Friday, March 8, 2013

Wear a mouth guard while sparring, dammit!

So today during Muay Thai sparring, I kicked my partner in the head, his teeth bit down hard, he was dazed and rocked and he felt like he had lost a tooth.  Luckily, I was wearing large shin pads, and I kicked him lightly so he didn't actually loose any teeth.  Unlucky for him, he chipped one of his K9 teeth and got a good reminder to wear his mouth guard.  I apologized but he said it wasn't my fault, as he knew he should have been wearing a gum shield and also he shouldn't have dropped his hands when he walked forward.  But this is a very common case.  Tons of guys don't wear mouth guards while sparring and it's stupid.

First it's unfair to your sparring partner as he'll feel bad punching your in the face and focus on the body, making it unrealistic practice.  Second, if he does catch you, he'll feel bad that he hurt you.  But more importantly, it's dangerous for you, your teeth, and it's easier to get hurt or even knocked out by not having one in.  Wear a fucking mouth guard whenever you spar please.

Tips on Mouth Guards for Muay Thai

There are two main types of mouth guards, or gum shields as they call them in the UK.  One is the cheap boil in hot water, and second are the more expensive dentist fitted ones.  Any mouth guard is better than none, so start with a cheap one. Drop it in boiling hot water for a few minutes to soften the plastic, then bite down on it and use your fingers to mold it around your teeth.  Practice wearing it around the house as you'll most likely want to throw up whenever it's in your mouth.  It takes a bit of getting used to.

For me I would wear it at home while on the computer and watching TV, and I would even sleep with it in for the first few weeks to get used to it.  If you can't over come the gag reflex, you can take some scissors and snip off a bit of each end to make it more comfortable.

The benefits of an expensive custom mouth guard

I used a cheap mouth guard for years and it was always good enough.  But then I met a guy who had a custom one and I was surprised when he was able to talk with it in between sparring rounds.  That sold me right there.  The other benefits are that they are more comfortable, make you want to gag less, and they fit snugly which allows you to open your mouth and take big breaths without it falling out.  I ended up buying one from Custom Kombat Mouth Guards in Phuket for around 3,000 baht ($100US) and although at first I didn't want to spend the money on it, it turns out to have been the best investment I've ever made.  In my last fight in Phuket, I got elbowed in the teeth a few times, really hard.  My teeth were knocked loose and didn't reset for almost 6 months.  Luckily, and because of my custom mouth guard, I didn't loose any teeth.  That alone was well worth a hundred bucks.  I also benefit from it everyday during sparring, i'm able to talk between rounds, breath through my mouth if I get a bloody nose, and just not have to worry about it as much.  If you're going to do Muay Thai seriously, get one made either at home or in Phuket when you arrive.

Also wear 16oz gloves while sparring:

I still can't believe how many guys spar with 12oz gloves.  It's both dangerous and unfair to your partner.  Even if you think you are in control of your strength and don't hit hard, there's a good chance you'll lose control of your ego or emotions without you knowing it and start punching hard. Don't be an asshole. Wear 16oz gloves while sparring, always.

Tips for Beginners and those new to Sparring:

One of the best things I did when I started out, to get over my fear of getting hit, and also to keep my eyes open was the practice covering up.  Basically, I bit down on my mouth guard, wore 16oz gloves, made sure my partner did the same, and let him wail on me for an entire round. Without punching back, I just focused on covering up, keeping my chin down, and keeping my eyes open and on him.  I circled a little bit, but even allowed myself to get into a corner so he could really open up on me.  That was the single best thing I've ever done for my sparring and I recommend it to anyone starting out.

Happy sparring and training,

Johnny - add me - Read the book!


  1. JK BowlingMarch 09, 2013

    Good article! If you're in the US, I highly recommend Gladiator Guards for a good low priced Custom mouthguard.

  2. I've became an overnight fan of your blog man.... Been thinking of training MT in Thailand for a few months now. I travel when I lose job contracts so when I lose this one MT will likely be the route I take. I want to learn to defend myself better and also get over my fear of getting hit like you did. I can't even box a friend without my eyes shutting up on me lol


Hey if you've read this far, you might as well at least leave a comment. Even just to say what's up! If you have any questions about training in Thailand just ask it here in the comments and I'll answer so everyone can benefit from it.