When it comes to getting started in the few-holds-barred combat sport of mixed martial arts, it's a good idea to work with some protective MMA gear that will absorb most of the force and/or won't hit back. This is where MMA striking pads come into the training picture. Over the course of your initial training while learning the basic moves, how to direct them (and most importantly, how to control them),you'll be making use of MMA equipment that will include striking pads such as, protective (padded) vests and belly pads, focus mitts, and leg kick pads (also known as thai pads). Let's look at these one at a time.
Padded vests and belly pads are just what they sound like: types of MMA clothing worn around the abdomen in order to minimize the risks of serious internal injuries during sparring and MMA practice. These resemble the weight belts worn by those who work out with free weights, except they are thicker and the wide part is worn over the abdomen. The best kind to get has at least two to three inches of conforming padding covered multiple layers of leather (or a comparable synthetic material). You can get a good belly pad for around $50 to $70.
Padded vests furnish the same protection for the upper torso (these are mandatory for women in order to protect the breasts). These look a bit like big tank-tops that are cut off above the belly, with wide padded straps that go over the shoulders. Some padded vests have a wrap-around design that furnishes some vital protection for the kidneys as well. The price on these varies from a low of $30 to a high of $150 or more. As is the case with other types of MMA training equipment, always look for a vest made of high quality or you'll be replacing it twice a year.
Focus mitts are used when sparring with a partner; these are worn over the hands and allow the wearer to practice blocking kicks. These are essentially big pads that resemble a wide bicycle seat with a leather covering that is held in place with straps over the wrist and back of the hand. When choosing focus mitts, thicker is better (at a minimum, the padding should be one-and-a-quarter inches). The best focus mitts come from manufacturers like Hayabusa, which is a company best known for motorcycling wear. Although these are some of the most expensive (prices start at over $100), Hayabusa uses quality material that is tough enough to stand up to wear and tear caused by contact with asphalt at high speeds. Therefore, for purposes in the ring, the material should hold up great.
MMA kick pads, or muay thai pads, are specifically designed for use by a trainer working with a novice, allowing the latter to practice kick boxing moves. These look like a tall suitcase (in fact, some are referred to as "suitcase style"); the trainer holds these from his/her hands next to the legs as the trainee applies kicks to this area.