Holiday Gift Guide: 2016

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with jiujitsu and have been for years. On the podcast this morning, Betsy O’Donovan — someone with a wider array of interests, a bigger brain, and two stripes on her white belt — joined me to provide a different perspective on what would make great holiday gifts this season.

She came up with a bunch of ideas I hadn’t thought of — and you still have time to get it done! Listen to the show for details, or just check out this list, with links where available.


This year’s shopping list:

Gis: Everyone wants a new gi. The is a high-value item that comes with substantial personal preference involved, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest Toro BJJ’s Jeff Shaw model gi. As we say on the show, though, there’s no way you showing up with a gi for the grappler in your life makes that grappler sad.
Flip Flops: You need these for the gym. Don’t be that dude who tries to walk in the bathroom in bare feet! We offered four options for excellent flops, including the pair I wore into the studio despite it being December, the Rainbow hemp sandals. You could also get the classic Brazilian Havaianas, or one of the various sets of belt rank sandals. Another project I can personally vouch for because I own ’em are Combat Flip Flops, a veteran-owned company that produces awesome sandals out of recycled material and uses the money to fund girls’ education in Afghanistan.
Private with your instructor / favorite practitioner: Want to play it safe? Buy your friend a private with their instructor, the person who knows their game the best. Want to take a chance? Figure out what big-name jiujitsu athlete they’re a huge fan of, and make a private with that person happen.
Custom mouthguard: Gladiator Guards makes the best custom mouthguards. It’s a big up-front investment compared to a boil and bite, but so worth it, from a comfort, fit and safety perspective. Plus, they keep your tooth mold so if you lose it — or run in through a dryer like I did — it’s easy to replace.
Gear bag: I’ve reviewed the Datsusara Core Bag Pro on the blog before, and it’s still my standard recommendation. There are a lot of gear bags out there that fit different lifestyles, though. One commonality: we all need the ability to drag stuff places.
Sports massage: Who doesn’t want a massage? No one, that’s who. Take it up a notch by getting your friend one at a sports-focused practitioner’s spot, and make your BJJ body feel better.
Nutrition plan & attendant supplements: On the note of making your body feel better, nothing does that like good nutrition. Why not spring for a nutrition plan with a show guest like Sophia Drysdale or Eric Uresk? If your pal is already on a plan, how about funding them with great supplements like Amnutrition or Vega Vegan Protein and Greens?
Online Site Subscriptions: I’ll always recommend two online sites based on my experience with them. Marcelo Garcia’s site is awesome, and so is the Mendes Bros. You get tremendous instruction, drilling suggestions, technique breakdowns and amazing sparring sessions featuring the best in the world. And it’s delivered right into the privacy of your own home. A non-instructional option: a subscription to FloGrappling. Besides watching superfight events, If you like to watch your friends compete at IBJJF events, it’s the standard.
Tournament registration fees: Maybe your friend wants to compete but needs an extra push, or extra cash, or help with logistics. Sign them up for a tournament, like US Grappling’s tournament in Raleigh in January!
Endless sports bras and pony tail holders: If you’re a lady, you probably need sports bras. If you’re a lady or a longhaired dude, you probably need the ability to hold those luxurious locks in place. Betsy recommended a few brands for each, including Champion’s line of sports bras, and Goody’s Ouchless pony tail holders. You can hear her specific tips for how to find out what your partner likes if you listen to the show!
If you have other ideas, please leave them in the comments. In the era of drones that deliver everywhere, there’s still time to get these to the people you care about in time for Christmas. Happy shopping, and happy holidays!

Gifts For Grapplers: 2015 Holiday Edition

With only a week left until Christmas, it’s finally time to start shopping. At least, it is if you’re me. Is this because I’m lazy, irresponsible, or because I’m distracted by training? Yes.

But you can benefit from my sloth! Behold the 2015 Dirty White Belt Grappler Gift Guide, featuring sweet ideas for presents that will benefit the jiu-jitsu practitioner in your life. Some of these are gear suggestions, which I wholeheartedly recommend. Because it’s so late in the game, I’ve also listed some gift ideas that don’t need to be delivered, so you can be sure to have something to stick into your beloved’s grubby, mat-burn-laden hands.

