GUARD YOUR LOW-LINE, ATTACK THEIRS! Best Shin Guards for Wing Chun Training 2020

Wing Chun is a close-quarters system, and it doesn’t get more close-in than a boot to the shin or a stomp to the instep. Think you can realistically train without using the right gear  (such as the Fairtex SP5 Competition Shin Guard shown above)? Think again, Grasshopper.

One aspect of Wing Chun that does not get enough attention is its’ use of the kick. The Wing Chun kick is a low-line technique most often delivered to the shin, the kneecap or the hip in order to displace the opponent’s energy by immobilizing or causing pain. Training this very valuable but often underutilized aspect of the art requires the right gear and shin guards are the only way to realistically train the kick. The question then becomes: what kinds of shin guards are best suited for Wing Chun training, not only for self-defense but for applying the art to full contact combat sports such as MMA, muay thai or kickboxing? 

Choosing the best shin guard for your Wing Chun training, both for self-defense practice (first and foremost) and for full-contact combat sports participation such as kickboxing, MMA or sanshou fighting is of the highest importance as your training progresses.

3 Questions To Determine Which Shin Guard Is Right For Your Needs

This is a multi-faceted answer which will require identifying the 3 main aspects of choosing the best shin guards and answering three key questions in order to arrive at the right product. In this review we will be breaking down the various types of shin guards for use in your Wing Chun training both for self defense & full-contact combat sports training, the uses as well as the limitations of each and the 2 basic categories these shin guards fall into.

Knowledge of not only what shin guard but also what category each type of guard falls into can make the difference between a productive training session and one that requires you to sit out a week with a sore & bruised shin, or worse.

The three categories and corresponding questions to ask when determining what the proper shin pads would be for your training are as follows:

  1. Category – What are you using these for? The 2 main categories of this review will be Full-Contact Training and Self-Defense Only.  Several types of shin guards out there are of the MMA or grappling variety, designed for MMA where one needs to be able to transition from standup fighting to grappling and vice versa. These are usually neoprene and have a sleeve to slip on like a sock.  We are not dealing with these. Wing Chun is not a grappling art, so we are sticking to the heavier-duty Muay Thai style shin guard designed for impact and absorption more than sleek and minimally invasive design. There are literally hundreds of MMA based shin pads which are fantastic products,however for our usage we are sticking to the straight stand-up kind, since those are the ones that are designed to withstand at the most straight impact. 
  2. Material – How durable and shock absorbent are they? As a general rule with my equipment, I try to stick with 100% leather anything, although with shin guards some synthetic leather varieties will come in. Try this rule of thumb when using shin guards in your training: always always opt for the thicker, high-density option that will offer the most protection.  MMA Grappling shin guards, for example, are thinner and designed to stay put while grappling, hence less material and padding.  Old school Muay Thai shin guards (like those listed in this review below) are designed for 2 things: kicking and absorbing kicks.  This type of shin guard is much bigger and more bulky on the leg, but offers the most protection.  
  3. Cost / Price – How much are you willing to invest in this product? As a general rule, Muay Thai-style shin guards have less budget-friendly options due to their heavy duty nature and reinforced, thick outside shell (the best ones are almost always full leather).  Unlike boxing gloves and MMA gloves, which have several options on the lower end of the price range, a good set of solid and durable Muay Thai shin guards will cost a bit more then economy gloves- but trust me this is a wise investment. I have tried damn near every kind of shin guard under the sun and can tell you this: if you are looking to extract the most from your training you cannot skimp on shin guards; in fact, if there was one item of your gear bag NOT to skimp on, it would be shin guards. Nevertheless, in the interest of being as thorough as possible I have included certain options which I feel for the price offer a relatively high degree of quality, however I say this with the caveat that having used them personally, any of the lower end priced shin guards on this list should only be used when training to move into an attack by having your partner wear the pads and attack you with kicks. Save training the full power shin and instep attacks for the heavier and more durable high-end pair of shin guards. You will both thank me later.

The 2 Key Benefits To Choosing The Best Shin Guards For Your Training

Before we get into discussing shin guards per se, we need to look at the two main ways shin guards can benefit your Wing Chun training.

Proper shin guards allow you to make contact against your opponent in such a way that you can attack sensitive areas such as their shin without fear of injuring them.  Trust me, nothing will make you pause and rethink attacking an opponent quicker than a well-timed and perfectly-executed shin kick.

