Category Archives: DIY

Linked Resource: Customizing your Medicine Ball

I love using medicine balls with rope handles, but they can be expensive. Take a look at this excellent article by Ross Emamait, from the always interesting Blog on how to make your own own rope handles.

Customizing Your Medicine Ball


More Fun with Duct Tape: Proxy Weapons of Opportunity

In the previous post, I mentioned using padded “cell phones” and a padded bottle as simulated weapons of opportunity. These aids are very useful for rehearsing recognition and use of weapon-usable objects in the environment. Making these is pretty simple and very cheap:

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Quality Time With the Kakiya

After a brutally hot summer the last few weekends have brought nice, mild weather here in VA, and what better way to enjoy it than working duck-to-counter setups on the training contraptions in the back yard:

Link Roundup: Hygiene and the Training Environment

About twelve years ago our karate group was doing a fair amount of partnered arm conditioning (ude tanren) and supplemental ground training (ne waza) when one of the students developed small acne sized bumps on his forearms. These eventually spread to his torso. He didn’t think much about them at the time because there weren’t that many of them and they didn’t bother him that much. Eventually though another student developed a similar rash. It wasn’t until this second student mentioned the rash that the matter was brought to my attention. Both students went to their respective doctors. The diagnosis was herpes gladiatorum – a virus spread through close skin-to-skin contact common among wrestlers

Of course this set off everyone’s alarms. The individuals with the infections were not allowed to partner with other people until their doctors cleared them for practice and the entire place received a thorough disinfecting. After that incident we were much more more tuned into signs of infection and extra diligent about making sure that the mats and other equipment weren’t just cleaned but also disinfected.

Heavy bags, makiwara, striking pads, bag gloves, face, fist, shin, and foot protectors, and flooring all can harbor a variety of disease causing pathogens. Usually it is not enough to just wipe them down with a detergent. Many antiseptic cleaners need to sit for a few minutes to work effectively, and some recommend more than one application, and most need to be allowed to dry thoroughly. The warm, sweaty, close environment of a dojo or other fight training space is ideal for the transmission of various communicable diseases.

Creating and habituating good cleaning practices helps protect everyone. Fostering an awareness of the types of infections that commonly trouble fight training athletes helps reduce the danger of transmission.

Below I have listed a few good resources for fight trainers and students. A few minutes reading through them may help you protect your group from these nasty infections.

How to Clean a Wrestling Mat

DIY Electric Training Knife

FSRI students are familiar with a variety of close-range weapons evasion, control and aggressive response drills. A wooden dowel or flimsy plastic knife is typically used for simulating knives and edged weapons, as well as a variety of wiffle-ball bats and foam sticks. Although these proxies provide a good margin for safety they can encourage a few counter productive habits, particularly among newer students or people new to our methods. These include:

  • grabbing at the “edge” end of the weapon
  • allowing the “edge” of the weapon to rest on their body while attempting to control the attacker’s arms
  • wielding the weapon like a 1930’s movie villain, ie, making threatening  gestures or non-threatening attacks, and not providing serious and committed attacks

A second set of problems is created by the nature of training itself. Knife attacks seldom happen in the ways that entertainment has conditioned us to expect. So training scenarios in which an attacker brandishes a knife from a body length away, and then artfully parries and ripostes his way in to the attack might be fun (or the dreadfully standard lunge-punch with knife from 6 feet out), but aren’t good preparation for the reality of concealed weapons and ambushes. Over the years I’ve developed a number of scenario based drills in which one partner carries a concealed “knife”, which may or may not be known to the other partner. During a verbal escalation scenario, randori or sparring, the weapon may be drawn at random and used. The defending partner usually ends up receiving multiple simulated stabs and slashes before he or she even knows the weapon was pulled, especially in close grappling encounters. It can be an eye-opener, but even with the random nature of these drills it is still very easy for the defender to slip into a complacent attitude towards the possibility of the concealed weapon, or to ignore the contact as they try to apply some cool technique. A few important elements are missing from such drills: fear and urgency. Fear is not an element that should be present in much of training, but it is useful to explore in affective training and for scenarios that attempt to include an element of surprise. In a training setting, fear usually manifests as apprehension.