A lot of these are from Cageside Fight Co., which has a new website. That’s not only because it’s a great company that has supported me a lot throughout the years, but because I *know* they’ll take getting your order to you by Christmas seriously. Cageside and Toro BJJ get the uncritical endorsement, deservedly so.

That said: on with the commerce!



The first run of the Toro BJJ JS 2015 sold out super-fast. But they’re back in stock, and believe me, I’d be telling you that this is a great gi even if I hadn’t designed it. It’s been my primary gi since it came out, and I love the look, feel and fit. It’s the first gi I’ve designed for Toro, and we plan to do one each year. Please help me out and get a terrific value in the process.


Speaking of first runs, Toro also made its first Navy Blue gi, and man, does this thing look sweet. I’ve seen a few folks around wearing it, and it’s a striking color. If you’re more of a black gi person, the new Dark Horse is a killer gi, too. I haven’t seen the horizontal lapel embroidery style before, and I think it’s a very cool innovation.


Rounding out my gi recommendations: Meerkatsu’s Orchid Dragon gi is gorgeous. Blue gis are typically not my thing, but this is an artist who really knows what he’s doing.


The 8-Bit Jiu-Jitsu rashguard I designed for Toro BJJ was a pretty popular item when it was released, and we did a quick re-release for the holidays. At $23, that’s a steal, and it’s one of my favorite rashies I’ve ever done.

Also, Guard-Zilla is loose! I’ve been wearing this one around and getting lots of nice compliments on it. I’m stoked to have mine, and your grappler pal will be stoked to get theirs, too.


Scramble is doing a pre-order of a killer new rashguard that will benefit Paul, and I just ordered mine. It looks sweet, and it’s a great cause, so buy it and leave a “look at this awesome rashie I ordered you” card under the tree.



There are many great aspects to private lessons: you can learn directly from a tremendous teacher, you can tailor your training to what you need most, and you can use it basically any time you want. Plus, you don’t have to worry about delivery.

To give one of these as a gift can be simple — you can just buy a private for your grappler from her or his instructor. Everybody can benefit from personalized attention.

Or, to go that extra mile, find the one person they’ve always wanted to train with and buy them a private with that person (if they’re local) or during the time when they’re coming through town for a seminar. Watch their eyes light up, and thank me later.



Want to make your grappler happy — and not worry about the present arriving in time? Get them a subscription to an online site!

I’ve been watching fewer instructional videos these days, but I’ll always recommend two online sites based on my experience with them. Marcelo Garcia’s site is the OG on the block, and has an incredible library of techniques being taught and implemented during live rolling. You can’t go wrong.

But my personal favorite site is the Mendes Bros. You get tremendous instruction, drilling suggestions, technique breakdowns and amazing sparring sessions featuring the best in the world. And it’s delivered right into the privacy of your own home.

Finally, consider a subscription to FloGrappling. I have one, and have generally positive things to report. If you like to watch your friends compete (and, y’know, the big names, too), it’s a great thing to have in your pocket.

Let’s be real: I could go on forever with the wish list. In the interests of time and in the interests of being light on your wallet, I’ll stop there.

One item I’ll leave you with: if you know me in person, you know that I’m always thinking of new charity projects. I have a very exciting one that might come together soon, so if you want to save a little money this season with the intention of helping support that … just keep it in mind.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays to all!

Gifts For Grapplers: 2014 Holiday Edition

It’s that time of year again: when the grappling tights come out, everyone wears rash guards under their gi tops and I write a gift guide post.

While you might assume that these posts are thinly-veiled ways of showing people what *I* want — and you wouldn’t be wrong — this time I solicited opinions from BJJ gear groups on Facebook, friends and other people obsessed with jiu-jitsu. And I’m recommending some items I already own and like — just to benefit you, the reader.

Show this to people that want to buy you things. Hopefully, this helps you get what you want under the tree this year.

For people looking to buy gifts for grapplers, you might want to take a gander at the 2012 and 2013 versions of the Gift Guide. The first one has general advice that’s still applicable, even if the specific product information is outdated.