If you have ever woken up in the middle of the night and banged your shin off of the corner of a dresser or an end table when stumbling to the bathroom to take a leak, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The shin kick causes instantaneous pain and from a physiological standpoint a properly executed Wing Chun kick can halt an attacker’s forward momentum by causing the knee to momentarily hyper-extend. 

This can be compared to being “stiff-armed” in football; even if your momentum is coming forward, kinesiologically you will halt as your neck bends backwards. Picture the same a loss of momentum and pain compliance only on a low line and you have the shin kick.

In order to be proficient in Wing Chun,  you will need to get over your fear of being hit and move in no matter what the attack is. I once read a story about how Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung (patriarch of my lineage of Wing Chun) was giving a seminar once, and someone asked him how he would deal with a certain type of kick. “Just move in,” he replied and continue down answering other questions.  Not satisfied with his answer or perhaps thinking that Grandmaster Wong had misheard him, the same participant asked Wong essentially the same question over the course of the seminar a few more times.  “Just move in,” once again was Wong’s reply each time he was asked.  So the story went, the participant left feeling frustrated that his question wasn’t answered-but it was.  

I can tell you from personal experience that moving in with forward pressure against punches and kicks is simple in concept but difficult to do and requires confidence in your skills and a progressive approach, however it does not change the fact that what is needed at a root level is for someone to suit up in gloves, shin pads and headgear and try to punch and kick you.  You need to move in and allow your forward pressure to displace their power rather than try to block, duck, weave or slip.

This is not MMA; we don’t check kicks with our shins.  Outside of a sporting event doing that for self defense is quite stupid so far as I’m concerned. 

When dealing with kicks, you have 2 options: You can either kick a banana tree for 3 hours a day and toughen your shins for months and months to block a kick with your shins, or you can have somebody kick you with shin pads while you train to move in, take their centerline and knock them on their ass. The choice is yours but I’m going with option B.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

One more thing:  there is no “one size fits all” approach for choosing which shin guards are best for you and your needs.  Each phase of your training, when taken seriously, will require different levels of mobility and protection.

I have divided this list of the best shin guards you should use in your training into 2 distinct categories:

  • FULL-CONTACT TRAINING / SPARRING
  • SELF-DEFENSE TRAINING  

Each have their own specific needs and requirements and require different equipment for you to train them as best you can.


FULL-CONTACT TRAINING SHIN GUARDS

Combat Sports International MMA Kickboxing Shin Guards

An excellent starter pair of shin guards for standup kickboxing training. Made by Combat Sports International, one of the most widely recognized and well-respected names in amateur MMA and kickboxing competition circles, these pads offer a dual hook and loop closure system one at around the calf and one just above the ankle this helps hold the pad snug but also allows for quick and easy taking off, unlike the more sleeve fitting slip-on neoprene style utilized by the MMA variety of shin guard (while this holds the pad a little tighter to your leg you have to take your shoes and socks off and in fact those are made to fight barefoot so as to ease the transition from stand up to the ground, which for purposes of our training does not concern us and will not be addressed in this review.  

Unlike several pairs of shin pads that just have the floppy instep piece (which I never understood since that friggin’ thing never stays in place) this pair has a fairly wide elastic foot stirrup to keep your foot directly underneath the instep pad. This actually helps more than you would realize when dealing with low-line shin and knee attacks such as the Wing Chun kick as well as transitioning from a shin kick to a toe stomp or foot stomp.

As anyone who has read my other reviews knows, I am not the biggest fan of synthetic leather however the fact that it is not 100% leather keeps the cost affordable to the vast majority who are looking for a quality shin guard without investing a ton of money. This gives you the best of both worlds: high quality construction from a reputable brand at a very reasonable price.


Title Muay Thai Shin / Instep Guards

Once again the Title Boxing company delivers with all of the key features that you need in a pair of shin guards at an excellent price with the Title Muay Thai Shin / Instep Guard.

For starters, the padding extends a little bit upward towards the knee protecting that awkward area below the kneecap and before the shin.  Let me tell you, if you’ve practiced enough kicks you’ve taken a shin kick or two to that area: it’s either slid up the pad and hit your knee or it’s landed square in that meaty part where there is no real padding.  Both suck.