A few companies make low-voltage training knives that can deliver a jolt to the partner on the receiving end, adding a measure of apprehension to a drill. The sting it delivers is also very, very useful feedback about where the training knife made contact with one’s body and how many times. Unfortunately, these commercially available models are prohibitively expensive, running into the hundreds of dollars. They just aren’t cost-effective for smaller groups, or for groups that may end up breaking them during intense training (this is why we can’t have anything nice). Fortunately, there are other options.

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The Ude Makiwara Part 6: Sample Training Clip

In the final installment of the “Ude Makiwara: Notes on History, construction and Usage”, I mentioned that I would soon post some video clips of  drills and training methods. It’s been more than a year and I’m finally getting around to putting some of these videos together-yeah, so timeliness is not a strong suit. The video linked below shows a very basic progression from simple straight punching into combinations utilizing circular strikes and basic footwork. In the next few weeks I plan to get some more videos up showing different drills that progress from simple skills to more sophisticated ones .  (Ed. note: After 3 years of hard use, I broke the original model, so more training clips will be put on hold until a build and install a new one…)

DIY Multi-Target Grid and “Maize” Bag

When my wife and I began building our home a few years ago we needed a place to store our tools at the worksite. Living in a camper generally is not spacious as it is, and both of our cars were full of construction paraphenalia. So we decided to build a temporary lean-to out of saplings and a tarp until a more substantial shed could be built. At some point during all of this, I realized that the lean-to was in the perfect spot for an outdoor training area. It also lent itself well to serving as a framework upon which to attach all sorts of improvised punching targets. This idea took hold in my brain and mutated until I found myself with a grid work of swinging targets that provides excellent self-training for reaction skills and timing .

The more targets I added, the more difficult (read: fun) the challenge offered by the contraption became. Starting out dodging/striking one target is fairly simple. But once the other ones begin to move around, the number of objects in  the visual field multiplies. Hitting target A is the goal, but targets B, C and D may be on their way back around to smack you. Hitting any one of them changes it’s trajectory and speed, requiring the user to track objects that may be out of the visual range while also focusing on  the target at hand, hitting it and evading the ones that are moving in from several directions- a bit like overclocking the brain. Also a bit like trying to shuffle through a crowd, or deal with several people approaching at once. The targets are free to swing so the movements are fairly unpredictable, especially when several are moving at once. There are many, many possibilities for training with this setup, both solo and with partners. I will post some games and drills later on, but for now I will show the rebuilding process and it’s outcome. Obviously, saplings are a good, free building material for me- however, any suitable materials can be used indoors or out to make something that achieves the exact same goals.

The original structure

The original grid.

Various targets from the grid.

 As can be seen in the pic, the original was a bit low and not in the best of shape at the end. I tore it down and pulled out the poles that were still in good shape to be reused.

Frame in place.

The new one is 7″ high and attached to four trees as opposed to three, adding several feet of space to move in. The height also allows for targets to be moved to different levels as needed.

The first new cross members in place.

New grid completed from hardwood saplings, 2-3″ diameter. Many are from the original grid.

The reinforced grid, with several targets attached, ready to use. Tennis balls provide smaller, lighter targets to be evaded and parried; the larger targets are 2-liter soda bottles wrapped in foam sheeting and duct tape, secured via a knot through the bottom of the cap and filled with plain ol’ water. The bottle targets provide a suprisingly firm surface that will actually respond with more firmness the harder they are hit. The round shape requires proper hand/knuckle alignment to provide feedback, as a grazing blow will simply roll off.  A good shot will knock it squarely away from the strike. And the best part is, they’re more or less free, easy to make and highly portable.

Detail of a 2-liter soda bottle “maize bag.” Don’t be fooled- when filled with water, these are surprisingly dense and hard to hit cleanly

Eventually I hope to have as many as a dozen different targets hanging off the grid. I’ll post more pictures as it develops. I also hope to get some good video of it being used to post as well, along with some of the games and drills- I will have several volunteers from Camp TKRI in just a few weeks….

Next up: a kakiya.