Monday, 9 July 2018

Product Review; Elite Sports Gloves and Focus Mitts

Introduction and background:

I am very fond of "Traditions" and "The Old Ways", but I am also very fond of making use of modern equipment and sport science to augument my martial arts jurney. One thing that I think main stream taekwondo can do better is to include more impact work for adult students with a bigger focus on hand techniques than what we normally see today. In my personal training I have been using the heavy bag and Kwon Go/ Dallyon Joo or Makkiwara for a few years now, and the Dojang that I train with purchased focus mitts last year for training hand techniques on my recommendation. I train bare-fisted AND with gloves, I do not believe in doing just the one or the other. I bought myself a pair of boxing gloves a long time ago, and I have also used "taekwondo gloves", the kind the WTF (or just the WT these days) implemented a few years back. The problem with impact work as I see it in my own day to day training is:

  1. Only training bare-fisted limits my training because of the impact. Sometimes if the training volume is large enough the usage of gloves is prefferable. It is not an "either-if" case, you need both if you train enough.
  2. Taekwondo gloves are meant to protect your fingers in a competition bout. They shred easily and can not take the continued punishment that impact training with them provides. They are OK for occasional use, but they just do not hold up in my own experience. This is OK for impact training is not their function.
  3. Boxing gloves does not allow you to truly make a fist. It also forgives you for not having correct aligment while punching. Using them in sparring also has a problem in that it is easier and more efficient to "hide behind the guard" than to use traditional taekwondo makki-techniques.
This means that I have been searching for an alternative, and when Ellen from Elite Sports approached me and asked if I was interested in doing a product review I felt that the planets had aligned and I could possibly look at new solution to my personal training problems, and do product review at the same time. We first had some correspondance on what she wanted, and I also had to make sure that I could give a 100% honest review or I would not do it. You are hopefully reading this so you can guess how this turned out :-)

What and who is "Elite Sports"

You might not have heard of them, and this is one of the things that made me say yes because who does not love the underdog-story? Anyway, they are a company based out of Southern California, and from what I gather they are not the biggest or most well known company, but there is one thing that caught my attention when Ellen described the company and that was the following: "We manufacture our own items so that's why we are solely responsible for our product quality." I checked out their web-page as well before saying yes, and they do strike me as a sincere company with great return policies and a genuine pride of their products (Their webpage can easily be reached by clicking here by the way). The company is only a few years old, but it consists of people actually training martial arts, and they pride themselves in functional design, and to deliver high quality products for affordable prices. I know that that is almost a clichê to write, but I will start the product review shortly and so far I think that they do deliver on their promise.

All of the products came in a very nifty packaging :-) These are closed by velcro
so you can use them to store your gear for a long time.


I recently got the products, so I have only done some initial testing. This is a review documenting my initial thoughts on the products. I will do a follow up in a month or so to tell you all how it has held up, and how it compares to similar products when possible (the focus mitts will be easy to compare to the ones we use at our Dojang for instance). That being said let's jump over to the initial thoughts after the unboxing and the first trial runs :-)

Standard MMA Grappling Gloves $24,99 (at the time of writing)

Grappling gloves protect your fists, but also allow for grappling. If you are into
traditional taekwondo self defense you will probably love these.

These gloves is a really big step up from what I have been using in my own training the last few years. It does provide some support in the wrist (the traditionalists will possibly say that is a bad thing, but I find it a good thing as long as we test our structure and aligment by alternating with and without gloves in training for impact work). It stays secure with a velcro strip which wraps around your wrist twice. The strip is made from the same PU leather as the rest of the glove. It provideds impact protection in the front of the gloves, and this protection (which the website says is high density gel foam) extends to the back of the hand. This allows you protection with training any strike with the forefist (regular fist strikes) and backhand strikes as well. No impact protection for your hammerfist strikes though, but this seems to be a huge step up from what I have been using. 

The overall quality seems to be great in terms of long term usage, but as this is only my initial thoughts I can not say for certain how these will hold up for the long run, but I do want to highlight the fact that anything on this glove that will get the most stress and wear and tear seems to be very well made. When I fist looked at where you feed your fingers in the glove, I was pleasently surprised to see that they had double stiched each individual finger holder! That is some serious eye for detail on the designers part in my own opinion. 

The fact that your fingers are free to move, these gloves will be good for impact work, as well as sparring with a partner, or impact drills where grappling and striking are both used within the same drill. To be honest I was and still am very excited as this opens up a lot of training possibilites in terms for self defense training, more realistic drills and the training for Poomsae applications for close quarter combat. 

