Category Archives: Equipment

VA Snow Day

Last Sunday’s view of the backyard, complete with Jeremiah Johnson-style striking equipment:


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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Help at the Push of a Button

This semester I agreed to teach a series of weekly self protection seminars for a women’s resource group on Ferrum College campus. Without going into too much detail here (more will follow in later posts), part of my planning for these included researching the contexts and scenarios in which violence against women tends to happen, as borne out by DOJ victimization and outcome stats and reviewing case reports. The incidence data, and conversations with friends of mine who have been victimized made it woefully clear that the “carry your keys in your hand” strategies, and “on the street/in a dark alley” conceptualizations of violence against women are pretty inadequate by themselves, because they only apply to a limited range of the situations in which a woman may find herself at risk . Since this seminar series is for college-aged women, I structured the program to explore the scenarios and types of assault that are created by social, interpersonal and predatory contexts. Continue reading

Get More Out of Your Chishi With Efficient Kinematics

Back in the days when I identified myself as a karate practitioner, I enthusiastically pursued all forms of supplemental conditioning that I could find throughout the branches of the folk art. I spent a considerable amount of time researching, constructing and using various makiwara, kakiya, and weights according to the notes left by early authors such as Motobu, Funakoshi, Mabuni & Miyagi. Among these, the chishi soon became a favorite in my training regimens. The chishi is an example of a class of asymmetrical lever weights that can be found in physical culture around the world. “Indian Clubs” are another example of the concept, and Chinese martial arts may also include them in their conditioning methods (Kennedy & Guo, 2005). The early Okinawan karate culture discovered its utility as a training device, and several branches of karate adopted them as part of their “hojo undo”, or supplemental training.

Despite my enthusiasm for the chishi, my concurrent study of kinesiology eventually began to make me question the effects some of the traditional methods of usage, and my formal education in this field has only confirmed that some common practices are dangerous to the shoulder joint system.

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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:

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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