In addition to the design covering the knee, the shape of the pad is such that it wraps around the inner and outer edges of the shin.  This is gold for covering those awkward angles were things do not hit straight on. In the heat of a drill or in the sloppiness of a self-defense scenario, strikes will rarely landed straight on even if the opponent is in front of you. To have one dimensional gear that only works in a certain angle will over time prove to be more of a hindrance than a tool for your skill development. These pads are molded to fit the shin and wrap around, creating an extra layer of protection in an area you might not think o- which is cool because now you don’t have to think of it.

Another noteworthy feature of these guards is that there is an additional foam rubber layer straight up the center part of the shin and down the instep in addition to the already high density padding these guards are made from.  This gives that much more protection for elbows, knees, stomps (controlled) to the instep and all other manner of techniques.   As an FYI you should never practice instep or toe stomps full contact; chances are you’ll be doing a toe or instep stomp drill with shoes on and all these pads do is give you a little more padding as well as a target for the stomp, so use common sense when training and don’t hobble each other.

My favorite feature of these pads are the extra wide and reinforced stitched straps on the hook and loop closure. when you have calves like grapefruits, as I do, regular size straps can be a little bit difficult to work with. Extra wide straps = extra wide velcro = that much more snug a hold on my upside-down bowling pin lower legs. Combine the extra wide straps with the contour design to the shin and it helps to keep the pad where it should be.


Title World Pro Shin Guards

What makes the Title World Pro MMA Shin Guard different is its gel technology. This material offers all of the benefits of shock absorbency and protection and a lighter weight. The dual-closure system on the backside as well as the reinforced center line of extra thick, dense foam padding down the shin and instep is a standard as far as high quality padding goes; what really makes this pair unique is the no slip fabric on the inside of the pad.

When sparring and when sparring with pads that are not of the slip-on neoprene style, oftentimes the only thing holding the pad to your leg is the double strap on the back. This makes the material on the side of the pad that lays flush against your leg critical for how well the pad will stay in place.

I cannot tell you how many times I have sparred hard only to, in the heat of an exchange, not realize that a pad has rotated sometimes almost 45° either to the inside or outside leaving my shin almost fully exposed until I either kicked or checked a kick and then proceeded to see stars and roll around on the ground like someone lit my shirt on fire. The no slip fabric on the inside of the helps by maintaining contact with your shin and holding the pad in place.

The inner edge of the pad also employs a moisture wicking system that helps by not soaking up as much moisture or sweat while you are wearing these and let me promise you this much: your legs will sweat and after a good, solid workout your equipment will often feel like you’ve dunked it all in a bucket of water. They will need to be aired out regardless, however, having a benefit such as this on your pads greatly reduces the time that your equipment will need to air out.


Title MMA Command Shin & Instep Guard

The Title Command Shin & Instep Guard sports a few new interesting and noteworthy features.

For starters, unlike the traditional shin guard design of two pieces, one for the instep and one for the pad itself, the Title Command is made from one-piece molded padding. This keeps the cohesion of the shin and instep guard itself as a unit together in terms of keeping it in place.

One of the major major problems with any shin guard is keeping it in place.  As stated before, the two main styles of shin pads are either at the double strap closure in the back or the neoprene slip-on “leg warmer” style.  I have used both extensively over the last 20 years and can attest that for any type of standup / full-contact/ kickboxing/ close-quarters self-defense training, the dual strap closure system works best although the question of how to keep the guard in place always came up.

What the Title Command Shin Guard has achieved with its’ design is the best of both worlds: they still have the standard double-strap back while also employing an inset elastic strap around the lower leg, as well as the elastic slip for the foot which keeps the shin pad stable at the point of its greatest instability.  This ensures that you can have the snug fit that you want without having to take off your shoes and socks and fight barefoot or MMA style.  

I am not the biggest fan of synthetic leather in any equipment however the synthetic leather design actually works quite well here insofar as keeping the price down to the reasonable range. Will I always if given the choice go for a leather shin pads? Absolutely.  That said, these are a fine addition to any gear bag and in terms of price to benefit offer one of the highest ratios to any sin guard or shin guard out there – but I’ve come to expect nothing less from Title Boxing Company and they have yet to disappoint.  