Ending comment: They seem to be of great quality, the designer and manufacturer has obviously gone to greath lengths to make something that will last, they both look and feel good in the initial testing so yeah... Great stuff... I am looking forward to doing the follow up review in the future after using them for a while :-)

Pro Style MMA Half Mitts Grappling Gloves $22,99 (at the time of writing)

Better suited for grappling, but they still protect your fists. Great for traditional
free sparring
A lot of what I said about the previous pair applies here as well. The strip that goes around your wrist consists of the same material as the rest of the glove. It goes around your wrist not once, but twice, again providing you with additional wrist support should you need it, but not so much that you can not bend your wrist if needed. What seperates this type from the previous type of glove is the size and as the name implies they are "half mitts", so the fingers are exposed at the ends. This is a grappling glove so the design obviously cater for the intended use. You can implement grappling with the previous pair of gloves, but they lend themselves more to striking with grappling being a possibility, while these lend themselves more toward grappling with being much more free to grip, but again these are grappling gloves so anything else would just be weird would it not? They do provide the user with impact protection gel foam for the fist and the backhand, so you can strike pretty hard. Remember I used taekwondo gloves for some of my impact work? Well these gloves are a whole new legue from them, I feel bad for even bringing them up, comparing the two... These gloves will undoubtfully be great for partner work and sparring, and to some extent; impact training too. The traditionalist who refuses to use gloves for their impact work, but wanting to do more impact work than they can at this point because they do not use gloves, can use these to allow for impact training while still being fairly close to bare handed striking. They are lightweight and while they do provide support for the wrist, whey will be far less forgiving for poor technique than other alternatives.

The quality of this pair of gloves are perhaps not surprisingly very similar to the previous pair of gloves, this being the same company and all:-) The way the leather wraps around the fingers in this pair does not allow me to check to see if they are doubled stiched without cutting them open (and I do not want to do that). I have however, been tugging away at them and abusing them a little to see if I could break them, but they survived completly unharmed by my feeble attempts, so double stiched or not, they will not likely fail you. 

Ending comment: As with the rest of the equipment I have only done some trial runs, and in the case with these gloves I actually tried breaking them and could not. I will be very suprised if these gloves will not last me (and any other buyer) a very long time. In a world where things seems to be made to be broken so we can buy more this is a refreshing experience. PS Elite Sports has not paid me a dime for this product review, and they have no idea of what I am writing beyond that I had a good first impression of their stuff so I am not writing these things to get a pay day, this is my honest opinion and experience.

Essential Curved Punching Mitts $24,99 (at the time of writing)

You need to actually hit stuff if you want your techniques to work.
Punching Mitts is great for drilling strikes on.

Three products, same company, and consistent quality it seems. Just about every detail that can be double stiched is double stiched. They are very light weight, but in my opinion this is a good thing, as it allows the holder to "hold" for longer without becomming tired. The material seems to be the same as for the gloves on the surface (PU leather) but I have no idea what is inside the gloves. The website says "shock absorbent foam" so I guess they have shock absobent foam inside:-) We use similar punching mitts in the Dojang I train with, but they are heavier, and if my initial test is anyting to go by, I will say that these seems to be superior as to shock absorbtion despite being more light weight. Elite Sports punching mitts comes with an adjustable strap for holding them in place on your arm which I found to be very practical. Another innovation that the ones that I have used in the past lacked is that these mitts actually have ventilation through "mesh panels". The punching mitts I have been using up until now has been plaigued by the fact that the holders hands becomes very sweaty very fast. I have not been able to do heavy sessions on these yet so I am looking forward to see how these hold up in that regard.

Ending comment: When I first felt the light weight on these I was sure that they would not last long, but when I examined the mitts I see that almost everything that is possible to double stich is doubled stiched. As with their other products these mitts seems to be made for long term use. The curve should not put anyone off, they are indeed slightly curved but I can do bare-fisted strikes on them just fine. If anything the slight curve is a pleasent touch for both gloved strikes (the first pair of gloves in this review had the same curve in the front as the punching mitts, so they fit very well together) and bare-knuckle strikes. I am curious on a few things when I have used them for a while if the ventilation helps, and if the punching mitts will soften up a little over a few sessions. I have not done any prolonged training with them yet, but I will be sure to let you guys know in the future :-)

So that is it for this time. My regular training partner (Ivar) is currently on holliday, and I am going on holliday as he comes home so true testing beyond the initial trial runs will comence once we are both back in action :-) I will make a more indepth review focusing more on how they have held up after more training then, but I do hope you find my initial thoughts and impression interesting :-) And if you are currently looking for training equipment perhaps you will check out Elite Sports after reading this?

Happy and good Summer to all of you. Best regards from Ørjan :-)

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