Equipment Review – Gi Drawstring/Gi Cord (Z-Strings)

Short Review: If you’ve had problems with the traditional flat drawstring, then the Z-String may be a welcome step-up in quality and practicality. Speaking personally, I have never had any issues with the flat drawstring, but I know there are those who find that it bunches, particularly when wet. You may also simply enjoy customising your gi, in which case the range of four colours available from Z-Strings may appeal to you. Finally, it obviously works as a replacement string if the one on your trousers has broken. Available from the Z-Strings site for a slghtly expensive $10 each, here.

Full Review: In the years I’ve been running this website, I’ve both read and written plenty of gi reviews. Invariably, reviewers will have a preference for either the classic flat drawstring or the more recent round bungee cord. Generally speaking I’ve tended towards the traditional drawstring, but I don’t have a strong opinion either way. An increasing number of the gis I own have a cord, which has worked just as well. The only irritation I’ve had so far is that sometimes the cord is far too long, meaning that it dangles down to my knees before I tie it up. Due to that length it’s vulnerable to getting yanked and therefore becoming undone.

Actually selling the gi trouser cord separately, with a range of different colours, is an interesting concept. It reflects the increasing fashion element present in BJJ gis, which has accelerated over the last few years. This is despite the IBJJF attempts to clamp down on any divergence from the standard gi, with increasingly draconian and sometimes haphazardly applied rules at their competitions. The ridiculous scenario of forcing somebody to buy a new belt because it is the ‘wrong shade’ stands out.

As merely one tournament provider among many, the IBJJF fortunately does not have any executive power outside of its competitions, although its influence is difficult to completely ignore given that a medal from the IBJJF Mundials remains the most prestigious for a gi competitor. I’m not aware of any rules dictating gi cord choice, but it would not surprise me if the IBJJF imposed restrictions, should variety become more common. Either way, the Z-String is supposed to be an improvement on the classic flat drawstring, designed to avoid bunching, stay tied throughout a training session and provide customisation options to those who are so inclined.

The Z-String was created by David Zwanetz, a lawyer who trains at Crazy 88 in Maryland, a team previously associated with Lloyd Irvin. Zwanetz has assured me that the Team Lloyd Irvin affiliation no longer exists and that Z-Strings has no business connection to them or indeed anybody else. Nevertheless, he does continue to train and teach at Crazy 88, with a team logo on the Z-Strings website. If you’re unaware of why it is important to ask that question, read this factual summary of the deeply unpleasant revelations that have come out about Team Lloyd Irvin over the last few months.

Up until I received these gi drawstrings, I had no idea how to re-string a pair of trousers. The process is described fully in the video at the bottom of this review, embedded from the Z-Strings site, but for those of you concerned about bandwidth, I’ve put up some pictures. Taking it step by step:

1. Get a wire coathanger. Pull it straight, then create a loop at both ends by squashing the hook. Tape up any bits that stick out and could potentially snag on cloth.

2. Remove your current drawstring from a pair of gi trousers by pulling until you are able to pop the end out of the opposite side of the trousers, both on the front and back. If there is a thick knot, it will take a bit more force.

3. Put the coathanger through the front of the now-stringless trousers, so there is a loop sticking out of each end.

4. Wrap some of the new string through one of the loops.

5. Pull the coathanger out the other side of your trousers, until the end is fully fed through.

6. Put the coathanger through the back of the trousers, again with loops visible.

7. Insert one of the ends of the threaded string into the nearest loop.

8. Pull the coathanger out of the other end of the trousers.

9. For a final time, insert your coathanger through the back of the trousers. Make sure the loop is visible on the non-threaded side.

10. Put the final non-threaded end of the string in the loop, then pull it out the other side.

You now have a beautiful newly strung pair of gi trousers. Pink floral bedcovers are optional. 🙂

The colour range is red, navy blue, white or ‘neutral’, which is basically beige. In the pictures on the website there appeared to be a black version too, but either that’s me being colour blind or it was discontinued. For the rope tip Z-Strings has a broader choice of colours: red, black, blue, purple, yellow, brown, orange, green, white and pink. That tip is no wider than the rest of the cord, so you’ll need to be careful it does not slide straight back through the trousers. This is in contrast to all other gi bungee cords I’m familiar with, which have a thick knot at each end to prevent that from happening.

