Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Never Without a Cup

Posted: August 13, 2016 in Equipment

225161_105350796282598_1399090881_nIt still amazes me to this day how many people show up to class without an athletic cup. I am not talking about the occasional lapse (“Dangit! I took it off and forgot to put it back in the bag last night!!”) but rather the student who somehow thinks that wearing an uncomfortable and weirdly shaped piece of plastic held to their groin with nylon straps is somehow optional. As a fellow student once quipped, “I wear my cup to the school’s bake sales!”

Incidentally, this advice goes for women as well as men, in case you were wondering. Sure, getting kicked mightily in the groin as a guy makes you wish you had become a monk for a couple of minutes but from what I’m told, getting hit in the groin is no picnic for women either.

In this day and age, there are a lot of options for athletic cups. Gone are the days when the only option you had was an ill-fitting plastic triangle that mashed you into odd, contorted angles. These still do exist but nowadays, without too much trial and error, you can find a higher-caliber cup that’s right for you. And despite the frequent use and abuse, I’ve found that a modest investment in a quality cup will last for many years. I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the few pieces of training equipment that you might only have to buy once a decade.

It bears pointing out that, no matter how amazing and high-tech a cup is, no matter how well designed it is, it will never, ever, ever be able to fully protect you from 100% of the impact. Unfortunate but true. This is particularly true of a groin kick — a staple of Krav Maga. Sure, it will disperse the majority of the blow and let you walk away from it but when it comes to getting hit from below, it is really not possible to engineer groin protection to handle those low angles. That being said, you will still be fine with a good quality cup, no matter what angle. Just be aware that these are not going to make all hits to the groin pain-free. (more…)

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25+ Sparring Tips

Posted: December 15, 2012 in Equipment, Sparring, Technique

sparringI love sparring. I frequent /kravmaga and other subreddits on reddit.com where the topic occasionally comes up. In a comment last month, for instance, I suggested some tips from my experience in the time I’ve been sparring that got some positive feedback. I’ve brought my tips over to this blog, modified them slightly, and expanded on them.

Now, admittedly, I have a long way to go before I’d consider myself proficient but I think I’ve been learning enough to contribute a couple of tips. Of course, the vast majority of the pointers below come from the instructors. I’ve hung onto them. They’re gold. The other few are my personal observations, usually as the result of doing the opposite and paying the price somehow or another. (more…)

What no one told me when I first started training how often I’d be waking up groaning the morning after a workout. This is especially true for anyone who’s “getting along in years” like I am. I am 42 — not old but certainly not a spring chicken. I train hard and my body reminds me of this after every workout. In a strange, sadistic kind of way I sometimes like it. Within reason, of course. My knee pain I’ve been enduring on and off hasn’t fallen into this category but the other aches and sore spots, in their own kind of way, are not too bad. I’m kind of proud of my pain.

This said, however, pain relief is frequently the order of the day. There are a lot of ways you can tackle pain, internally and externally. Internally would be taking medication like Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, Alleve…that kind of thing. Externally, or topically, would be remedies like Ben-Gay, Tiger Balm, and (my favorite for tendon pain) Penetrex.

Like many other students, I have learned more about sports injuries than I ever wanted to know. I have tendons, muscles, and get injuries I didn’t even know existed. Virtually very week is a new discovery. Patellar, Achilles, and extensor tendons. Injuries like tennis elbow, pulled muscles, shin splints, sprains, fractures, blisters, cuts, abrasions, jumper’s knee, and plantar faciitis. Good times.

Here’s a quick guide of a few preventatives and remedies I’ve found to be helpful over the past 6 months. No, I’m not a doctor, salesperson, or a therapist and I’m not getting any kickback. Of course, your mileage may vary and you should use all these things at your own risk as I don’t offer any guarantees, apologies, or refunds.

Stinger Organic Energy Chews These things are fantastic! Ever try cherry Life Saver gummies? The cherry blossom flavor tastes exactly like ’em. I usually munch a package of these 15 minutes before showtime and it gives me a nice boost. If it’s a particularly intense workout I will often down another package mid-way into the session, along with a LOT of water.

Advil Everyone knows these magic pellets, of course. I have had good luck with it as it’s usually easy on the stomach. I find it does a good job with muscle soreness and also when I feel a headache is coming on. I think it’s more effective than Tylenol, at least for me. By the way, does anyone else think the Advil coating would make a great candy or is it just me?

Tiger Balm This is particularly good for deep muscle aches when I don’t mind stinking like a medicine cabinet. Very effective but smells pretty awful. Has a nice burn but also feels cool as well. A little goes a long way so this tiny jar will last anyone — even a klutz like me who gets hurt a lot — a good amount of time! Has the consistency of ear wax and is a little bit greasy feeling.

