No matter how much you plan to spend, you'll find just what you need on this list. Buy for a loved one — or buy for yourself with your Christmas cash!

The staff of Black Belt gets to see and sometimes use the coolest products in the martial arts world. (No, we’re not hiring right now.) Because it’s the season of giving, we decided to look back at the items we’ve come across during the past year or two and post the most interesting ones — with clickable links — for your convenience. These are a few of our favorite things. For the Frugal Buyer! Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition Since their rerelease as Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition, the four volumes from the founder of jeet kune do have taken on a new life for a new generation of martial artists. The hardcover book features digitally remastered photos of Lee, a chapter by Ted Wong and an introduction by Shannon Lee. It’s the perfect complement to the Tao of Jeet Kune Do. $24 Nigel The Ninja The “mission” of Nigel the Ninja is to gather information about the martial arts by studying other young-artists-in-training. A great source of fun and inspiration for any home or gym, Nigel stands 12 inches tall and has a felt body and a resin head. It comes with a sling bag and back-story notecard. Coloring book sold separately. $30 . Bruce Lee Action Figure Bandai and Tamashii Nations have released a Bruce Lee action figure that comes equipped with a staff, a nunchaku, a pair of kali sticks and detachable body parts: three extra heads and nine extra hands. It stands 5 inches tall and is fully posable. $50 . . ProForce Open Face Headgear What makes this piece of protective gear special? A heavy-gauge, reinforced vinyl shell. Lightweight molded-foam padding. Multiple openings for maximum air circulation. Plus, the open-face design is lightweight and visibility-friendly. The integrated strapping closure makes it fully adjustable. $60 . Tai Chi Documentary Barry Strugatz made The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West to tell the world about Cheng Man-Ching. In the 1960s, the master moved from his native Taiwan to New York, where he began teaching his art — often controversially — to Americans. This moving documentary, available on DVD or as a download, is guaranteed to make you want to take up tai chi chuan, and it might even have you tearing up by the end. $25 ProForce Compression Shorts This compression garment uses a wicking fabric to draw moisture away from your body, thus helping keep you cool and comfy. The muscle-hugging stretch fabric is reinforced with flat-lock seams. The meshed pocket allows air to circulate and keeps the vented groin-protecting cup in place during the most strenuous workouts. $40 . Traditionz Shirts These two greats of the martial arts world have joined forces to launch Dragon Traditionz. The company markets a product line composed of active wear for martial artists and anyone else who appreciates shirts and hoodies with great graphics, great materials and great construction. $24-$39 each . For the Working-Class Shopper! Grapple Buddy After collaborating with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor, Century Martial Arts created the Grapple Buddy. It gives young students an easy way to practice their ground techniques without the distractions that can accompany working with a human partner. This child-size dummy is made of high-density foam and reinforced vinyl for maximum durability. $80 Century Kicking Jeans Suitable for a variety of styles, Kicking Jeans from Century Martial Arts are rugged denim pants that offer durability without sacrificing comfort and breathability. These stylish and contemporary jeans are made from a special blend of denim and elastane fibers with a stretch range of approximately 30 percent. The VariFlex Twinseam design allows for optimal flexibility with a generous gusset for kicking. $60 Ultimate Karate Collection Hayabusa recently introduced the Ultimate Karate Collection. It includes everything a serious practitioner needs: professional-grade sparring gloves, shin protectors and footpads, as well as uniforms that are designed for competition and training. There’s even one uniform that’s been called the world’s finest gi. $13-$150 . Tribute Jiu-Jitsu Gi The 96 Especial Jiu-Jitsu Gi is a tribute to Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Ricardo Liborio’s victory at the inaugural IBJJF World Championship in 1996. He became the first world BJJ champion, despite the fact that he was competing in a weight division above his own. Century collaborated with Liborio to create this gi and make it suitable for future champions. $130 For the Big Spender! Spyderco Nirvana Knife This top-of-the-line folder from Spyderco came from the mind of Peter Rassenti, who created a design that uses a solid piece of titanium to form the handle. Named Imported Knife of the Year by Blade magazine, it features a stainless-steel blade that’s 3.76 inches long. The materials and resultant weight — 4.8 ounces — make it feel substantial and high quality, like a family heirloom waiting to be passed down. $720 Century Martial Arts’ Versys Vs.BOB It’s the first free-standing bag on the market to offer all the benefits of the Century VS.3 with the added feature of a BOB-like torso with arms. This unique combination allows athletes to experience the most realistic training outside of live sparring. $500 . . For the Digital Martial Artist! Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum Black Belt’s 2015 Instructor of the Year has committed the first part of his acclaimed MMA program to video, and it's available as online course you can access via any smartphone, tablet or computer. Unlike other courses, it teaches techniques in a logical progression so anyone can get up to speed on the essentials that are needed for competition and self-defense. $90 Kelly McCann’s Combatives Self-Defense Course Black Belt Hall of Famer Kelly McCann teaches a crash course in hardcore self-defense that you can view on your digital device. In its four-plus hours of instruction, the program deals with empty-hand attacks, as well as defense against sticks, knives and guns. Best part is, McCann teaches only techniques and tactics that he knows will work in real confrontations. $119 Kelly McCann Combatives 2: Stick & Ground Combat In this intermediate course, Kelly McCann focuses on stick fighting, both the offensive and defensive components, as well as ground fighting. His techniques aren’t flashy and they weren’t designed for competition. Their sole purpose is self-defense on the street. $99 . Kelly McCann Bundle Pack Sign up for both of Kelly McCann’s streaming-video programs! Get Kelly McCann’s Combatives Self-Defense Course and Kelly McCann Combatives 2: Stick & Ground Combat. This complete volume offers users the ultimate instructional course on hand-to-hand combat, ground fighting and weapons. $218 . Tree of Shaolin Kung Fu With Shaolin Monk Wang Bo Delve into traditional self-defense with Buddhist monk Wang Bo, who began training at the famed monastery when he was 8. He teaches the philosophies of the martial art and the fighting methods Shaolin monks have used for the past 1,400 years. BONUS! You get instant access to a story titled “The Shaolin Whole-Body Workout” and “A Concise Guide to the Tree of Shaolin.” $90 Burton Richardson's Silat for the Street In this online course, Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson presents the most relevant tactics and techniques of the Indonesian art of silat. He selected them so 21st-century students of self-defense can add them to their arsenal at will — there’s no need to scrap your art and adopt this one! $90 . Fumio Demura Karate Weapons: Complete Video Course Watch all six classic Fumio Demura kobudo videos — which feature the bo, nunchaku, sai, tonfa, kama and eku bo — then learn the advanced forms that feature those traditional weapons through footage filmed in 2016. This online course is the full-motion companion to the best-selling 765-page book titled Fumio Demura’s Karate Weapons of Self-Defense: The Complete Edition. Includes new footage of the master discussing how karate has changed over the years, what continues to attract modern martial artists to traditional weapons and how you can improve your skills. $130 (pre-order sale price)

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: or go to

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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