The sizing is not as diverse as I might have liked, given that they are grouped into kids, A0-A2, A3-A4 and A5-A6. I dislike a long rope, but therefore had to go with the A0-A2. A true A1 would have fit much better than something designed to also fit somebody larger than me. I would guess that is a demand issue: perhaps more sizes will be added in future, if and when the market for Z-Strings expands.

Zwanetz claims in his video that the rough texture of the string will stop it coming untied during class. Up until now, it has lived up to that claim, unlike some other bungee cords which I’ve found regularly come loose. I would therefore have to concede that the extra length does not seem to have made it equally vulnerable to coming undone, at least in the few weeks I’ve been testing them up until now.

At $10 (£6.50 at the current exchange rate) the Z-String is perhaps a little overpriced for a length of cord, considering you can get a good quality pair of gi trousers for $25, but not excessive. If you have a flat drawstring you want to replace and enjoy customising your gi, this may be a good option. Available from the Z-Strings site, here.

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Equipment Review: Zebra Home Training Mat (Roll-Out)

Short Review: The Zebra Home Training mat (5 x 10 feet and 3.5cm thick) is light and easy to transport, with enough padding to safely practice BJJ, though I’m not sure I’d recommend using it for heavy takedowns. The mat is quick to set up, as it rolls out for immediate use. Storage in the attic would work (if you are sure the 45cm circumference roll will fit through your hatch), but otherwise you would need a space at least five feet high to store them regularly. To spar on these comfortably you would want at least two, but for drilling and light sparring, one is good enough. There is no fastening system: to secure two or more together you have to use tape.

In the UK, the Zebra Home Training Mat is currently available from just one place, Fight N Fit MMA here in Bristol. You can either head over to their shop on 317 Two Mile Hill Road in Kingswood, or order online from the website. It’s a fairly hefty £219 delivered, or (at time of writing) £199.99 from the shop, though that includes the no doubt equally hefty customs fees. In the US, Budovideos sells it for $249 here. They come in either black or blue.

Full Review: BJJ outside of Brazil arguably began in a Los Angeles two-car garage, where Rorion threw down some mats in order to start teaching a small group of students. Several decades down the line, training at home is a luxury for some, who want to supplement what they’ve been taught at their local school. For others, it is a necessity, getting together a group of like-minded individuals because there is no other option for hundreds or even thousands of miles (though the latter situation is becoming increasingly rare).

Back in Rorion’s garage academy days, the surface would presumably have been judo tatami or perhaps wrestling mats, individual squares of padded material. Anyone who has been training in martial arts a while, unless you’ve never done any grappling at all, will probably be familiar with dragging mats across the floor before class starts, then stacking them all back up in a cupboard. These squares are not portable, they slide around and you invariably catch toes and fingers in the gaps, at best tripping and at worst injuring yourself.

They can also develop creases and cracks, which leads to multiple problems. It makes them more awkward to clean, as well as less safe for training. Just as gaps can snag digits, crease and cracks can do the same. Jigsaw mats are a slight improvement, as those gaps are less common, though the mats themselves tend to be quite thin. Having said that, jigsaw mats do have the considerable plus of a solid connection. The main downside is that it can be somewhat time consuming to combine all the mats, especially if you are trying to cover a large area.

The market of people training in their garages, basements and living rooms has grown sufficiently large that there are now a number of different suppliers of portable, compact home training mats. Among the most important innovations in that regard is the arrival of mats that can be rolled up, rather than having to stack them up in a pile. Being able to simply spread the roll onto the floor is much quicker than the laborious chore of laying out squares of mats. It is also a significant step up in convenience for transportation and storage.

As far as I can tell, the roll out mat was invented by Gary Heartsfield in 2001, or at least the particular method most commonly used today (as per the patent). The abstract included with the patent listing describes it as follows:

A floor mat with a seamless top surface and a segmented cushion layer. The seamless top surface eliminates gaps, crevices, and seams that may adversely affect performance or durability of the sports mat. The segmented cushion layer provides an essentially continuous cushioned mat when the mat is in an unrolled configuration and reduces the likelihood of damage to the sports mat due to an exposed top surface or compressed cushion layer. The floor mat may be rolled up into a storage and transportation configuration without turning the mat over. The floor mat is also configured to permit one person to roll and unroll it.

