30 Apr 2008

Shop 'til you Tai Otoshi

I missed SENI08. Completely forgot about it. Some people fought, some won, some lost. Who cares. Actually I do. SENI is Europe’s biggest martial arts expo. And the Gracie Invitational is the biggest tournament in it. One day I will compete, one day…
More on this later as I find out who won and who lost from my small BJJ circle of sparring pals.
Actually I can probably tell that the Roger Gracie Team won their usual haul of bling - if last BJJ class was anything to go by. I got tapped four times in a row, by exactly the same four techniques. As usual with many of these things, the very simplest of things would have prevented me from falling into the trap each time. Nick showed me how to defend that trap, then I fell for it again. Duh!

Been shopping recently for MA gear for my club. I’m going to use this opportunity to review and rate online martial arts shops:

BLITZ – This is a very well established brand and store. Only sell their own stuff.
PROS: Tons of trad and MMA stuff at very good trade/club prices. Quality of their own brand equipment is high and they update and upgrade their stock frequently.
For example, a basic Blitz gi I bought ten years ago is still in excellent condition despite hours and hours of sweaty training and rigorous grappling. They've also got a great Bargain Bin. I've found all manner of end-of-line stuff at knockdown prices. I love bargain bins.
CONS: Usually I visit the actual store and buy on site, but the one time I ordered online and they cock up big time. The telephone sales help was useless and it took a stiffly worded letter to the Managing Director to get them to respond and refund me. This gave me the chance to try some other stores out. It's also rubbish for return of faulty goods. Forms to fill, purchase order numbers to quote etc etc.

BYTOMIC – Lots of own-brand and name brand equipment.
PROS: Great easy to use website. Lots of choice for both basic trad, MMA. Also have a lot of interesting novelty and alternative MA products. Fast online support and helpline. Fast delivery. I've been using these guys a lot recently.
CONS: Slightly more expensive club/trade prices than Blitz. No BJJ uniforms. Other than that, nothing to complain about.

BLACK EAGLE – Recently established, selling own brand and name brand gear..
PROS: Good quality products. They make a very good and surprisingly cheap BJJ kimono. Excellent customer support. The owner gets back to your emails or calls you personally within the day.
CONS: More expensive than Blitz, not a great choice of equipment overall. I think it is one of the owners who poses in all the photos, looks a tad unslick since bless him, he's no finely honed athlete.

TAO SPORTS – Small high street shop recently expanded into large online store.
PROS: Quality, quality, quality. I’ve bought from Tao for years and their own-brand stuff is top quality. My kickboxing trousers have been worn for years and years and my own knees are more likely to wear out before the trousers do. Similarly, their boxing gloves are wonderfully garish and excellently made. My Tao judo gi could survive a nuclear war.
The customer support is one of the best, with almost immediate response.
CONS: Well you got to pay a lot more for good quality. Not a huge range of gear, but got all the basics.

MMA Universe - Very popular site solely dedicated to MMA and BJJ.
PROS: Probably the best place to buy MMA and BJJ gear, although their range is a bit limited. Eg millions of Wanderlei Silva, Koral and BTT stuff, but the MMA and BJJ world is vaster than just those brands. Would like to see more choice. Keenly priced though.
CONS: You need to purchase a minimum of £65 to claim the club or trade discounts, which is too steep if all you are buying are a load of groin guards. Blitz have no minimum fee. As for choice, BJJ and MMA punters should also check out...

Dragon Bleu - This French company sells a large range of trad, MMA and BJJ gear.
PROS: Huge range, keenly priced, postage is surprisingly affordable considering they have to ship to another country.
CONS: No club or trade discount. I bought an Atama gi from them and although the spec was the same as the one I ordered from USA, it was physically very different. I presume Atama tweek the design for different markets, but you don't know this until it arrives. Customer support is adequate.

International purchases - I've also purchased one-off items from lots of other shops including from the USA. Buying from the States doesn't really save much money since you pay huge amounts for shipping and tax. And it could take months to arrive or days, just pot luck. But you do get the chance ot buy stuff not available in the UK and the customer service I have found to be pretty high. I have read on forums that buying kimonos from Brazil can be a nightmare, so watch out. Finally, ages ago I saw one shop seriously selling an outrageous Stars and Stripes karate gi. I can't find it now. I'm dying to see it again, and of course laugh at the hilarity of such a concept. In fact, I might just blog an article about hilarious martial arts products.

Coming soon...Meerkat's recommended martial arts books.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


slideyfoot said...

Unless I've forgotten an earlier post, looks like this is the beginnings of Meerkatsu the Reviewer. ;)

Meerkatsu said...

Yes you can tell, it's about 3,000 words too short :P


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