Twins Classic Shin Guard

Twins is one of the most well-respected and highly renowned companies turning out Muay Thai kickboxing gear out there and the Twins Classic Shin Guard lives up to its’ name and exemplifies the entire Twins product line: simple, solid & stable.  These are no-frills, no-bullshit shin guards you can tell are built for use. No fancy designs or innovative patterns here:  just padding-and a lot of it. 

The design is straightforward and covers the inner edges of the shin as well as the shin itself but what I really enjoy the most about this pair has to do with the foot.  The hook and loop closure system is standard as far as shin guards go but the foot protector on these covers damn near the whole foot!  It reminds me more of a bootie or a sock than it is just an instep pad, which makes perfect sense since Muay Thai is primarily a kicking art. Several of the other shin guards out there almost cover the instep as an afterthought. 

When looking at any of the top shelf MMA or grappling shin guards, for example, one can see that even though they are durable and of high quality in their construction, at some point a concession will have to be made with regards to instep coverage vs ease-of-use and impact absorbency and protection, which is why so many neoprene or slip-on pads address roughly half of the instep.

All that concerns me is solid, stable padding for all parts of the shin and the instep, since both parts will be the target of a properly timed Wing Chun kick and/or shin scrape to toe or instep stomp. Having use these fairly extensively I can attest to their craftsmanship-they are noticeably dense and handmade in Thailand. Their full leather structure aids in offering a level of protection to your shins that most guards being hawked on the market today fall short of, but then again I would expect nothing less from a company whose sole purpose was to outfit fighters with high quality equipment designed to take years of punishment.


Venum Challenger Standup Shin Guard

Just as with the Venum Challenger boxing and MMA gloves, the Challenger line of Venum’s shin guards seems to be the more economical synthetic leather variation of the Venum of line of products.

The handmade-in-Thailand attention to detail and a superb craftsmanship combined with ease of price on the wallet once again comes through with the Venum Challenger Shin Guard.  They keep the cost low while the high density foam offers a high degree of shock absorbency.   No shin guard can ever truly take 100% of the sting out of, say, a shin or oblique kick to your instep or shin with the heel of a pair of shoes, however what this padding can do is protect you enough to get a true feel for it.

I am always a bit leery of pads that advertise themselves to be “ultra lightweight” since I know what goes into training for Wing Chun and self-defense, and what concerns me is not the lightest-weight guard; it’s the best padded guard.

I would not use these to practice full-blast shin checking kicks on.  Any direct attack to an opponent’s shin, instep or kneecap (okay, well maybe not the kneecap) should only be done with high-density leather shin guards.  For full-contact training, they are more than adequate and in fact are built for just that purpose.

One aspect of these pads I find particularly useful is a contour design of the foot. Many times with the flat or standard instep-flop pad (almost like the tongue of a shoe) that area receives inadequate coverage.  This is eliminated with the Venum Challenger‘s contour design.

Definitely worth checking out and making use of although again not to absorb full-power kicks to the shin.


Venum Elite Standup Shin Guard

Now we’re talkin,’ Venum! These address all of the major features you would need in a high-quality,  high-class pair of shin guards.

For starters the construction is 100% leather, which is always a plus in my book for the type of training that we are doing. The foot is contoured much the same way as the Challenger  listed previously but to as greater a degree, which holds the pad that much tighter to your leg.

What I really enjoy is the wide extra layer of padding straight down the shin and instep.  Most other lines have a thin layer of padding in this high-impact area and while make no mistake about it, any extra padding is good padding, there is something about the extra thick layer of that additional strip of padding that gives me much more confidence in using them; remember, I’ve banged my shins on knees, elbows and other shins full-go more times than I can begin to count and have suffered those consquences.

Combine that with the dense foam of the rest of the pad itself and you have a durable pair of shin guards that will resist high-power kicks to the shin as well as hitting elbows and knees when playing the attacker against someone who will then defend with Wing Chun.

Despite all of the extra padding the Venum Elites are surprisingly lightweight-not that it matters to us all that much, but it’s always nice to feel less bogged down by any equipment you’re wearing. You will not feel this way with the Venum Elite; you will be able to move and move fluidly without feeling like you’ve got big blocky things strapped to your lower leg, which is yet another aspect of these pads that I really enjoy due to my “grapefruit calves” situation.