In the United States, the best known company is probably Dollamur (particularly after they bought their competitor, Swain, in 2008), for whom Heartsfield was working when he came up with the new process. Dollamur is mainly associated with wrestling, but it has also expanded to pretty much any sport that could require a matted surface at home (e.g., gymnastics, various striking styles and of course jiu jitsu). Rorion’s Gracie Academy also has their own brand of mats, for the ‘Gracie Garages’ that pay homage to that original training set up, resurrected for Gracie Combatives. Jeff Rockwell’s school uses yet another supplier, EZ Flex Mats who used to be part of Dollamur.

The other major player is Zebra. In the United States, Zebra is one of several companies providing a roll-out mat. Here in the UK, they are your only choice. Until Fight N Fit brought in a supply of Zebra roll out mats this month, there was no choice at all. That scarcity goes a long way towards explaining the relatively high price. In the US, you could get roll out mats cheaper, but that doesn’t take into account shipping, tax and customs to the UK, which for something that large and bulky is considerable.

According to this interesting thread from a Canadian Zebra Mat employee, the standard Zebra mats are made in Germany, a fact of which that particular employee is very proud. However, the Zebra Home Training roll out mat is made in China. There is a commercial roll out mat (i.e., for use by wrestling teams, jiu jitsu schools, MMA clubs etc) made in the US, but that is not available online.

When I trained at Rockwell’s school in November 2012, I had my first experience of training on roll-out mats. Rockwell’s location (he has two: the other is at the University of Texas) is an aerobics room in a fitness gym. It was impressive how that could go from a bunch of exercise bikes on a hardwood floor into a fully-matted jiu jitsu academy in a matter of minutes. The mats were stored elsewhere in three big rolls, which had been cut to fit the available area exactly. These mats also had one major advantage over the Zebra version: a velcro strip along the edges. There is a corresponding strip to go on top, meaning the mats lock together quickly and securely. This is something Dollamur does as well, dubbing it ‘Flexi-Connect’.

The Zebra roll out mat does not have any kind of attachment system. If you have more than one, you would therefore need to connect them with tape. According to some reviews, this can potentially became a tripping hazard, depending on how thick the tape is and whether or not the edges stay in place. Hopefully in future, Zebra will add some variant of the velcro innovation, as that is a far more reliable and convenient way of keeping the mats together. Naturally it isn’t a concern if you only have one, but to do any serious sparring, you would need at least two mats. Still, tape can be a long term solution if you aren’t planning to keep moving the mats into a storage cupboard or elsewhere after training. For example, the mats at Revolution Dojo were held together with tape, which is true of numerous other gyms I’ve visited.

A few of those same reviews I’ve read have mentioned that without locking down the roll out mat in some way (such as nailing a wooden border around the edge), it will slide around every bit as much as traditional mats. I did not notice an issue with the mat I tested, but then that was in my lounge, so there wasn’t much opportunity for it to move. This was also on carpet, which provides further friction: on a smoother surface, like a gym, school or community hall, it may not be as stable.

The 5 x 10 foot size is also larger than I realised. I had expected I could just move a few chairs out of the way, but it actually involved pretty much clearing the room of furniture. Of course, I live in a Victorian terrace, which is not very large, especially by American standards. The Zebra Home Training Mat is therefore more than enough for your drilling needs. I could happily scissor sweep my girlfriend in either direction (though lengthways is of course preferable, as that is 10 feet rather than 5), along with a few cross arm and belt sweeps followed by mount escapes.

If you stay relatively controlled, then you can spar on the Zebra mat too. My girlfriend doesn’t train, so to test this I just told her to try and push me off the mat, whereas my goal was to stay put. We both remained on the mat, even when she forcefully kicked into my chest with both feet and threw me backwards. However, if you brought standing guard passes, scrambles and more explosive sweeps into the mix, there would not be space. I also wouldn’t recommend full-power takedowns, though you could drill them lightly (e.g., a throw where you support them on the way down).

The surface is very comfortable to roll on, every bit as good as the typical mats I’ve experienced at various clubs in the UK and USA. My girlfriend commented how she could imagine putting five or six people to sleep on them (though she meant that in the sense of people staying over after a party, rather than a boast of her awesome choking prowess ;D). When you roll it back up, you can keep it in place using a strap with a buckle, provided by Zebra when you buy the mats. The circumference when rolled is roughly 45cm. This is very important to note if you’re intending to store your mat in the attic: I only just had enough clearance for mine.

