors/cups fall into one of 2 categories:
- FULL-CONTACT-STYLE GUARDS – this type of groin guard, commonly called the “diaper” style guard is best suited for full-contact sparring and for self-defense training. These tend to be more bulky and thicker but also much more protective, and are nice to be able to take off when you are finished with them. As an added feature, due to their being used heavily by combat sports athletes (boxers in particular), almost all of the high-quality guards protect not only your junk, but your hips, lower abdomen, bladder and even kidneys.
- ATHLETIC SUPPORTER-STYLE GUARDS – these types of groin protectors are what most folks think of when they hear the words “groin cup” or “groin guard.” Basically a jockstrap/athletic supporter with a cup, think of this as your “insurance policy” to wear while training Wing Chun proper in class, or while addressing a grappling scenario from any other point of reference than an all-out simulation (that becomes self-defense scenario territory and carries with it a much higher degree of contact). While they are smaller and more compact, they do offer adequate protection for the soft tissue itself against hard shots but only to the degree that there will be no direct contact, and they provide next to no absorption of a good shot the way the groin guards in the first category do. Also, unlike the first category, these protectors only cover the groin itself and not any other areas such as kidneys, bladder or hip bones. This makes for a good training cup to be worn on general principle, or a solid grappling cup for activities where space and mobility are factors, but not for any kind of full-contact based training or self-defense scenario training.
Now that we have explained a little bit about the different styles, types and uses, let’s take a look at those groin protectors, guards and cups that offer the user the highest degree of protection, reliability, safety and durability. Ready? Let’s get to it.
FULL CONTACT SPARRING-STYLE GROIN GUARDS
For several years I wore the supporter-style cups like everyone else, uncomfortably shifting and rearranging my stones every 15 minutes it seemed, and always praying I’d never take the errant shot to the balls. Once I started training with a higher degree of heavy contact, I made the switch to the “diaper”style groin protectors and haven’t looked back since. Obviously, this type of groin guard isn’t designed to take full-power shots to the balls; it is, however, designed to absorb a much higher impact should a shot take place.
NOTE: When reviewing this style of groin protector, I have skipped right past the standard version and instead have included only those “deluxe style” guards, that is, guards which cover not only the groin and bladder area but wrap-around protection of the hips and, in other cases, the abs and kidneys as well. My theory that has yet to sateer me wrong on this issue is that if you are going to plunk down the dough for a contact-oriented piece of gear like this, why half-ass the coverage?
Title Boxing Deluxe Groin Protector
Title Boxing once again delivers an excellent, no-frills, starter product at a very reasonable price. An excellent introductory groin guard, this features a deep, banana-style cup for added protection. This comes in handy whenever kicks are being thrown, as the area between the groin and the rear is particularly vulnerable and very sensitive. The leg straps keep the guard in place, allowing you to shift and apply the Wing Chun footwork in the stepping drill without fear of loss of protection.
The wraparound padding helps protect the kidneys, liver, groin, abdomen and hips. In the chaos of a self-defense scenario or the heat of a sparring session, a shot to the hip will sting, and a good shot to the abdomen or kidneys will put you down. The height of the padding is a bit short for my liking; I would only use this as a groin & hip guard personally.
The hook and loop closure system in the back ensures that it won’t go anywhere once it is fastened, although in order to keep the velcro functioning properly, it is best to air out this product after every time you use it – no leaving it in a gear bag overnight! All in all, a very good product to get your feet wet in sparring and self-defense training
Title Boxing Muay Thai Elite Groin Guard
Unlike boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing relies heavily on kicks and knees as core weapons in their arsenal. As students of Wing Chun for self-defense first and foremost, it behooves us to use gear with the greatest range of motion, such as this one. This groin guard is specifically designed to enable kicks and knees to be thrown during training sessions. In addition to the execution & delivery of kicks and knees, this guard also maximizes shock-absorption during training and any form of “stand-up” style sparring or competition.
The high-density, multi-layer shock-absorbing padding is specifically manufactured to protect athletes from wayward kicks, punches and strikes that will always occur any time two folks suit up and go at it. The cup itself is anatomically curved in an extended “banana” style which offers additional coverage to the wearer.
To keep this guard in place, this guard sports a 3″ elastic rear-adjustable security waist strap with hook-and-loop closure. This makes it easy to put on and take off when needed so you won’t be waddling around with this thing on once you are done sparring but also keeps it snug and in place so that when you do wear it you won’t have to worry where it is. Additional elastic leg straps offer extra security in keeping the groin cup centered where it should be. A great guard specifically designed for movement and protection when engaging in kickboxing or stand-up combat sports in addition to Wing Chun.
Title Gel Elite Groin & Ab Protector
Just like with their chest protectors, Title Boxing has introduced the GEL technology to their groin guards. Designed in the same way as the two oprevious groin guards/protectors from Title Boxing, what sets this product apart is its’ use of Title’s GEL based technology in high impact area.