The velcro straps on the top and bottom of the Venum Elite Shin Guards are extra-wide, not the standard thinner strap, which scores big points in my book since the standard size straps always tended to cut into my leg like a tourniquet especially around the calf; in order to wear them at all I often resorted to wearing the straps above the meaty part of the calf almost in the crook of the knee which after a while cause me quite a bit of pain not to mention instability on the shin guard. What the extra wide strap does to combat this is disperse that feeling across the back of the leg more evenly so it doesn’t feel like trying to cut a cheesecake with a piece of dental floss.

Venum products are handmade in Thailand and that’s superb craftsmanship really shines through on the Venum Elite Shin Guard.  


Fairtex SP3 Pro-Style Shin Guard

There’s no question that the name FAIRTEX = Muay Thai and kickboxing equipment.  Everything Fairtex makes is top-of-the-line. These shin guards are no exception. They are very durable and very dense, yet lightweight and quite comfortable to wear. In fact the SP3 Pro-Style Shin Guard shown here is 30% lighter than Fairtex’ standard shin guards.  All of the standard features one would expect of a top-shelf pad/shin guard are part and parcel of these. 

From the top down to the bottom, the two straps on the back are extra heavy, double reinforced stitching, which helps keep it from sliding around. You can both take and receive powerful kicks wearing the shin guards. 

The raised middle reinforced area that provides extra protection for the shin and instep area is one of the densest on the market today; a solid kick to your thigh from someone wearing these feels like you just got hit in the thigh with a wiffle ball bat (which is another way of saying that it really, really sucks). I have trained with these extensively, having used them as both an attacker and defender and I have no complaints as to the craftsmanship and the quality of the shin pad.

If I am going to be 100% honest. my only two issues -albeit minor ones- stem from the fact that my legs are actually very large, I mean like upside-down-bowling-pin-meets-grapefruit calves. Because of this choosing shin guards has been a bit of a challenge for me. For a long time the only ones I felt comfortable with using were the slip-on neoprene MMA grappling ones because any other ones would come loose because of my large calves. In doing so I sacrificed protection for comfort and had many a sore shin and sore knee from being hyperextended. I have found that unless you order the proper size of pad these may have a tendency to slide on your leg. Therefore my advice to anyone with large calves is to order an XL and not a L to allow for more room for your calves.

My other issue stems from the instep guard: now I realize that these particular shin guards are designed for intermediate to advanced kickers who can place kicks better and do not use the instep to kick but rather the shin, which is how it should be for Muay Thai and kickboxing, but for our training needs foot coverage is important as we will be drilling controlled stomps to the shin and instep.  These instep pads are a bit small, as they are designed for more upper level practitioners who need to balance weight and protective ability.

Those two minor deviations aside, these are fantastic shin guards, especially if you are doing the the drills as an attacker who is throwing kicks at your partner who will then defend against your attacks by applying Wing Chun. The compact and dense nature of these pads will reveal their blessings to you soon enough; when playing the the attacker, you’ll undoubtedly kick your partner and bang your shin off of his/hers, or smack an elbow or knee.  These help immensely.


Fairtex Competition SP5 Shin Guards

The Fairtex Competition SP5 Shin Guard rectified several of the (minor) issues I’ve had with the SP3 Fairtex Pro Style Shin Guard listed above for purposes of our Wing Chun and self-defense training.

For starters, while being synthetic leather they are just as lightweight and durable as the SP3 Pro Style Guard. The ultra dense foam core is both highly shock-absorbent and high density, allowing for absorption of shin kicks with shoes on as well as attacking someone with the intention of having them respond with Wing Chun.

Just as with the Sp3 Pro Style Guard the hook and loop closure system is made of reinforced, extra heavy leather straps and are handmade in Thailand. Superb craftsmanship once again shows through, but my big push for the SP5 Competition Shin Guard that edges out the SP3 Pro Style Guard above comes from the extended instep. These cover almost the entire foot which, for our purposes, is more in line with what we are using the shin pad for. 

While the SP3 Pro Guard listed above is designed with a more advanced practitioner in mind these are designed for maximum coverage, making them an ideal choice for all levels. When training for self-defense as well as sports, coverage is what is key since coverage allows for a much greater range of self-defense activity. These allow a greater contouring design to cover more areas of leg. Whereas the SP3 is a semi-circular sleeve of ultra-dense heavy duty yet lightweight foam and leather, these pads curve around the leg edges a little bit more to provide that much extra coverage, once again falling right in line with the versatility and unpredictability of our Wing Chun and self-defense training.


