Tag Archives: DIY

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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How To: Make Your Own Kakiya

A note of thanks to Mario McKenna, who graciously posted a photo of the kakiya from Kyoda Juhatsu’s garden dojo, and provided me with some estimates of it’s height and arm length.

By Popular Demand

I’ve received a few emails asking about where a kakiya can be purchased or how it can be made. I don’t know of any place where one can be purchased. Below are the materials and steps that I used to build mine. If you aren’t into power tools and concrete, I am open to the possibility of assembling kits and selling them: contact me at REMsimpson at gmail dot com and make an offer. The reader assumes all risks from building and using this piece of equipment.

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Recommended Link: How to Build a Double end Bag

If you haven’t noticed already, we at TKRI love making gear out of an assortment of cheap or found items and copious amounts of Duct Tape. I’ve been perusing How-to-box . com lately and finding some interesting ideas on a variety of topics related to training, and it seems like they share in our love of MacGyvering gear instead of paying absurd prices for it. Today I ran across their feature on how to make your own double end bag out of common items, such as Nerf Balls and ice cream buckets. Having never worked in the Nerf Ball medium, I wonder if it would be possible to add a little weight to their design by slicing the ball open, inserting a balloon or two full of sand, then duct-taping the whole thing together again. Stay tuned…

Read it here

Conditioning Grip Strength: A Silly Idea

I’ve owned and rather rapidly destroyed a few of the “Gripp” brand hand strengthener balls. They’re great for about a month, but inevitably whatever is inside of them comes oozing out. Instead of continuing the vicious cycle, I spent a couple bucks on several containers of Silly Putty, which is essentially the same thing as the Therapy Putty used in hand/forearm rehab (but not as expensive).


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If you have followed my posts over the last year you will have seen lots of links to videos of people using foam rollers to help relax overly tight soft tissue. Here is another video demonstrating self myofascial release techniques with the foam roller:

Cheap foam rollers break down pretty quickly so I have created an inexpensive, durable DIY alternative. It requires a two foot section of two inch diameter pvc pipe, some weather stripping foam, and (drum roll) duct tape.

Wrap the middle section of the pvc pipe with the foam weather stripping and then cover it with duct tape. The foam may break down, but it can easily be replaced, the pvc should last pretty much forever. I spent about four dollars for ten feet of pipe (cut into two foot sections), and about three dollars and fifty cents on the foam. I already had the duct tape so I spent less than eight dollars total. The entire project took about ten minutes.

Here are some pics:

DIY Square Kongoken

The kongoken is a training tool familiar to practitioners of the Goju Ryu family of karate. A simple oval made of heavy pipe or bar provides an awkward device to manipulate in ways similar to wrestling and grappling arts.  I’ve made all sorts of training equipment for myself and for our club out of a mixture of concrete, duct tape, logs and items scored through dumpster diving, so making a kongoken seemed like the next logical project.

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Flash Cards of Doom

I’ve noticed lately that during my personal training time, I tend to default to a few combinations when it comes to working the heavy bag or ude makiwara. I may reshuffle the various techniques into different orders, but after awhile the same 4-5 strikes manifest themselves. Straight left, outside right hook, lead uppercut, hammer fist on the return, etc. There’s nothing wrong with having a few specialty techniques ingrained from doing lots of bagwork and from sparring experiences, but at some point a habit becomes a limitation.  A problem made itself obvious: how can I incorporate a degree of randomness into this training time, thereby moving outside of certain habits, without becoming unproductive? I’ve also noticed that people learning karate generally learn best when they have “discovered” something for themselves rather than being given every minute detail and then told to master it all.  So how to incoproprate this into my solo training, as well as for working with others?

In between rounds on the heavy bag last night, my mind wandered to thinking about getting some index cards for making flashcards of each unfamiliar word or phrase that I come across as I read through a collection of Latin American short stories in Spanish (another summer project).  Look it up, use it in a variety of contexts, combine it with what I already know, learn it . And as I went back to the bag, I wondered “why not do that with striking combinations?” So I grabbed 50 or so index cards and wrote a different strike on each one:


Reverse punch

Shovel hook

Outside hook


Palm strike



Forearm smash

Elbow smash

Rising elbow


Reverse backfist

Front kick

Roundhouse kick

Knee Strike

For each strike I also included cards with simple variations, such as front hand/leg, rear hand/leg, low and high, to address all of the variables for using that technique. I also threw in some ‘wild cards’ that read “switchback,”  “turning,” and “shifting” to incorporate some basic footwork into the deck. The result? A very effective way to train combinations and force your body to work in ways that you might ordinarily neglect. Below are four samples of random combos that I drew while training yesterday evening:



In these FOD (Flashcards of Doom) I found a very effective answer to my problem. Partner or not, I can shuffle through the deck and stretch both my brain and body a bit. I had a couple of willing students try them while doing some pad work this morning, with very good results. By the end of it they were moving through even the most counter-intuitive combos with fluidity and power.   Give it a shot- just get a packet of index cards and write out your vocabulary of strikes and footwork. When you come across techniques that are new to you, or that you are uncomfortable with using freely, add them to the deck. Shuffle thoroughly and you’ve got hours of fun on your hands. Well, maybe not fun, but you will find yourself working combos that you’ve never thought of, and realizing that you have certain bad habits (dropping your hands between techniques, bad balance in transitions, pausing when throwing continuous strikes from the same limb etc). And you’ll be suprised at how much the random combo training eimproves the rest of your practice.