Made of high-quality durable synthetic leather and sporting lightweight inner layers of foam, this guard has GEL inserts in key contact areas offering additional protection and shock absorbency. The hips, groin and bladder area all sport reinforced patches since those are among the most sensitive areas to be hit when engaging in sparring and, if you have been training for any length of time you know that in sparring or self-defense training as well as in purposeful and aggressive Wing Chun training, groin shots do incidentally occur.
The fully adjustable wraparound hook-and-loop waist closure with the leg straps ensures that you can don this gear, cinch it tight and get down to business without worrying if you will be covered once contact starts being made. Its’ lightweight feel and heavy level of coverage balance the factors of weight and protection very nicely, giving you that much more confidence to move in and aggressively apply your Wing Chun drills and techniques to both sparring and self-defense scenario training.
Fighting Sports Pro Protective Cup
I will always champion Title Boxing products, as the ratio of quality and durability to price is unmatched. Insofar as groin protectors are concerned, the ones listed above represent the best introductory to intermediate level groin guards for your training. That said, there are certain features I find very beneficial to equipment in my own personal training gear bag that are addressed by this groin protector.
For starters, this is a full-grain leather groin protector, not a synthetic leather product. This will break in like a baseball glove and become more and more comfortable in your training career the longer it is used. The padding used in this particular groin guard is a thin sandwich layer of high and low density foams, creating just the right balance of shock absorbency, protection and lightweight mobility.
The waistband is much higher, guarding the abdominal area more and the hip guards extend down off the waistband, providing much greater level of hip protection while maintaining a comfortable, unobstructive custom fit as you move through the motions of whatever activity you are engaging in, be it Wing Chun gor sau (sparring), boxing or kickboxing, or within the settings of using Wing Chun technique and concept in a self-defense scenario. The padding extends all the way around to the kidney area as well-this one is a biggie, since in the clinch a kidney shot can and will put you down, no matter how pumped up and ready to kick ass you are.
In addition to a much wider range of and more all-encompassing padding, the elastic back strap with hook-and-loop closure keeps the fit extra snug, and another noteworthy benefit is that the leg straps themselves are and adjustable, leading to an even more customized fit. Clearly an ideal choice if you are serious about taking your Wing Chun training for both self defense and sparring to the next level.
Cleto Reyes Kidney & Foul Protection Cup
As is the case with boxing gloves, Cleto Reyes is a line that seems to be a bit unknown except for boxers and pro fighters. They have been chiurning out top-quality products out of Mexico for decades and many of the top boxers swear by their products. Being no stranger to this product line, I can assure you this groin guard is no exception.
Ideal for training purposes, this leather-made protector/guard is supple and firm at the same time, giving you the “already broken in” feel as you train (other products can be quite stiff at first; not Cleto Reyes). The latex foam padding extends both down the hip and above the waist, and all the way around for comprehensive and all-encompassing protection to your abs, bladder, kidneys and groin. In fact, the wide hip design of these is made specifically for protecting your kidneys.
This guard has elastic straps for leg adjustment, and the standard hook and loop rear closure keeps it in place as you move around. I have found with guards of this style that in many cases you can pull them up like a pair of pants and then fasten them in by adjusting the rear strap. The protective cup itself has padded edges; this is important for your freedom of movement as well as comfort, since many cup edges are a bit stiff, which can lead to some discomfort on your end as you move around through a Wing Chun drill, self-defense scenario or sparring session.
Cleto Reyes continues not to disappoint in the quality, comfort and durability of their gear and this groin protector is no exception.
Winning CPS500 Protective Cup
The Winning CPS500 is a groin protector at the top of the food chain when it comes to protection and coverage. The hip guards are extra low, ideal for training against round kicks such as those found in muay thai, and the abdominal/bladder guard is very well padded, keeping you extra covered against push kicks, knees, body shots and the like.
The groin cup itself is heavy duty and very well padded, extending to the side a bit on each side to protect you from any shot that rides its’ way up your leg and into the “no-no zone” (trust me, it does happen and will happen to you once you begin sparring with heavier contact for any length of time). Made in Japan, a hotbed and legendary breeding ground for combat sports athletes, to several pro fighters the CPS500 is their go-to groin protection gear for sparring.
My only concern stems from the hip guards extending down as low as they do. In this instance, the degree of padding and coverage may make it a bit difficult to launch round or side kicks with this on; this is a minor point and only applicable if you are using this for combat sports such as sanshou kickboxing, MMA or muay thai. For boxing, Wing Chun and self-defense the coverage you will have using this groin guard is top-notch.
ATHLETIC SUPPORTER-STYLE GROIN GUARDS
These groin guards are like having a bare-bones, liability-only insurance policy for auto insurance. Their primary purpose is to protect the testicles from physical damage, not to alleviate the impact of any strike, which is why when you take a shot to the junk wearing one of these you will very quickly find out what a wooden floor tastes like.
