The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Gift Ideas for Martial Artists

Today we have another guest post by Jonathan Bluestein. The topic is Christmas gifts for martial artists! Enjoy



Christmas Gifts for the Martial Artist
By Jonathan Bluestein
Unlike my usually scholarly articles, in the spirit of Christmas let us have more fun  :-)

Ain’t no time like Christmas for spoiling a loved one or yourself with a cool martial arts gift. But what should you get? I have listed a bunch of wonderful gift ideas for you to consider, and I am quite sure you would like at least some of them. Take note that they are listed from the more expensive to the least expensive (and even the free!), accommodating a wide range of gifting budgets. I will be describing most items from personal experience, so you can be sure it would be a good and safe purchase on your behalf. Please note that I have not received any of the items recommended here for free, and neither am I associated in any way with the people selling them.

300-400$ :
A real, functional, well-made sword
Regardless of style, martial artists like swords. A decent blade, especially a customized one, is a very cool item to have, and sure as hell impressive wherever you put it. As a gift, it will carry good memories for decades and more.

People tend to think really good sword should be very expensive. Not true. The high-end blades, yes. Can top 5000$ and sky is the limit. But for 300-400$, you can get a REALLY fine sword, even a functional one, made using traditional methods (or not). This actually seems to be the lowest price point at which it is safe to rely on a sword product to last and be sturdily built, regardless of sword type.

Before purchasing, be sure to do some research about the type of sword you’re looking for. Steel types, for instance, can be of utmost importance. The following guide is a good place to start:  http://www.sword-buyers-guide.com/buy-swords-online.html

Picture:  373$ custom-made Katana from SinoSword.com
 Where to buy?

Tozando (www.tozandoshop.com) – Good for regular and custom Iaito (unsharpened steel alloy Katanas). I have had experience with their wooden weapons – top notch, best you can get. They can sometimes be pricier than other shops, but make up for it with quality products and free international shipping.

SinoSword (www.sinosword.com) – For custom swords, Japanese and Chinese, of all kinds. Their specialty is the Japanese Katana. Their strength is in superb blacksmithing, excellent customer service and the ability to customize swords to the extreme. Ordering from them requires you describe your blade of choice to the smallest of details. Otherwise they may choose things for you, and that can cause misunderstandings. I am in the process of ordering a sword from them, and the correspondence so far has been excellent.

SBG (http://www.sword-buyers-guide.com/authentic-japanese-swords.html) – Sword Buyers Guide is a wonderful website with tons of info for people interested in swords. The page I linked to contains many reviews and links to quality Japanese katanas at a decent price.

Around 150$ :
The best punching bag out there

I have tried my fair share of heavy bags. The one I have now in my martial arts school is my all-time favourite. The MaxxMMA bag is simply brilliant. A genius design – inner rubber tube filled with air, surrounded with a larger outer tube filled with water. These are wrapped with real leather. The result is a bag that actually feels like a torso of a human being. Soft, yet does not give way much. 

Springy but does not bounce. Heavy, but can be moved (70-140lbs, depending on how much water you put in). Just right. As the leather can be tough on some people’s bare hands, the company also includes a nice cushion that easily wraps tightly around the bag. I have had this bag for several weeks now, and I am very pleased with it.
Where to buy?

Amazon:

Ebay:


50-100$ :
Winter protection
You like training outside… But it is god damn winter, and rain/snow would freeze you to death. Luckily this Gore-Tex coverall exists. 

Wearing it will keep you warm and completely dry on the inside in the most wicked of storms, while maintaining your full range of motion. Highly resilient. I have had this suit for 2 years now, and cannot stress how useful it had been for me. Just yesterday I took my large spear to the park and trained with it in the rain.
Where to buy?

Here (the people I bought from):

(Wherein the link is no longer active, then Ebay search for:    Gore-Tex Coverall  ‘.

A wooden weapon (any weapon)
Though not ‘the real thing’, can be no less impressive, especially if custom-made. You also have the advantage of not suffering any guilt while banging it around in practice. The standard wooden Bokken can be gotten anywhere these days. Boring. For a real masterpiece at a reasonable price, which can be used for contact training, you need to order from a hand-crafting artist. Luckily, these artworks are not too expensive.


Picture: Wooden swords made by Carina Cirricione. 

 Where to buy?

Raven Studios (http://www.little-raven.com/RS/MA/) – Run by the Carina Cirricione, this is a fine workshop. I have purchased 4 Chinese Miao Dao from her in the past and had been very pleased with them. Her choice of woods is limited, but she can design and craft any design you may challenge her with (European, Japanese, Chinese or otherwise). Her professionalism is to be trusted and appreciated.

Blizniak Bokken (http://blizniaksbokken.com/) – Their design options are slightly more limited than Carina’s, and they can get more pricey. They also mostly specialize in just two weapons – bokkens and short staffs. They make up for this with an unusually accessible website which makes ordering a breeze, and a very large selection of wood types. For a few hundred dollars apiece, they also make bows (http://blizniaksbows.com/ ).

Less than 50$ :
A weapons rack


Well, all these steel and wooden weapons you bought earlier… You need to put them somewhere, don’t you?  A weapons rack is in my opinion a rather aesthetic addition to any home or martial arts school. It is good looking even when used as a coat hanger. You need to beware as there are lots of bullshit products out there, which are very poorly built and would not last. Take in account that although these cheaper racks look nice, they would be made of wood composites. Full hardwood ones can be much more expensive. 
Nonetheless, I think it would be a waste to pay more.
 
Where to buy? 

 Standing for two weapons (free shipping):

Standing for several weapons (free shipping):

Wall-mounted for several weapons (free shipping):

Research of Martial Arts
Research of Martial Arts is my first book. Since its release in August 2014, it has become a sensation in the martial arts community. I was not expecting such an overwhelmingly positive response, and was very happy when it arrived. The premise of this book is to provide the answers that other books on martial arts do not. To do away with the bullshit – the mysticism, excessive discussions of energies (at the expense of practicality), personal and historical myths, etc. As a life-long martial artist and teacher, I was fed up with the current state of martial arts literature, and decided to write a book that I would have enjoyed reading. Five years of hard work have led to the creation of this work, which I am quite proud to say looks and reads like nothing else on the market. At 418 pages and 220,000 words (longer than two maxed-out Phd thesis put together), the scope of topics discussed in this book dwarfs other ones of its type. It carries appeal to any martial artist, regardless of style, rank or experience level.

Because of its scope, the book is hard to describe in a paragraph. Therefore, I decided to share no less than 72 pages from it absolutely free online, to help potential readers get a sense of what it is about:        http://media.wix.com/ugd/0cde99_2049dcd1c02c4cf391346f203baf4fd5.pdf  . The book has earned many reviews, all favourable, and they may be read here: http://www.researchofmartialarts.com/#!reviews/c8h4  (scroll down a bit). The book itself can be purchased on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Research-Martial-Jonathan-Bluestein-Shifu/dp/1499122519  .

I am also holding a special Christmas giveaway which will end on December the 18th, after which I shall send free copies of the book to 10 lucky winners:  https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/116308-research-of-martial-arts  .

I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year!
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Shifu Jonathan Bluestein is the head of the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy, and teaches Xing Yi Quan and Pigua Zhang in Israel. He is also a martial arts author and researcher. His list of published articles, most available for free reading with links (and on this blog), can be found at the following link:
If you liked this article, please ‘like’ the page of shifu Bluestein’s school on Facebook:
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All rights of this article are and the pictures within it are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein ©. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan may be contacted directly via email:  jonathan.bluestein@gmail.com .

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