Ben Gay Despite having a name that would make Beavis and Butthead proud this stuff works mighty fine. I have only used the Ultra Strength variety and I learned pretty quickly that you don’t want to slather this stuff on indiscriminately. Fools who try are treated to the kind of sensation not unlike that of a fierce chemical burn. One time I imagined I felt blisters appearing and thought I smelled smoke emanating from my back where I smeared it on too generously. Unwise move. If used more carefully this product does a nice job penetrating in and providing a nice amount of relief to strained muscles. Smells kind of medicine-like but not nearly so much as Tiger Balm. Plus it has a Tic Tac, candy-like scent to it that isn’t altogether unpleasant. My niece gave me a hug once after I’d just put some on and said, “You smell nice!”. Not greasy and doesn’t seem to stain clothing that I’ve noticed.

Penetrex As I mentioned above, I am a big fan of this ointment cream. It has a very slight odor, more reminiscent of menthol than anything, goes on non-greasy without any residue. As they say in the product literature, it penetrates the skin to reduce inflammation but it can take multiple applications (sometimes days) to really hit its stride. This latter difference seems to vary from person to person. I felt a difference within hours, especially for tendon strain, my wife has been using it for weeks and still claims that it isn’t effective. The jar is pretty small and you need a fair amount per application. At $20 a jar it can be an expensive remedy if you need to use if often but I think it’s worth it.

ACE bandage multi-purpose wrap This is a good reusable solution for icing sprains and tendon strains. It consists of an elastic bandage with a pouch inside where you tuck the cold gel pack. Usually lasts about 20 – 30 minutes which is good since I usually only try to keep it on an area (like my knee, for instance) for about 15 minutes. So far I’ve been reusing mine, pretty much daily, for about 3 months and it’s holding up pretty well.

There are certainly many other products on the market that can either prevent or treat injuries; these are just a few I deal with on a routine basis. So as long as I train i think it’s a safe bet that these things will be within arm’s reach.

Let’s Talk Equipment

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Equipment, Older

This post is all about the stuff that will keep your injuries to a minimum.  I’ve seen and talked with people who show up to class without owning/wearing some key equipment and see their reactions when they are injured in class.  Baffled, moaning in pain, and — at that moment — utterly convinced that they need to make an investment in some more gear.

I am pretty sure there would be a fair amount of debate over what gear is essential vs. optional so I’m not going to go there.  This post is about what I use and some of my rationale as to why it matters to me.

The Cup
If you are a female reading this post you can safely proceed to the next item in the list (unless you have a male partner in training who hasn’t yet “seen the light” on this piece of equipment — believe me they will once they get clocked in the nuts once).

Oooooooofff!

This, to me, is the most critical of all protective equipment for guys.  I was stupid enough to show up to my first several classes without owning or wearing one, ignorantly believing that it was something you needed to invest in only when you started sparring.  Dumb. Fortunately for me, I never got beaned in that area so I was one of the lucky ones.  I did, however, become aware of this mistake when an instructor told us about the importance of one in class.  I found the time to order one online the moment I got home.  The HELL was I thinking?

Anyhow, as I found out, there are many brands to choose from but startlingly they haven’t changed shape since I wore one as a kid playing football.  Same awkward pyramid shape which gives you the least amount of room where you need it most.  Leave it at that, ladies. I went ahead and ordered the most highly-rated one anyhow (the Shock Doctor Men’s Ultra Supporter with Ultra Carbon Flex Cup) and wore it to my next few classes.  It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be the most comfortable form of protection I was going to own.  I immediately went searching and eventually found a standout cup that had rethought the whole notion of a cup, the Nutty Buddy.

My Nutty Buddy made a huge, huge difference and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a cup.  Super comfortable and its design allows for you to slip in or remove the cup while you’re wearing the jock strap, making the drive to and from class even more comfortable. You should know that the customer service was non-existent and the order status on the site was completely broken but I got mine in a week in perfect condition and have been liking it a lot since.

Note: you don’t have to buy the compression shorts from Nutty Buddy.  There is nothing unique about theirs and I think you can find cheaper ones elsewhere that are actually machine washable.  Champion is a good brand to seek out for these.

By the way, you can check out my other blog post, Never Without a Cup, for more details and thoughts on cups.

Ankle Supporter Wraps
I was finding that my ankles were turning during sharp turns and could use some more support during some of our bouncing around.  I got my hands on some Muay Thai ankle support wraps (more like heavy elastic socks with the heels cut out really) and have felt a lot more confident in class as a result.  I have big ankles and calves and these tend to really hug me tight but so far my feet haven’t turned purple and the benefit outweighs the slight discomfort so I’m sticking with them.

