When it comes to fight gear, many athletes tend to be traditionalists, and for good reason; why change something that works? With the exception of construction materials, most of the objects that fill up a fighter’s gym bag have remained largely unchanged for the past several decades. Look at a pair of boxing gloves from the 70’s and compare them to a pair from today; you won’t see a tremendous amount of significant, design-altering differences. I am very much a purist when it comes to fighting and training gear (I don’t even wear colored Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi’s!), which is why I stared with more than a little bit of skepticism at the brand spanking new pair of Fairtex Twister shin guards that greeted me on my desk a couple days ago. Now, don’t get me wrong, these things aren’t ugly by any means—they’re actually pretty slick looking—but they’re different. Surely though, if Fairtex, a company steeped in the rich tradition of Muay Thai, has decided to make such radical changes to an integral piece of protective equipment, it must be for the best…right? For you curious folk, check them out here at MMA Industries. They can be had in the traditional Fairtex trio of colors—black, red, or blue.
At first glance, I couldn’t help but notice the increased protection around the ankle and instep region. This is a welcomed sight, as taking a shin off the instep due to a mistimed or misplaced check can literally smash the bones in your foot. Misjudging distance when throwing a kick can also lead to you landing with your foot. Someone blocks that with their shin or elbow, and you might be on the bench for a bit while your foot puts itself back together. Speaking of instep protection, the foot piece on the Twister is completely removable. If you’re the type of person who hates the feeling of instep protection on your foot, you can take the damn things off. The instep piece and the shin piece can be adjusted to a custom fit, which is something I love, having the awkwardly long shins of a blue guy from “Avatar.” One of my favorite design features is the mobility of the instep piece. It can move 90 degrees up, down, left and right, so there is absolutely no impediment on your movement whatsoever. It’s easy to see that Fairtex put a huge amount of research and development in the juncture between instep and shin pad, which is a crucial point in any Muay Thai/kickboxing/MMA shin guard. Also, there seemed to be more protection around the sides of the shins and the calf, which also helps to protect the wearer from taking excessive damage. I also noticed right off the bat that there are no metal fixtures or rough edges on the pieces whatsoever. This is an absolutely brilliant move made by Fairtex. Really, if you’re working with a Velcro or hook and loop closure, what sense does it make having any metal on the pad at all? All it does is corrode from constant exposure to sweat, and, even worse, it creates a dangerously sharp impact point that can damage your training partner and your expensive Thai pads. No metal=good, in my eyes. All of the points where sections of material are joined have been smoothed over to ensure that you’re not going to cut your sparring partners up when you’re throwing your kicks. But enough of what I saw, on to what I felt when I actually wore them.
I wore them to a basic Muay Thai class. I was already pretty shot from a heavy duty grappling session immediately before, but, in the name of research, I gutted it out to get a sense of these fancy pants new shin guards from Fairtex. Right off the bat, I noticed the comfort as I strapped them on. I took a closer look and realized that Fairtex has actually padded the straps that hold the shin guards in place! I later found out that they use the same strap system on these as they do with their popular KPLC2 Thai pads. I also noticed, with a barely contained squeal of delight, that I could, with small adjustment, guarantee that I wouldn’t get the blister-inducing top of the toe rub that I get with my regular, more traditionally designed shin guards. At this point, I’m wondering if these shin guards are too good to be true. I mean, protective gear shouldn’t be this comfortable, and if it is, then SURELY it won’t protect you as well, right? I was wrong! I actually had a friend fire leg kicks into my shin guards while I was checking them just to see if they let any more impact through than my traditional pair. They passed with flying colors, and had nary a scratch to show for it. I expect these shin guards to last a long time through many grueling sessions, as does all of my Fairtex gear. Really, in the end, I hardly noticed the Twister shin guards, which is a great, great thing. If you’re constantly being reminded of the fact that you’re wearing shin guards, then they can be made better. The ultimate goal of any protective gear is to essentially “disappear” until you need it, and that’s exactly what the Twister shin guards did for me. My take-home on the Fairtex Twister shin guards is that they’re essentially at the top of the heap. I have yet to try another pair of shin guards that offer the same levels of comfort and protection as these, plus they’re Fairtex, so you know you’re getting a quality, handmade in Thailand piece of gear that is meant to last. Coming to this realization was a big moment for me. Maybe change can be a good thing. If change means this much of an improvement in both the comfort and functionality of a piece of gear, then bring on the change! Make sure you mosey on over to www.mmaindustries.com and give the Fairtex Twister shin guards a serious look if you’re in the market for a new set.