Hayabusa T3 Muay Thai & Kickboxing Shin Guard

For the ultimate in shin protection you can do no better than the Hayabusa T3  Muay Thai & Kickboxing Shin Guard.

Its’ ergonomic design contours to the leg better than any other shin guard on the market. What I especially like is the fact that the contouring raises up on the outer edge of each leg, providing protection to the often missed area when shins bang or when quarters get tight.

The two extra heavy straps are thicker -a little bit thicker than the standard straps by other shin guards- yet these shin guards also employ extra elastic straps around the ankle area that keep the shin pads snug & secure,  and the full instep coverage ensures that the maximum degree of protection is given it to the instep and toes.

The open back design includes Hayabusa’s patented XT2 antimicrobial technology, which minimizes odor by minimizing bacteria and, of course, being handmade in Thailand it is a given that the stitching will be top quality and the material will be second to none.

Hayabusa as a product line at the top of the heap in MMA and kickboxing gear. Why this is important to us as Wing Chun students training for self-defense as well as is simple; we are after quality and durability, not after ease of use in being able to grapple versus stand up or anything of that nature. All that concerns us is shock absorbency, durability and ergonomics. Hayabusa consistently delivers all 3.

If you know this is something you want to pursue as a lifetime study do not short-change yourself. Invest-and yes I said invest- in a pair of these. They will serve you well as long as you decide to train.


Hayabusa T3 Kanpeki Muay Thai & Kickboxing Shin Guard

The T3 Kanpeki shin guard is the exact same product mentioned above with one key difference- its’ outer shell is composed of the highest quality drum-dried leather. What this means is that this product will continue to break itself in and get more and more comfortable as time goes on.

Is this a better product in the T3 listed above? No. Will you get the same coverage as the standard T3? Absolutely.

This is really more of a personal choice for those with discriminating taste who appreciate quality. Everyone has that favorite pair of jeans or shoes that fit just right or as martial artists, that pair of pads that are broken in just right.  What the T3 Kanpeki does is take that comfort to the entirely next level by merging it with unparalleled craftsmanship and durability.


SHIN GUARDS FOR PURE “SELF OFFENSE” TRAINING ONLY

For straight self-defense we are not engaging any type of “sparring,” as sparring implies a back-and-forth even exchange.  For such self defense (or self “offense” given what we are training and how we are training it) drills when you need to kick a shin really hard while wearing shoes or boots, the best piece of equipment for this is a catcher’s leg guard on top of your shin pads.

Why catcher’s leg guards?  Think about it. Full-contact kickboxing or MMA shin guards on their own are designed for repetitive full-contact training, however nothing beats catcher’s shin & knee gear for realism in training for no-bullshit self-defense skill development.  These things are designed to take shots of very focused power at high velocity. 

Catchers use shins to block spikes at home plate.  The shell of a catcher’s leg guard makes them ideal for taking full power hits to the shin & instep-I mean, they are designed to protect against spikes and baseballs so toe kicks from a shoe or heel scrapes from your boot don’t really phase this. What you do need is a pair of shin guards from the aforementioned “Full-Contact Training” category underneath them to aid in the absorbency. If you are ready to take your training to the next level for self-defense purposes only you would do very well by picking up a pair of catcher’s guards.

The material used in a high-end catcher’s leg guard is usually high density fiberglass or plastic, not a tearing substance like leather.  The design of a catcher’s leg guard cradles the shin and leg more since they are designed to protect and not to strike with; in other words, it can be as hard as it wants to be without injury to another since they aren’t designed for mutual combat.  The flex joints in catcher’s gear are greater since range of motion required (up, down, side, side, knees,. standing, etc.) so much greater.  This translates very well into the unpredictable and ever changing nature of a self-defense encounter.

Try these varieties of high-end catcher’s gear to fill in that missing link in your training and watch both your skills and the confidence to apply them without hesitation if and when needed grow exponentially.

Mizuno G3 Samurai Shin Guards

When looking at the new and updated Mizuno G3 Samurai let’s start with the detachable flexible protective triple D cup.  Catchers need to be able to move up and down off of their knees, shift, twist and all motions in between during the course of a regular game. 

How this benefits us is that by having equipment such as this,  we are better able to move through all ranges of motion that one would need to in order to have effective self-defense training for this deals with the unpredictability of an actual encounter.