I carried it by hand from Gracie Barra Bristol to my house, which is a fairly short walk. That demonstrates that this mat is not especially heavy, because I’m small and weedy: if I can easily carry it that far, so can anyone. Given that this is a mat intended for training at home, you would most likely only be carrying it as far as your attic, storage cupboard or garage, or simple across the room. For transport further afield, a reasonably sized car should be sufficient, but you would of course want to check the dimensions first.

The foam on the bottom is not especially tough, so it will get scratched if you aren’t careful. There was a large chunk bitten out of mine, which may have happened when I was carrying it back, or perhaps in transit to the academy. It also got some nicks on its way into the attic, due to the tight squeeze. Either way, you need to take care when moving your mat around if you want to keep it in good condition.

The edge of the mat may rise up slightly after being repeatedly rolled up for transportation: it certainly did with the sample from the shop, which has been to lots of trade shows. As that’s right at the end, if it did happen, I do not think it would impinge on training in a typical home setting. The main time where I could see it being a problem is if you had several mats and you wanted more than 10 feet, so laid them end to end. That rising edge would then have to be taped down, as it would otherwise (I assume, as I haven’t been able to test this) be a tripping hazard.

You have the choice of either black or blue for the home training mat, which Zebra does not recommend for commercial purposes (I assume the commercial mats are generally much longer than 10 feet and fitted to the relevant space, to avoid that rising edge problem). If you’re actually running a class, then I can imagine this would work fine. However, Zebra does provide other options for that market, which includes custom designs for the top of the mat (i.e., your school logo and the like). I would assume that is quite a bit more expensive, but perhaps there is some kind of wholesale option.

In the UK, the Zebra roll out mat is currently available from only one place, Fight N Fit MMA here in Bristol. You can either head over to the shop on 317 Two Mile Hill Road in Kingswood, or order online from the website. It’s quite expensive at £219 delivered, or (at time of writing) £199.99 from the shop, but then it would be a lot more if you had to get it shipped across the sea. If you live in the US, there is much more competition and they do not have to ship so far, meaning a lower price. Budovideos sells Zebra Home Training Mats for $249 here, for the 5 x 10 foot version.


Equipment Review – Q5 Amass Whey Premium Protein

Short Review: Q5 Amass Whey Premium is easy to use and tastes ok when mixed in a smoothie (the option I used was two bananas and some water along with a scoop of Q5 Amass Whey Premium). I wouldn’t particularly recommend just mixing it with water, although the taste is bearable.

As far as I could tell it did aid recovery, but I should note that I am almost completely ignorant of supplements and don’t do any exercise outside of BJJ. I therefore found it difficult to tell if my recovery had in fact improved or not. At £35 in the UK or $50 in the US, Q5 Amass Whey Premium is not cheap, but you may or may not feel that extra cost is justified by the fact it is produced in New Zealand rather than China or India, given the difference in the dairy production process. Available here.

Full Review: I am far too lazy to be a body-builder. While it’s a fascinating sport which takes an incredible amount of dedication and discipline – I would still say that Pumping Iron is the greatest sports documentary ever made (though I guess the fictional elements in Pumping Iron complicate its status as a documentary) – it doesn’t take long before I get bored lifting weights. So, when Q5 Labs got in contact with me about reviewing one of their supplements, I did what I always do in that situation: direct them to Will Wayland over at Powering Through. As you can see from Will’s reviews, he knows his stuff.

However, Q5 were still keen to send me something despite my protestations of ignorance, so I said that now I’m past 30 I wouldn’t mind help with recovery. I was a bit surprised to receive a big tub of whey protein: this is a product you’ve almost certainly encountered if you’re involved in any type of exercise. It tends to come in massive tubs of white powder, provided by an equally enormous range of different companies. Googling ‘whey protein’ brings up almost 18,000 shopping results.

I had assumed whey protein was meant for beefy guys who wanted to get even beefier. The tagline for Q5 Labs, ‘Stay Alpha’, fits with that image: ‘alpha male’ isn’t a term with good associations for me (I associate it with aggression and laddishness), which further demonstrates that I’m probably not the target market for this kind of product. Regardless, my assumption that whey protein is mainly for strength goes to show how little I know about supplements, as whey is supposed to help with recovery too. According to a piece by Suzanne Christiansen:

For the body to return to its optimal condition following exercise it needs to go through a three-pronged process of rehydration, refuelling and reconditioning. Whey protein is considered a superior high biological value protein for muscle recovery, as it contains a high natural concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are necessary as building blocks for the synthesis of new muscle proteins.

