If you don’t have 20/20 vision and you want to take up boxing, you may be wondering if it’s a good idea to get in the ring with contact lenses on. As we talked about in this article about martial arts while wearing glasses (links open a new tab), it’s pretty clear that things can get pretty dangerous with glasses and boxing. But what about lenses?
Can you box with contact lenses? You can train for boxing while wearing contact lenses but it’s a bad idea to wear them for sparring unless you intend to wear a headguard at all times. In boxing competition fights, contact lenses are banned.
Let’s have a deeper look at what this means for you if you wear contacts.
Can I Box At All With Bad Vision?
OK, before we delve into contact lenses and their alternatives in boxing, let’s be clear about what you can and can’t do with bad vision. It is possible for most people to learn to box if they wear contact lenses or glasses but it’s a bad idea for the legally blind to try and get into boxing.
Why? Because boxing requires that you can see the punches coming and then react to them. If you can’t see the punches, you can’t defend yourself. Now, the good news is that this doesn’t mean that a blind person is prevented from learning all martial arts (and, in fact, there is a branch of Kung Fu specifically designed for the blind) but it does mean that boxing is off the menu, sorry.
Boxing And Contact Lenses
When you are training, it shouldn’t matter if you are wearing contact lenses because you’re not going to put your eye into contact with anything. You wouldn’t stop a long distance runner from using contact lenses and boxing training is not really any different from a visual perspective.
However, if you want to spar in contact lenses – you need a headguard. Headguards are designed to ensure that the opponent’s glove cannot come into contact with your eye but rather stops just before the eyelid. This is very important because the alternative is to constantly deal with your contact lens becoming “displaced” by punches.
Most boxers who wear contacts have experienced this at some point. Their vision goes funny and they start scrabbling around on the floor looking for their lens but it’s not there. That’s because it’s very rare for a punch to knock your contact lens out of your eye.
What happens is that the contact lens is moved around in the eye. In mild cases it’s just forced to the side but in extreme cases it may end up behind the eyeball and yes, that’s a situation that most people would prefer to live without.
Why Is It A Bad Idea To Box With Contact Lenses?
Assuming that you intend to compete, it’s probably a bad idea to practice boxing with contact lenses in. They are completely forbidden in competition (mainly because you would spend all your time asking the ref to be allowed to adjust your lenses or being punched because you couldn’t see what was going on).
Because of this many boxers with mild vision problems try to train without wearing their contact lenses. In fact, some will even stop wearing lenses at all and try to adjust to life without lenses to give them the best opportunity to “train their eyes”. Most boxers that use the “no contacts” approach to fighting will remove their lenses about an hour before they start to train or fight, so that they can get used to the sensation of being lens-free.
Alternatives To Contact Lenses In Boxing
There are three main alternatives to using contact lenses when you box and they are:
- Trying to train your eyesight without lenses.
- Sports glasses.
- Corrective eye surgery.
Training Your Eyesight Without Lenses
It’s certainly the cheapest alternative to contact lenses but the biggest problem that most boxers will face without their lenses, is that they can’t see properly. Sure, there are some people who wear lenses for mild vision problems, but most people have bigger challenges.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t overcome this issue – many boxers do but it does mean that when you begin training without an aid to your vision, you are going to find yourself at a big disadvantage when sparring or fighting and it can be very daunting indeed.
Trainers recommend three strategies that can help you develop your boxing skills when your vision is far from 20/20:
- Do lots of bag work. You can’t go wrong with a bag because it’s not going to fight back You can start to practice your moves and get a feel of what it might be like to fight without your vision being perfect. You can take your time and work out just how to adapt your techniques to your circumstances.
- Do some shadowboxing. Shadowboxing gives you the opportunity to train your muscle memory without relying on your eyesight. The more you do, the more you should feel confident to stand correctly, position your feet and throw a punch properly. You don’t want to spend this time looking in the mirror (which you might not see well anyway) but rather to listen to your body and how it feels.
- Work with a sparring partner you trust. Trust is the biggest part of this, you need to talk to your sparring partner and explain that you’re training with contacts and that you need them to go slow and easy until you get a feel for things and then gradually, over time, start to pick up the pace. You’ll want to try each technique at a time before putting them together into something resembling an actual fight. You may also want to begin with mitt training before moving on too full sparring.
Now, you can’t box in ordinary glasses. You can do other martial arts in ordinary glasses but in boxing they would be smashed to pieces and bits of the glasses would probably end up in your eyes or the skin of your face which would be no fun at all.
That means you want to buy some prescription glasses that are designed for sports use and ideally, ones which have been certified as safe to use whilst boxing.
These glasses will have a polycarbonate frame (that is a special type of plastic which is made to resist impact and bend rather than break when hit) and the lenses will be made from a type of unbreakable glass (which means that they won’t shatter under a punch and you aren’t risking your eyes when fighting in these glasses).
They will be cushioned and molded to the contours of your face and can act as a form of eye-protection which can make boxing a bit easier if you’re the type to feel nervous about your eyes.
However, they’re not the cheapest option and they are quite a bit more expensive than ordinary prescription eyewear but that’s the price you pay to avoid blindness in the ring and it’s one worth paying.
Corrective Eye Surgery – Lasik
Lasik has come a long way in the last few years and it’s no longer the gamble that it once was. It’s very rare for someone to find that their vision is damaged by such surgery and the vast majority find that their vision is 100% corrected thanks to the use of Lasik
The bad news is simple – this is a very expensive procedure, though you can cut down the costs of Lasik dramatically by going overseas for the operation. For example, Thailand has an excellent reputation for successful Lasik surgery at a fraction of the costs of Western Europe or North America.
It is, without a doubt, the best option when it comes to going “contact lens free” in the boxing ring but whether your wallet can take the beating any better than your glasses is a question that only you can answer.
You can train with contact lenses without any issues, but you definitely shouldn’t spar with contact lenses on. You’d be risking a displaced lens even though protective headgear can keep this risk to a minimum. And as we’ve said, you can’t compete in boxing with contact lenses on because they’re completely forbidden.
Many boxers choose to train and spar without their lenses to train themselves to fight with reduced vision, some elect for prescription sports glasses which protect the eye and allow you to fight and some, with the money, opt for Lasik surgery which corrects their vision for good.
Best of luck with your training!