Martial Arts Buying Guide for the 2010 Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again, when we all have to rush to stores and buy presents for people we love (and sometimes even for those we loathe). It’s not my favorite pass time but for my loved ones, it’s always easy: I have a year round wish-list. At any day of the year, you can ask me what kind of present I’d like and I can hand you a list.

I started doing this out of necessity because when asked, I always had a hard time figuring out what people should buy me as far as presents go (“a million bucks” wasn’t allowed they said…) So I started writing things on a list whenever I would see them and haven’t stopped since. When I get something from it or am no longer interested, I delete that entry. So my list is updated several times a month and is always filled with things I’d really like to have.

I realize not everybody is like this and inspiration can be hard to find, which is where this buying guide comes in. Though as a martial artist you’re actually spoiled for choice, here are some ideas for the coming holiday season.


I love books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy reading. If you’re like me, you’re in luck because there has never been a time when more books were available. And they’re so easy to order now, it’s just silly. Anyway, I’ll sum up a couple that are on my list (only martial arts ones, not the novels and related books).

The Key Muscles of Yoga, Scientific keys Volume I and Volume II

You might be going “Wuh?” right now but hear me out. These books offer some of the best anatomical illustrations I’ve ever seen. Whereas the first volume concentrates on the human body, the second volume looks at specific poses in Yoga.

The importance for martial artists is this: sooner or later, you’ll hit a brick wall in your training. One you can only get past by how much knowledge you have on human anatomy and function. These books are an amazing resource in that regard, especially if you’re a visual learner like me. The illustrations are so absolutely clear, you “get it” without a problem.

I saw the first volume at a friend’s house and was blown away by the quality. Just flat out awesome. The knowledge you gain from these books will definitely improve your martial arts training, simply because there is much overlap between yoga and martial arts.

If you’re serious about your training, I definitely recommend you invest in these two books. They aren’t the cheapest around, but well worth the price.

Hidden Hands: Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Martial Arts Forms

I love forms. Nowadays many practitioner think they’re useless but I disagree with that, in part. Sure, if you don’t know what you’re doing, forms are a waste of time. But if you learn them correctly, they’re invaluable. “Learning correctly” means you need a good teacher, one that doesn’t hold back and helps you understand forms.

Whenever I see a book that tackles this topic, I’m interested. That’s why I was happy to see Mr. Phillip Starr’s latest one, “Hidden Hands“. Mr. Starr knows his stuff and does his best to explain it in terms us, Western people , can understand. Which isn’t always easy, on the contrary.

I took a look at the table of contents and what I saw there was promising, so this one is definitely on my list. If you’re looking for a similar book, you might want to read my review of “The Way of Kata”, which covers the same subject.

Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge

B.J. Penn is arguably one of the best fighters in MMA today. He fought numerous high-profile opponents in the UFC and has proven his skills every single time.

This book gives an overview of his fighting style, with a focus on grappling and striking. Looking at the table of contents, I saw many topics that looked interesting. From the reviews I read, the book seems to cover these nicely.

It’s always interesting to find out how a fighter views his own style. Because every one of them fights differently and has his own reasons to do so. But they rarely get a chance to explain these reasons, why they specifically choose to do things a certain way. This book seems to be just such a look behind the scenes. Interesting stuff.

These are my picks, but if you need some more inspiration, check out my book reviews. I’ve done a lot of these over the years and there’s bound to be a book you’re interested in somewhere in these pages.


When you start your martial arts training, you often end up buying a lot equipment. Probably because you figure it’ll help you make progress a lot faster. Sometimes that’s true, but not always. When I started, I wanted all sorts of neat stuff to help me in my training, but I couldn’t afford it. So I had to make do with what I had or made at home.

These days, the martial arts industry is so big, there are products in all price ranges. From very cheap to well balanced price/quality equipment, to top of the line stuff. That’s a good thing, because it means easier access to what you’re looking for, even if it is a bit more expensive than you’d like.

Me, I don’t go looking for the most expensive stuff, nor do I often buy new training equipment. But there are a couple items that are on my list. Here they are:

Kick Shield

I have an old kick shield I’ve used for over ten years. It’s been repaired a few times but now it’s close to falling apart. So it’s time to get a new one. I like this one by TMAS. It isn’t too big, nor too small and the straps look like they’re stitched well enough onto the shield. I also like that it has four handles so you can hold it in many different ways. The reviews are positive about the production quality and how well the shield absorbs impact so that’s covered as well. The color doesn’t really matter to me so this one looks like a good choice to replace my old one.

Mind you, there are other kick shields and probably even better quality too. But I don’t think you’ll find them in this price range. In my experience, the mid-range products offer plenty of quality for the average school or gym. If it’s just for your own personal training, you don’t need to shell out loads of extra cash. It won’t make much of a difference in your progress.

Martial Arts Mats

On my Facebook Page, Josh mentioned something I decided  to put on my list a while ago: martial arts training mats. As you know, I work out in my garage and it can get pretty slippery in there. That’s a training opportunity right there but it’s not something I want to work on every single day. So either I have to clean my floor all the time or I have to get mats.

Cleaning isn’t really my idea of fun so mats it is. I looked around a bit and it took a while to find mats I liked. These here are 2′ x 2′ x 3/4″ thick, which is good enough for my home training. They’re also double sided, which means I can flip them over whenever necessary. Or flip one tile over to make a color marker that’ll help me with footwork drills.

They also have a special finish but that stuff isn’t important to me. I just need a handful of mats to cover the area around my heavy bag, so I only slip and slide when I chose to.

Flip UltraHD Video Camera

As you’ve noticed on my YouTube Chanel, I sometimes make spur of the moment videos: a workout on a slippery surface at home, part of one of my classes, doing some heavy bag work, etc.

The problem is that I then have to log around a big camera, which isn’t very practical. On top of that, my video camera is pretty old and is starting to malfunction. So I don’t want to use it unless I have no other choice. The alternative is using the camera in my cellphone but that one is pretty low quality.  So I’m a bit stuck there.

That’s why I started looking for alternatives and settled on mini cameras. They’ve been around for a while but weren’t all that great in the past. Today, you can find some good products that are just right for what I need.

All the reviews I read for the Flip UltraHD were pretty good and the consensus seems to be this is the best product in its class:

  • It’s small enough to put in your jacket.
  • Video and Audio quality is great.
  • Uploading to Youtube is easy as pie.
  • No expensive frills, just a point-and-shoot video camera.

This camera obviously doesn’t deliver the same quality as those high-end ones, nor does it have the same nifty features. At this low price, you’d be crazy to expect that. But for every day filming, you don’t need all that stuff anyway; you’re not making a Hollywood movie…

Cameras like this are great to record your personal training sessions. Often, you’ll think you do things a certain way and then your teacher or somebody else says you’re doing something wrong. But to you it doesn’t feel that way because the error has been ingrained so long ago you don’t notice it anymore. In comes the video camera… It’ll record exactly what you’re doing and you’ll know what’s right and wrong with your techniques.

So as a training tool, this is a great investment.  One that will help you make continued progress for years to come.

That’s my holiday wish list for this year. I hope it can give you some inspiration if you don’t know what to ask for. Or use it to surprise the martial artists in your family. Have fun shopping!


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