Proforce Gladiator Kempo/JKD Gloves
Kempo gloves are kind of an oddity. They donít seem to be the standard gear for kempo and most people know them as ďEnter the Dragon glovesĒ (and from there, JKD gloves). I find them to be a versatile piece of gear that usually isnít as good as a specialized piece of gear, but you can use them for everything. You can use them for stickfighting, but theyíre not quite as good as hockey/lacrosse gloves. You can use them for sparring/boxing, but theyíre not as good as boxing gloves. You can use them for pankration/mma sparring, but theyíre not as good as 4oz gloves. However, none of those other gloves is as good for any of the other activities as the kempo glove, IMO.
Now, onto my actual gloves: I got these a few years ago when I sparred Chickenbeakfist on the weekends. The very first thing I noticed was that theyíre difficult to lace up yourself. I highly recommend buying some laceless wraps (Everlast makes some), so you can change the mechanism from a bunch of laces to a single Velcro strap. The canvas part that wraps around the wrist, although kind of hard to lace, makes the glove feel secure on the hand and I rarely have to adjust them.
Durability: These gloves have held up well to the abuse Iíve subjected them to. This included about two years worth of training about once a week, including san da style sparring, and weapon sparring (padded and rattan). The suede on the palms is looking worn and it has blood stains on it but the padding is fine and they're still functional.
As I mentioned, you can use these for several things but each use has some different issues, so Iím gonna critique them for different uses:
Weapon sparring: These afford a good amount of protection for the hands, particularly the thumb. Iíve seen people use MMA gloves for weapon sparring and the thumb is often unprotected. Itís also a fairly common area to hit someone with a stick, so you really want some protection there. Itís enough padding to take the sting out of most hits. Thereís some negatives too, though. Theyíre sort of bulky and give your partner an unrealistically large hand target to go for (however, common alternatives like hockey gloves are often bulky too). Thereís a bit of limitation on wrist mobility too, but standard cuts, abanicos and wraps work while wearing them. Itís also possible (not common) to get hit in the very tips of the fingers, and itís surprisingly painful. We sparred with rattan sticks, various padded sticks, and various training knives (rubber, wood) and the gloves were not damaged in the process.
Kickboxing: Kempo gloves look heavily padded compared to, say, a 4oz MMA glove. However, a lot of the padding is on the back of the hand and they definitely hit harder than a boxing glove. We would limit the power more than normal when hitting the head/face with them. This is a big reason why they got marked lower on protection.
Grappling: We would allow standing and ground grappling while sparring, partly because CBF was a judo guy and I wanted him to get to use his arsenal of moves. This made the kempo gloves kind of problematic, since sometimes they would get caught in a way that an ungloved hand wouldnít. For example, I recall tipping him backwards with a bodylock and getting on top of him, then realizing that the bulkiness of my gloves was trapping my hands under his weight. Sure, you can pull your arms out but itís a whole lot more involved. Also, itís way easier to keep an arm caught in an overhook since you canít pull the arm out if the glove gets deep enough. Or, youíre trying to do a guillotine or RNC and the glove makes it easier for them to defend. Thereís probably other ways that kempo gloves get in the way, but Iím not much of a grappler so Iíll leave it at that. Thatís where the 4oz glove is superior, but we didnít like getting punched with those so much.
Overall, I think theyíre a good addition to a personís gear, if theyíre interested in doing everything but donít like buying gloves or switching gloves a lot. Having said that, this style of gloves were designed in the 70s as an attempt to make an open fingered martial arts glove based on the boxing glove. A lot has changed since then, and for a lot of things the MMA glove is superior. For mixed armed and unarmed practice though, theyíre superior.
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO