You’re training in a sport that, at its core, consists of two human beings rolling around trying to submit one another. This all seems very simple, and you don’t need a lot of gear to get started other than a mat (and maybe a gi). But In this article I am going to discuss a few additional items might make your time on the mats more enjoyable and productive.
The MOST Important Training Gear of ALL!
The single-most important, completely indispensable training gear of all is your sparring partner!
Grappling is a contact sport where we struggle to apply techniques to our sparring partners while these same people are doing their very best to resist and apply similar techniques to us. The training of techniques against partial or full resistance is the central pillar of our training method, and it relies absolutely on having sparring partners. No sparring partners equals no sparring equals no improvement of skills.
So given that this is true, then why do some people take such poor care of their sparring partners? Why do some people think it is acceptable to crank armbars, or apply full force toeholds? At best that person will stop sparring with them, at worst they may sustain serious injury requiring surgery. Either way, the person without control loses a sparring partner and makes it more difficult for himself to improve his skills.
Preserve your training partners – it’s the only way to get better!
If I could only choose one piece of protective gear to wear on the mat it would be the humble mouthguard. Grappler’s faces are always getting banged up, even if they don’t practice mixed martial arts. Whenever there is a scramble to pass the guard, to escape a bad position or to apply a submission there is always the possibility of getting hit in the head by an errant leg, head or arm. I have trained both with, and without, a mouthguard and have learned my lesson repeatedly. Nowadays I spar with one in at least 95% of the time.
Mouthguards protect you in many ways: they stop your teeth from chipping or getting knocked out, they reduce the likelihood and severity of biting your own tongue, and help prevent concussion. By offering you something to bite down into it also makes it harder to break or dislocate the jaw, should something hit you really hard.