Let me repeat a few suggestions from the first gift guide. You could get your grappler a private lesson with their instructor or with another great teacher; you could purchase a tournament entry for them, since tournaments are great training; or you could donate to a charity like the George Pendergrass Foundation or Tap Cancer Out.

If you’d like something tangible to stuff a stocking with other than a certificate, though, read on.


As most everyone who reads the blog knows, I do some design work for Toro BJJ. That’s full disclosure.  But I am also an ethical shill, and I’m not going to recommend anything I don’t believe in. So let me get the Toro promo right out front:

We have a killer new gi out right now, the Toro “Dark Horse” black and gold gi. I didn’t design it, so I can’t take credit for it, but this thing is comfortable, light and looks great. I get compliments on it everywhere I train. It’s one of my regular training gis, and despite many washings, the color has held up really well. And I don’t even usually like black gis! You won’t regret it: pull the trigger on this one.


Majestic. And the gi is also nice.

For your off-the-mat wear, we have grey hoodies and thermal t-shirts that I think turned out really cool. And always be watching for the limited edition rashguards we put out! I don’t know if the Toro spats will be out by Christmas or not, but look for those too.

Non-self-promotion category: I own a good deal of E Nois gear, and I’m really pleased with it. Their gis are comfortable and stylish, and their designs are original. Scope out their t-shirts and sweatshirts: I like the “choke from mount” one myself, but maybe that’s because one of their other design is printed on a gi that I already rock on the regular. Have a gander, I practically guarantee you find something you like there.

As for other gis, I’m intrigued by Tatami’s The Tank. Tatami is a longstanding company with a good reputation, and this is a heavyweight double weave gi that comes in at 950 GSM (compared to 450 for the Toro). Not an everyday use gi, at least here in North Carolina, but you can bet that this thing is going to last — and it’ll be tough to choke you in it.

Maybe you want to give something that isn’t necessarily wearable, but will help someone improve their jiu-jitsu. Well, consider …


Look, jiu-jitsu players love to watch videos. One of my training partners just told me that whenever he looks at my instructional collection, this is what he sees:

As for DVD sets and apps out now: Ryan Hall is an elite competitor and a tremendous instructor. I’ve bought each of his DVD sets and never been disappointed. It’s too late for someone to buy his Defensive Guard and Open Elbow set for me — they’re already on the way — but if you’re looking for a great DVD set, I’m sure you can’t go wrong here.

I can also personally endorse Roy Marsh’s guillotine seminar instructional. I was at this seminar, and Roy put together an amazing set of principles, concepts and techniques. At $20, it’s a steal. This might be the best value for the money instructional available.

As for something I don’t own but am intrigued by: Shawn Williams has a Williams Guard DVD set that’s also available as an app and on BudoVideos On Demand site. This looks awesome and I’m excited to learn it.

One warning: I wouldn’t buy the On Demand stuff again. I bought the Michael Langhi material On Demand, and Budo Videos did a site upgrade which has cut off my ability to watch it for several weeks. This is a huge bummer, and I wish I’d bought the DVDs.

Grumbles aside, online sites can be excellent resources. The two online membership sites I always recommend are and the Marcelo Garcia site, MGInAction. But Braulio Estima and Rafael Lovato Jr. also have membership sites now, and while I haven’t checked those out, I’d be really excited if someone got me a membership.

I’m talking to you, people who date martial artists: don’t you want to brighten up your living space with a little artwork? If you are, just bypass the usual quibbling about whether the Dogs Playing Poker are funny (spoiler alert: they are). Go straight to the martial arts themed artwork. will let you buy one of the many awesome Meerkatsu artworks in print and other forms. John Smalls also has some cool paintings and prints with various subject matter centered around a jiu-jitsu theme.

If you wanted to make me squeal with delight, though, you’d get me this incredible Bruce Lee print by one of my favorite artists, Phil Hansen. Phil karate-chopped the paint onto the canvas to create the work. Don’t take my word for it, either:

This thing hanging on the wall would annoy my girlfriend, of course. But isn’t annoying the ones you love what the holidays all about? Between that and open mats, I think we have it covered.

Happy shopping!