Times They Are a-Changin’

I’ve missed class a lot recently. Mostly due to work trips to Chicagoland. Getting married was somewhat of a return to normalcy for me, but work and homeownership are serious time commitments that very frequently get in the way of training.

I came back to find out that my judo coach is leaving for Stockholm. Next Tuesday after class we’re heading down to the Union to celebrate the three years the club’s been open and to say goodbye. I’m not really sure what the future of the club is, especially with regards to my involvement. That means a lot of things. I don’t know if as the second highest level ground player I’ll have to pick up groundwork when Junior is late or absent. I don’t know if the promotion to brown discussed months ago will happen. I don’t know how I feel about not having Anders’ style of training.

There’s only one judo club in Madison. The name is “Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Club of Madison”, but next week I’ll be the highest ranked jujitsu practitioner there and all that will be left is competition judo and one BJJ black belt.

Goals: Ikkyu

Before my wedding-based hiatus I was told that I should be testing for brown soon, and that when I was coming back I should provide a bit of warning for that purpose. Last Tuesday I was instructed to fill out a USJA rank examination as far through as I could. I did so with the goal of ikkyu (the final rank of brown). I think I did pretty well with filling this thing out.


  • 139 of 198 Japanese vocabulary questions correct (70%)
  • 113 of 161 general knowledge questions correct (70%)
  • 362 points in demonstration (zeros allowed until shodan)

My work so far

  • I was able to answer 183 of 198 vocabulary questions. I think I did okay on all the ones I answered.
  • I was able to answer 130 of 161 general knowledge questions. I think I did okay with these too, but I generally hate this section because most of it is questions about the history of American judo competitors, and quite frankly, I don’t care who the first American man to medal at an international level was.
  • I selected 241 techniques that I’m comfortable performing. The requirement for ikkyu is 188 so, in theory, I get to parse them down to only my best techniques.

Drill of the day: Not Grip Fighting

Today’s drill is a lot more complex than it sounds: don’t grip fight. Grip fighting is huge. It can make or break a match because whoever gets the throw inevitably ends up with a very dominant position and is usually posed to immediately drop into a submission attempt. However, you’re not always going to be able to outfight your opponent’s grips.

There’s a concept in jujitsu that if someone has grips on you they can control your motion, but by the same link you can control theirs. If someone has a super strong grip on my sleeve they can pull on it to pull me forward, but I can also yank my arm back and unless they let go, they’ll go forward themselves. Because of this and a bit of knowledge about kuzushi, it’s possible to make any grip work with some practice from non-dominant grips. Let’s face it, when you’re rolling with Goliath you don’t get to break his grips and take your favorite set-up, you throw from what you’re given.

Here are a series of drills to meet this end:

Uchi-komi: Uke takes the most dominant grip they can think of. Tori will not break this grip, but will instead counter-grip and immediately set up a throw (uchi-komi style). Repeat.

Nage-komi: Uke takes the most dominant grip they can think of. Tori will not break this grip, but will instead counter-grip and immediately throw.

Yakusoku geiko: Uke takes the most dominant grip they can think of. Tori takes the first available grip. Both partners begin moving around. Tori can use the current grip or switch grips exactly once (without breaking uke’s grip) to set up their throw. Once Tori throws, roles are switched and the drill begins for the other person.

Randori (Collar and Elbow): Both partners take the first available grip. Neither partner should let go of this grip if able to maintain it. Try to throw without switching grips at all.

Building a Floor: The Instructional

There are many ways to build a sprung floor, and there are many designs to use. This is the one I used to build a sprung floor and mat in my basement. If you’re considering any kind of throws or takedowns you should really consider the sprung floor for your mat area. It helps tremendously.