421R Brace

Knee Brace
Clearly not needed for most people but I have had a history of knee problems starting about 20 some-odd years ago when I dislocated my right knee and subsequently tore my MCL.  I was having a heck of a time with knee pain after class and a trip to my doctor (and an X-Ray later) I found out I have arthritis in the knee.  Anyhow, a good OTC patella knee brace from McDavid (the 421R, Protection Level II for me) really did the trick.  Yes, I can still tweak my knee but this little neoprene wrap does wonders to supply a little stability and keep me aware that danger lurks beneath if I’m not very careful.

MMA gloves

Gloves
This is somewhat of a “luxury item” and some folks in class wouldn’t bother with them as it detracts from the tough image they are trying so hard to cultivate in class.  Nevertheless, I found that during partner routines when bag holding was needed, these gloves have saved unnecessary injuries to the ol’ hands and made it easier to keep control when I am disgustingly sweaty, which for me is pretty much all the friggin’ time.

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Venum Gloves

There are loads of MMA gloves to choose from.  Ultimately you want a pair that fits right for you and everyone’s unique. How do you strike on your hands? Where is the greatest area of impact. Do you like a lot of padding? How hard/soft do you prefer your padding? Do you like open or closed palms? Do you like short of long sleeves on your fingers? These are just some of the things to consider when fitting a pair. I like Venums and Ring to Cage myself.

Spray Bottle
A spray bottle?  Yeah, just a regular old spray bottle filled with water and maybe an ice cube or two if you’re into that.  Works wonders during those super-quick hydration breaks in class.  Just close your eyes and spray your overheated noggin liberally.  You’d be surprised what a refreshing break this can make.  And, hey, in the Summer the dojo can be insanely hot and humid; I need all the help I can get!

Good Gym Bag
I think it’s essential to have a really good gym bag with loads of compartments.  This keeps all your stuff in an easy-to-find location and allows you to get to it quickly.  You should find one with pockets for your keys, wallet, gloves, water bottle…. that kind of thing.  Also, if you can find one with ventilated compartments for wet towels and shirts — even better.  I see so many people show up without gym bags, juggling their stuff as they come and go to class.  Just seems like a real unnecessary hassle to me when a decent gym bag is between $50 and $100.

IMPORTANT: Err on the side of getting a bag too large rather than too small.  You’ll be hauling a lot of equipment to and from class like boxing gloves, chest protectors, shoes, towels, etc. You want to make sure you don’t need to cram things into the bag because you went too small.

Sandals
I have heard stories from friends and parents of students of ringworm.  Gross.  Despite the name this is actually a super nasty fungus called Dermatophytosis that you can pick up, often in the feet, from a sweaty gym surface — like a mat or shower floor.  It’s pretty easily cured but a really uncomfortable condition to have. Even the cleanest of dojos/gyms can have this danger so I protect myself as much as I can by wearing sandals in the common areas.  I have to take them off, of course, when I enter the training area but when I show up and am walking around prior to and after class I always slip on sandals to keep as safe and protected as I can.

I handle mine carefully when I remove them since it’s safer to assume that there are germs on the sandals.  I wipe them down occasionally with Lysol wipes or spray them with Lysol spray.

Mop-Up Towels
If you are serious about training you will sweat — and sweat a LOT.  I find it’s helpful to have a towel or two handy for a couple of reasons.  One, to clear the sweat from my eyes (stings like a bastard) and two, to mop up the mat where I have been creating a pond of sweat.  Not only courteous but also safe (see Sandals above). To perhaps state the obvious here, these are two completely separate towels!

Hand Sanitizer
One thing you can be sure of in Krav Maga and that is that you will be handling other people’s sweaty bodies during the course of any class.  Whether it’s a clinch, a throw, or choke maneuver, you will be getting their sweat and germs all over you, particularly your hands.  Once class is over you most likely put your shoes back on then head back to your car.  Germs find their way onto your keys, steering wheel, and everything else.  Not to sound like I have OCD or anything but this is how germs spread.  Better safe than sorry (and decrease the gross factor), you can zap these germs with some hand sanitizer, Wet Ones, or even a trip to the rest room for a quick wash before leaving the dojo for the night. I actually think dojos should have those dispensers hanging on the walls but hey, maybe that’s just me…

That’s about it.  I am not a fan of over-equipping myself but I’ve learned that this stuff makes all the difference between a painful workout and a comfortable and SAFE workout. My advice is: don’t skimp on this stuff.  Overall, this is an inexpensive sport as far as equipment goes and you might as well make the investments to keep safe.  I am not yet into sparring though when I am you can bet I’ll be buying a good quality mouth guard.  For now I am on the fence about that as it really isn’t warranted quite yet.

Last note: keep this stuff CLEAN.  Don’t cheat and wear equipment for weeks if it should be washed (i.e., jock straps, braces, wraps, etc.).  You won’t be doing anyone any favors if you are wearing these Petri dishes to class and getting germs all over you and the dojo (again, see the note about ringworm in Sandals).