The Evolution Of Fighting Gloves

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

Old Boxing ‘Gloves’ Unearthed at Vindolanda
Cestus Gladiator Boxing Glove

After having talked about the history of mixed martial arts, I wanted to deepen an aspect that I consider important and curious about gloves and their evolution.

Although we don't know exactly when the first glove was invented, we have the first historical references in Homer's Iliad of about 750 B.C., where he already describes forms of hand covers used in boxing in ancient Greece like the “Himantes” which was used as protection, a strip of Oxhide between 3 and 4 meters long which was wrapped several times on the hands and knuckles, also in the Aeneid Virgil around 20 B.C. tells of Entellus who, after his victory, killed the bull with a single blow to the skull with his hands bound with 7 metres of Oxhide and metal inserts. Sometimes they were worn in the Pankration fight as was included in the matches. Also among the Greeks there was the "Sphairai" which, unlike the Himantes, added sharp blades. The "Caestus" is subsequent and is a form of Ancient Glove made with leather straps but differently elaborated by the Greeks, but also taken up and appreciated by the Romans, the demonstration comes from the Greek Statue in Bronze found at the Quirinal in Rome, of the "Boxer at rest" who wears the Caestus, the latter was much longer and came to hold the forearms allowing the athletes to protect themselves and to Parr the strikes of the opponents, originally derived from the verb "caedere" or to strike. The Romans didn't stop to improve the "caestus" by attaching other parts and internal padding, by adding studs, metal pieces and spikes they created the "Myrmex" which made the encounters between soldiers, but mostly slaves and also between gladiators inside the arenas very spectacular, but which obviously caused innumerable damages and often led to the death of the contenders. These forms of struggle, being also little regulated, became bloody and counterproductive. Therefore, in Rome, hand-to-hand combat forms were banned in 393 A.D. Subsequently we have not received much news from the dark times of the Middle Ages especially in Europe, but in Asia we have evidence from the Thai culture of Muay Boran the martial art from which derives the modern Muay Thai, there the hands and forearms were bandaged with raw hemp ropes, the knots were strategically placed on the knuckles or hard parts and impact to generate as many wounds as possible, once the bandage was finished were immersed in water so that drying the hemp becomes harder and more dangerous. This practice in muay Boran was called kard chuek or muay kaad chuek, in use until 1930 when the rules of muay thai with gloves took over .A modern version of this bandage is still used in Lethwei fighting in Myanmar and Muay thai ceremonies in Thailand. In the Modern era we find from "noble art" Jack Broughton's invention in 1743 of the "mufflers" a prototype of a modern glove, made of leather and filled with sheep wool or horsehair, was only 2 OZ and was invented for sparring purposes in the gym, only in 1865 with the rules of the Marquees of Queensbury officially adopted in 1892, we see the first matches with 5 OZ gloves.

Moving on to Gloves In Modern Mixed Martial Arts

Enter the Dragon Gloves - Bruce Lee
Enter the Dragon Gloves

The first MMA gloves were similar to the Kempo gloves as seen in the 1973 film "Enter the Dragon". The fingerless glove allows a fighter to perform important moves while protecting the hand. The first to use this tool were the Japanese in the Shooto and PRIDE FC, a curiosity is that in the first UFC none of the contenders wanted to use any kind of glove except Art Jimmerson who wore only a glove on his left hand for using it on his Jab, strange choice that also characterized the first time of a wearing a glove in UFC. Today the MMA gloves for the professionals are 4 oz and 8 oz semi- pro and are also used for sparring in the gym, but their evolution between Pride and UFC has been substantial:

  • PRIDE the gloves were closed with laces with thumb protection and single velcro on the wrist ,padding on the upper back of the hand.

  • UFC Gloves with double reinforcement on the wrist thumb totally open and no padding on the back of the hand

While the first ones were larger, ensuring greater coverage and protection of the hand, having the thumb constrained and more 'thickness between the fingers guaranteed less movement of the hands and therefore not very suitable for grappler, while the padding on the back made the hand tend to close the fist more' easily.

The Americans eliminated padding on the back, thumb guiding and reduced the space between the fingers, thus favoring the activity of the grapplers and the mobility of the hand, but increasing the risk of injury during matches.

Another problem that arose was that by not inducing the hand to a curved position, eye poke is too frequent.

Since Centurion FC has always applied the latest technology to put the athletes in the best conditions to use their skills in safety.

Today the evolution is continuous and the Charm of MMA Glove 4 OZ has conquered the world of combat sports, more and more events of Kick Boxing ,k1 and Muay Thai, use them to make their matches spectacular and electrify their fans.

Whether it's boxing, Muay Thai, MMA or another martial art, it's important to get the right pair of gloves. When you buy gloves, think about what you will use them for.

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