  1. Measure out your area. My area was a bit under 13 feet (less than 4 meters) wide, but could be as long as I wanted. I decided a 12’x12′ mat would work for me. When considering how wide your area is, you should also account for any framing you may want to do or any wall mats.
  2. Gather your supplies.
    1. Foam– Wisconsin Foam Inc. is the company I went through. They have a minimum of $100 for an order. For my order that meant 168 blocks. The company also cuts +/- 10%, but can note your order to be as close as possible. I suggest ordering a bit more blocks than you need just in case fewer blocks than were ordered get cut. I’m going to recommend 0.84375 blocks per square foot for the design (rounded up), but order for at least 1 block per square foot and remember the minimum. It doesn’t hurt to have extra foam if you’re doing a small floor (10’x10′ or 12’x12′) that you’ll just want the maximum number for the $100 minimum. You want 3″ cube (3″x3″x3″), 2.2pcf ethafoam blocks.
    2. OSB– OSB comes in 4’x8′ sheets which are a pain to transport unless you have the correct truck. You should figure out how many you need with the understanding that you’ll need two layers for your mat space. Since this design uses an external frame (instead of a frame on top of the OSB) you can just get the exact area. If you’re doing a 12’x12′ mat area this is 9 sheets of OSB. If you’re doing a 10’x10′ area this is 7 sheets. It’s important to draw out what you’re two OSB layers will look like before buying so you know how much to get and where you can save costs by getting smaller sheets. You want 7/16″ thick OSB. The 4’x8′ sheets are the cheapest option, but you could pay the extra for the easier to transport 4’x4′ sheets which also may mean less waste if you don’t have dimensions which are a clean multiple of 4. The 4’x4′ sheets also make for a much easier/cleaner layout, but again, you’re looking at almost twice the cost to use them instead. The cheapest way to make a non-overlapping joints is going to be to get all 4’x8′ sheets, cut everything to 4’x4′ sheets yourself, and then cut the boarder to 2’x4′ and 2x’2′ sections as needed to create non-overlapping joints. I chose to go with minimum cuts instead. Use your algorithm of choice.
    3. Lumber– To frame it all in I used 2×6’s. If you don’t usually do DIY projects you probably don’t know that a 2×6 is actually 1.5″x5.5″. Keep that in mind. That means the frame is the size of your mats plus 3″ on both width and depth. You’ll also need enough linear feet to completely surround the mats so for my 12’x12′ design I needed two 12′ boards and two 12’3″ boards. This is again a pain to transport without a proper vehicle. You want enough 2×6’s to surround the mat. I recommend trying to use one piece per side if possible. You can get really long 2×6’s so this shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re matting a school. In that case, I recommend framing in the mats with 2×2’s on top of the OSB instead.
    4. Hardware– you’re going to need screws. I got 1 pound of drywall screws (for the OSB) and 1 pound of constructions screws (for the frame) and had way more than necessary. 1/2 pound of each will probably suffice for any reasonable home mat size. You want #8 screws for each. The drywall screws should be at least 7/8″ (go for over an inch). The construction screws should be at least 2″ (go a bit over 2, since they’ll go directly into the frame or OSB).
    5. Mats – Since you’re doing throws and takedowns you’re going to want 2″ thick mats. If you go with something that comes in set sizes make sure you know how to cut it yourself. Go with the company/style of your choice. There are a lot of options. Make sure the company recommends the mat for your purposes.
    6. Glue – you’re going to need contact cement. A little goes a long way. Ask the guy at your local hardware store for help picking the right kind.
  3. Make any necessary cuts for the first layer of OSB.
  4. Mark your boards. When measuring out the boards for gluing foam my brother-in-law had a great idea which we proceeded to use – we stacked all the boards which were to have the foam cemented to them and after I marked out one, we just drilled the center lines through all the boards. This meant we didn’t need measuring for any of the other boards and just had to approximately center a foam block onto the small drill hole. We went over with a Sharpie to mark all the holes so we could see them when gluing – much easier than measuring each board. The pattern to use is here.
  5. Use the contact cement to adhere the foam to the first layer of OSB and let it dry. This is time consuming, but the instructions are on the can. Just do what it says. We stacked the boards as they were glued to use each board as a weight source, then put one of the top layer boards on the last one with some weight.
  6. Put in three walls of the frame leaving the last wall exposed to get the first layer of boards in.
  7. Put the first layer of boards in the three-walled area FOAM DOWN. Make sure your pattern matches what you drew. Since you want non-overlapping joints between the first and second layer you should make sure however you lay out the first layer the second layer can overlay the correct way.
  8. Attach the last wall. This makes sure the first layer is snugly together.
  9. Screw the second of OSB layer directly onto your first layer of OSB with the drywall screws. It may be a tight fit due to the frame already being in place.
  10. Roll out the mat. Cut it if need be. The mat may come a bit larger or smaller than your area. Larger can be cut down. Smaller is a problem. If you need to you can tape the mats (and seal the tape).
  11. Enjoy.

Building a Floor: Day 2

The mats arrived (mostly) undamaged, the sprung floor is completely done, and I’ve got some great advice for those of you considering building home mats now. The work left to be done is to cut the mats down to size, tape them, clean everything, and enjoy.

Day 2 of the home mat project

Day 2 of the home mat project

There are a few great lessons I’ve picked up from this project though, and I think it’s worth sharing them with any of you who are considering building a floor-system and mat at home for grappling. My next post is going to be a step-by-step instructional where I’ll lay out what I feel to be the best way to build a mat based on my experiences. For now, my lessons and complaints:


The first big lesson was foam height. I stuck with the 3″x3″x4″ blocks that the Denver Judo document lays out. The problem is that they also describe 3″ cubes. For my design the 3″ cubes would have been better. An extra inch lower would have helped with the ceiling height and helped keep the mats in better since the 2″ thick mats are being held in by about 0.5″ of wood right now. There’s also the suggestion on the site that 3″x3″x2″ blocks work just as well. Don’t let the suggestions confuse  you, use the appropriate height for your project, but if you’re framing in your sprung floor with 2×6’s the 3″ blocks should leave you 1.625″ of board to hold in your mats (too much for 1.5″ tatami, enough to have some overspill still with a 2″ mat).