Another benefit to the G3 Samurai pads are its’ use of inner shin protection.  In line with the unpredictable nature of an attack, we must train to be able to adapt to any situation. Kicks to the shin are not only the most punishing, but they are also the most unpredictable. As such your equipment needs to address all factors: a backswing kick with the heel when grabbed from behind is a different trajectory and velocity than a front-line oblique kick. 

The angle-of-attack can come anywhere in a 180 degree field from your front line, so having extra padding on the inner shin covers those times when a kick will come from an angle not supported by the shin.

The G3 also Sports a movable/detachable toe cap.  There are times in training when we would like to train with or without the toe cap depending on the kick we are working on: the shin kick as a kick as a stomping motion, for example, has a different feel, trajectory, speed and velocity than a sweeping shin stop- kick does.  Having the option for the toe guard also means you can tailor your training very specifically to the attack you are working on.   

 Pick up a pair and start kicking people in the shins today- not going to lie, that is some fun stuff.


Easton Adult Force Catchers Leg Guards

In addition to triple knee protection which you might expect from any reputable catchers leg guard, the Easton is also one of the most of the light and ergonomically designed leg guards on the market. Again, when using these for self-defense it is best to pair these with a pair of shin guards from the category listed above but what really makes the Easton Adult Force Catchers Leg Guards stand out is its “bio-dry” inner lining which can be removed and washed. 

I cannot tell you how important this is: when you train for self-defense with equipment designed to withstand impact you are going to sweat a lot.  When you sweat a lot, your equipment will smell a lot.  The inner lining being  removable means it can be washed and the equipment remaining can be wiped down without any fear of disinfectants soaking in and taking even longer to dry. 

When you train hardcore you have to think about things like this-it’s not all kicking ass, it’s also about training smart and respecting your equipment.  The more you respect your equipment, the better it will serve you.

Just as anybody who has half a brain knows that you need to get your oil changed every 3000 miles to have it run optimally, your training gear works the same way. Take care of it and it will take care of you.


Under Armor Professional Leg Guards

Under Armour is clearly in a class by itself when it comes to turning out high-quality equipment. These professional leg guards are constructed of extra thick plastic in high-use locations, since catchers have to absorb full power slides, spikes, collisions and baseball richochets in the course of a normal season (and the pros play 162 games a year) so having extra thick plastic in high contact areas only increases the durability.

Now you can practice shin kicks ’til the cows come home and not worry about your equipment failing you.

These guards also having a gel-padded knee which not only aids in the comfort for a catcher on his knees being to pop up to a standing position regularly, but also increases absorbency of impact.  What this means for us is one more layer of “insurance,” so to speak, between a full-blast shin kick straying off its intended target and hitting you square in the knee as opposed to landing square in the shin where it should be.

We all have “oops” moments in training (I prefer to call them “oh, shit!” moments since that’s what I know I will say if I screw something up)-that’s going to happen.  How well you can rebound from such a training accident has to do with the quality and caliber of your equipment.  Even knee kick training can take place with these pads HOWEVER I say that with the disclaimer that it must be controlled training: there is no equipment out there that I have found that allows for full power kicks to the knee.  What the gel pad kneecap on these pads does is offer you that much more resistance to any errant injury.

All of the standard features and mobility to high-end catcher’s leg guards apply here as well, however two areas this product stands out are in its use of extra wide knee to keep the shin pad that much more in place, as well as having a ventilated knee and shin to prevent unnecessary moisture from staying put and soaking into your gear. 

As I said earlier, when you train self-defense, especially full contact self-defense, you will sweat a lot based on the equipment you are wearing.  Proper airing out and cleaning of your equipment directly impacts the life of your equipment and the productivity of your training sessions.

Last but not least, when discussing instep and foot protection there’s also a removable second toe on these guards.  You can keep it on or take it off depending on the needs of the drill, but is there if you should need it.  This just offers that much more protection when drilling shin and instep attacks.

These will not disappoint, however you must pair them (or any of the other catcher’s leg guards listed above) with a pair of training shin guards for the true measure and effect of full-contact training of the Wing Chun kick for self-defense and personal protection.


Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

One final note: all of these three brands of catcher’s leg guards I have just listed are for self-defense purposes only, not for full-contact sparring, MMA or kickboxing training.  Therte is no “give and take” back and forth exchange with these pads; they are desoigned for impact so msake sure when trianing straight -up self defense tactics like a shinkick with a toe stomp or instep stomp, these are the only pads one should be wearing. 

We have to tailor our training using these catcher’s leg guards for what we need to do in self-defense scenario.  When it comes to training methods, techniques and equipment, one size cannot fit all.  You would not try to hang a picture by hammering a nail with the edge of a screwdriver – can it work? Sure,  but a screwdriver is not the right tool for that particular job.

Proper training is all about knowing not only what to do, but what equipment to use, when to use it and how to use it properly.  Any equipment we train with must be tailored for the right purpose, and the use of catchers gear is done for the purpose of straightforward, 100% no bullshit self-defense training.


Recap / Review

To review, shin guards have an essential role in Wing Chun training, not only for full-contact combat sports competition such as MMA or kickboxing, but also for self-defense as well. Your Wing Chun, self defense and full-contact training can be improved both as the attacker and defender with the right shin guards.

When selecting the best shin guard for your training needs, you must first answer the 3 key questions to point you in the right direction:

  • Category – what are you using these for, full-contact sparring or straight self-defense?
  • Material – how durable and shock absorbent are they for what you are looking to use them for?
  • Price – how much can you afford to invest in your training?

Over the past 18 years or so I have found that the best shin guards for training to apply Wing Chun in a sparring sense for full-contact training (both straight Wing Chun sparring as well as applying your Wing Chun skills to the arena of combat sports participation) are those of the the Muay Thai or “standup” variety-these offer more protection and on the best pairs, the instep comes down to the toes or damn near close.  Bulk isn’t an issue since we are not grappling with them.

For training to apply and functionalize your Wing Chun skills and techniques in a functional, practical and effective way for pure, no-bullshit self-defense I have found that nothing beats catcher’s leg guards for putting some bad intentions on a low line kick to the shin, especially if shoes are involved.  Catcher’s leg guards also covers the knee as a precaution since we don’t full-on attack the knee in training but having an extra thick layer between my knee and someone’s boot heel is always a plus in my book.


Final Thoughts

Shin guards, when properly used, not only help functionalize the Wing Chun kick from both the front and rear leg but also-when employed as a tool used by the “attacker” to encroach on your space-provide valuable feedback and opportunity to  train yourself to move in and attack your opponents attack. This is simple, but it is not easy. It is scary.  It will hurt at times, and it requires courage to do.  The Wing Chun kick stands alone in the pantheon of martial arts techniques in the fact that it is an extension of the structure. The only way this can be trained is by contact, and the only way to make hard and efficient contact is by using shin guards.

Without getting in there and getting your ass knocked around a little bit you will never develop the confidence to attack your opponent’s attack and, if that be the case, following this way you will never be doing true Wing Chun, since that is what Wing Chun is.

Wing Chun isn’t about the wooden dummy, the forms or the butterfly swords.  It’s not about the long poles.  Wing Chun is not endlessly repeating drill after drill after drill without, as Bruce said , “emotional content,” merely thinking that if you do X motion enough it will magically come to your aid when you need it  Nope.

The true essence, the spirit and the heart of Wing Chun is about taking your opponent’s space, applying forward pressure and cultivating a surgically precise yet barbaric mindset that manifests in attacking your opponents attack. That is what Wing Chun is and anyone who tells you different is bullshitting you.  Sorry, but it’s the way it is.

Too much emphasis is placed on punching and upper-body things.  It is true that in many instances the lower body is primarily a transportation device to get you to attack the centerline while maintaining body unity, however the Wing Chun kick is unique amongst martial art kicks in that it is a direct outgrowth of the Wing Chun structure; there is no four-part “chamber, execute, re-chamber and return” sequence to this kick the same way you have with all other kicks in various other martial arts.

The right shin guards can make training Wing Chun for both reality-based self defense and full-contact combat sports competition an efficient and effective process however it will require  intelligent and directed thinking outside the box.

Refer to this list anytime you need to make a decision when purchasing shin guards. This is a very focused guide to choosing the right pair of shin guards for Wing Chun training for both the full-contact sports and self-defense arena.  Read this review again, take it all in, choose the right gear to fit your needs, make a decision, order a pair and get to training.  It’s that simple.

Remember, Wing Chun only works if YOU do.

 

Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby

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