Shock Doctor Core Compression Shorts with Bio-Flex Cup
I have sparred, drilled, grappled, fought, done forms, you name it with these shorts and built-in cup on, and I can tell you that of all of the supporter-style groin guards out there, this one is head and shoulders above the rest.
The compression shorts work so much better than the traditional jockstrap for holding the cup itself in place, and the cup itself has a hooked bottom that extends and curves far down to give you maximum coverage in that often-unprotected area between the sun and the moon, if you get my drift. The cup itself is lighter, more aerodynamic in its’ design and due to its’ curvature, better able to stay in place more than the traditional triangular oxygen-mask like shape of the old school cups.
One aspect I particularly like and have found very helpful is the ease of use for this setup. This is important for comfort while training, since the shorts provide much more all-encompassing stability for any aspect of usage from sparring to self-defense drills to performing forms; the compression shorts provide an always-in-place support structure. The shorts are also quite breathable, and never feel as if I am wearing another layer of anything, a much appreciated benefit – let me tell you, when you are in the thick of a sparring session or a taxing drill, the last thing you want to feel is bogged down or hindered in any way.
Anyone who has used the traditional jockstrap model of groin protector will appreciate the design of this configuration as well as its’ ease of use and never-wavering support. The shorts alone work ten times better than a traditional athletic supporter without the cup for those times when a cup may not be needed but support and structure are still required. After using the traditional model and this one, I’m never going back. This is the only one I will ever use.
ProForce Thunder TPR Supporter & Cup Groin Protector
Now that I have just gotten done explaining to you why you should not use this style of groin cup/protector, why am I including this one on the list? Preparedness. This one is best to have in your gear bag as a JIC cup, or “just in case.” If you happen to be at a tournament or class session where you realize you have forgotten your main one, this is always a good idea to have in reserve-hell, you don’t even need to take it out of the case-just have it with you.
There is nothing wrong with this cup itself. The supporter is elastic and comfortable enough, and the cup is made from a high density TPR or thermo-plastic rubber for durability and strength. The edges of the cup are coated in soft rubber so as not to dig into the sensitive areas of the groin should contact be made or for normal use.
This is a basic, no-frills groin cup and there is nothing defective about it. I have used more than my fair share of these get-ups over the past 25 years so I know they get the job done; I just prefer the much higher degree of protection and support the Shock Doctor Core Compression Shorts provide. However, I am also a realist-I know there will be times when I forget to pack a needed item in my gearbag. In times like this, having a “JIC” groin cup can mean the difference between a productive training session or tournament and sitting on the sidelines. That alone is worth the price of one of these.
Conclusion: Why You NEED To Wear a Groin Protector Every Session
Wing Chun is an art and system of self defense based on concept, not specific step-by-step techniques. We drill our Wing Chun skills according to principles, NOT specific sequences that have to be performed in “this” order or in “that” way to be effective. Wing Chun is effective because of this reason: it is designed to be applied in the heat of a moment, not after conditions 1 to 14 have been met. The right gear is essential because it gives us that freedom.
Choosing the correct groin guard or protector for proper and effective Wing Chun training means looking at the following 3 factors and deciding which pieces of equipment line up with those answers. They are:
- Purpose – how will you be using this to train?
- Style – Sparring-style or Supporter-style?
- Price – how much can you invest in this product?
Ideally you should have one jockstrap or supporter-style cup to wear during class as a general rule, and you should have a high-quality “diaper” style boxing groin hip and abdomen protector for heavy contact sparring and to desensitize you towards moving forward as both an attacker and a defender in the face of contact.
Who Shot J.R.?
Let the following true story be a lesson in everything I’ve been telling you about:
As a young taekwondo black belt, one of my most memorable tournament matches was with a guy a few years older than myself named J.R. I remember J.R. being a bit of a cocky bastard and when it came time for our division to suit up for sparring he fumbled through in his bag, pulled out a plastic white groin cup and (no shit) shoved it down his uniform pants into his underwear!
When someone asked if that was enough he rather smugly replied that that was all the protection he needed, which I took to mean he didn’t think all that highly of us in his ring. He was my first opponent that day.
After a few exchanges, he raised his leg to throw an axe kick at the precise moment I shot out a side kick. I aimed for his gut but I drilled him right in the groin. I remember it felt like I kicked a wet bag of sand as whatever I kicked ( and we all know what I kicked) gave way to my foot. I guess the cup didn’t stay where it was supposed to.
J.R. went home early that day; I went home a bit later with something shiny and metallic to put on my shelf.
Lesson here: a groin guard, protector, cup, supporter, jockstrap, nut-sling, ball-hugger -whatever you want to call it- should be worn each and every time you train. There are several ways, not all of them obvious, that an incidental or accidental groin shot can occur and you owe it to yourself to take responsibility for your own safety. Always having groin protection on hand is a good habit to get into, so get into it.
P.S. for those of you too young to get the “J.R.” reference, here you go.
Train Smart, Stay Safe