The second major lesson was foam layout. Instead of using the pattern provided by Denver Judo I did a much simpler layout. My layout is one foam block per square foot via a simple grid pattern (the first blocks are centered 6″ in from the edges and then every foot is the center of another block). Use the Denver Judo pattern. It’s a lot more work, but right now the edges of my floor dip a bit. It’s not a big deal for me – I shouldn’t be in the last 6 inches of my mat space or I’m going to hit my head on wood and concrete anyway, but it feels weird every time I step on the mat and it’s super noticeable on the corners. Use the 27 block per OSB sheet pattern. My 32 blocks per OSB sheet pattern, simple as it was, is too stiff.

Using the right tools

The third lesson is that circular saws that run on batteries are worthless. With 5 hours of charging an 18V battery I got 8 linear feet out of the saw before it needed to charge for another 5 hours. When my sister brought over her Ryobi circular saw that plugged into the wall everything went super fast. If you have access to a table saw and a chop saw you can do this whole project in 6-8 hours with 1-3 helpers no problem. A circular saw works, but make sure you have one running off an outlet.


The fourth lesson is one you’ve probably seen put up here and retracted a few times – my trouble with Dollamur’s customer service. I’ve complained and then retracted it because I’ve wanted to give the company the benefit of the doubt and a bit of the blame rests on me. I stand by what I’ve said so far though – ordering mats shouldn’t be that hard, go through the Swain website if you need Dollamur Flexi-roll mats (5’x10′ or 6’x12′) so you don’t have to call for help. In the end the mats showed up in a reasonable time frame, but they sent me the tatami textured tape instead of the smooth (despite my invoice and all the calls) so I get to call them yet again to try to fix this. I can’t well use tatami tape with my smooth mat, it defeats the purpose of getting a mat without the tatami texture. I would recommend the Flexi-roll mat from Dollamur as a product, just not Dollamur as a company due to all of the confusion.

I haven’t tried Zebra for personal use, but if anyone has had better luck with them, input would be appreciated. As far as other mat options (puzzle mats, tatami mats, wrestling mats), I’d recommend you investigate each and make your own informed decision.

The mats will also get minor damage from shipping that you have to expect and accept. My mats arrived with a few flaws that seemed major at first, but since Dollamur charges you for return shipping if the mat isn’t bad enough to be unusable I had to default to the side of accepting the flaws. It’d be interesting to find out if Zebra uses a better shipping company or accepts return shipping for minor flaws. My dents/cuts can all be covered by the vinyl tape (once I get the right kind) and I have left over ethafoam from the floor that I can cut to fill in the gaps as necessary. It’s a pain, but really, given how Dollamur phrases the policy on refusing shipment, there’s little choice but to patch up the mat myself.

Gi Review: Fushida CLUB

I mentioned the Fushida CLUB as a budget gi when I reviewed the TOURNAMENT. Today I’m going to provide a more in depth review of this less expensive option.

Fushida CLUB
Weave: 1
Price: $45.00CAD +
Cut: European Judo
Quality: 3/5
Comfort: 3.5/5


This is a much thinner weave than the TOURNAMENT. It’s definitely a lot softer too. To be blunt, this isn’t the suit of armor my other Fushida gi’s have been, but it holds up to the day-to-day and it’s a much better gi for summer than any heavy single, 1.5, or double weave I own.


The more expensive gi’s from Fushida have more sizing options. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As such you won’t get as good a fit, but it you’ll still get as good as with any other whole-number judo gi sizing. Just remember A3 = 5, A2 = 4, etc.


Sometimes I feel like my hand is going to go through the fabric. This is pretty common of thin gi’s and grip fighting. I have yet to actually have my hand go through this gi or have the collar ripped off while grip fighting. I don’t use it enough to say if it has stood the test of time, but it seems fairly sound for the price.


Again, much softer than the TOURNAMENT. The jacket is pretty comfortable for me to throw and roll in. I don’t wear the pants. I just wear some other gi pants. I find the elastic to be uncomfortable while fighting.


Budget gi at a budget price. It’s hard to argue with a gi that’s less than $50.

Building a Floor: Day One

With the help of my wife, sister, and brother-in-law, yesterday I started my sprung floor.

The floor after the first day of work

The floor after the first day of work

We put in a solid 6 hours or so, and the result looks pretty nice so far. The first layer of OSB is glued to the foam so technically I have 4.5 independent 4’x8′ sprung floors. Since the saw kept dying on us we weren’t able to cut the frame or the top layer of OSB, but once those are cut we’ll be on to just screwing the top layer on to make it one floor and framing it in.

I’m pretty excited. My wife was a bit shocked when we put the first layer together about how big 12’x12′ (3.66m x 3.66m) really is. 144 ft^2 (13.378 m^2) is just about one and a half times bigger than the base Gracie Garage requirement. It’s about one fourth of the space we use in judo for 20+ people. It’s just about the minimum space for me and one other person to have a healthy roll, but still too small to safely consider judo practice. I’m glad I chose smooth over tatami for that reason – it’s a sprung floor so if we do throws it’s super nice, but it’s not big enough to do anything active except ground work.