That all sounds beneficial, though as she’s writing for a dairy industry publication, bias is more than likely. There is a small chance that you may have issues with your liver when it comes to taking whey: friends of mine have mentioned that they stopped taking whey protein due to that concern. Given that none of these friends were scientists, I had a quick look around to see if there was anything to back up those worries. According to this, combining whey protein and creatine can be dangerous, but it looks like just one case, which isn’t exactly conclusive. Nevertheless, if you have liver problems, then that’s probably something to look into.

Whether or not your liver will have genuine problems with whey, there are some warnings noted on the product itself. Right on the tub, it says “if you are pregnant or nursing, consult your healthcare practitioner before taking this product.” Also, if you have any issues with milk, then you’ll also want to be careful, given another part of the Q5 Amass Whey Premium tub says “contains milk and soya”. Click on the picture to see a full list of ingredients.

The Independent mentions another potential note of caution, though this is more about proper usage rather than anything detrimental about the product itself:

the links with muscle tone and weight loss exist only when exercise is fairly intense, consistent and includes resistance work (such as weight training) and aerobic work of a reasonable intensity (running or cycling with fast bursts).

Digesting protein in amounts that exceed your body’s needs will lead to weight gain. And we already eat too much, with men typically getting 88g and women 64g of protein a day above the recommended daily allowance (RDA)

Moreover, there’s an interesting quote in The Independent from sports dietician Jennifer Low, who says:

If you opt for whey protein shakes… above your normal diet, then you will gain weight if you are not increasing exercise. Natural foods such as milk offer a complete health package of protective nutrients that you don’t get in supplements.

A 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk contains 3.6 percent protein and about 20 percent of this is whey protein.

The New York Times had this to add, discussing supplements in general:

Male-oriented fitness supplements are not hard to find, but they are hard to figure out. Top-selling products like creatine, whey powder and nitric oxide are widely available under many brand names at drugstores and chains like G.N.C., but they are also minimally regulated, with a majority going untested by the Food and Drug Administration.

And that, sports medicine doctors say, points to the problems: there is little or no uniformity among products, the labels are confusing and the ingredients are arcane. Often, the main active ingredient is simply caffeine.

Of course, neither of those are peer-reviewed science journals and I’m not a scientist. However, scanning through the list of more reputable academic articles which didn’t contain too many long chemical terms I don’t understand, it appears several studies support the idea that whey is healthy. I’ve put up the references at the end for those of you who do have the relevant scientific background to fully understand those findings. Titles like ‘Whey protein enhances normal inflammatory responses during cutaneous wound healing in diabetic rats’ and ‘Dietary whey protein decreases food intake and body fat in rats’ would seem to indicate positive benefits (at least for rats ;p).

From what I gather, whey is a by-product of cheese. There are also several types: the two I see most often in advertising and on the net are whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate, but there’s also something called whey protein hydrolysate, which is much more expensive. Another industry magazine, Prepared Foods, gives the following definition:

Whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI) are obtained by reducing the amount of non-protein components through selective membrane filtration. Sweet whey is the whey obtained from the production of Cheddar-style and Swiss-style cheeses, while acid whey refers to whey that comes from the production of either ricotta or cottage cheeses. Acid whey has a slightly lower pH, which can make it more useful in certain applications with a savory flavor profile, such as snack foods and salad dressings. Other whey ingredients may feature a reduced-lactose or reduced-mineral content.

In addition to whey being great for rats, looking around the internet and newspapers, there are all sorts of other claims about its benefits. The most extreme is that whey might help prevent cancer: The Independent article claims an Ohio State University study found that whey protein boosted glutathione, which is apparently “known to help control cancer-causing free radicals.” It also notes that Susan Fluegel at Washington State University found it could reduce blood pressure. The main alleged benefit is building muscle, hence why adverts for whey protein are particularly ubiquitous in magazines with pictures of muscular men.

Whey has a long history: The Independent says it was originally recommended by Hippocrates, while this site cites Galen as another advocate. Much more recently, it became popular with body-builders, then in the last couple of decades, whey protein has become mainstream. The Independent notes “the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow are consuming whey protein shakes as part of their detox regimens”.

In Beverage Industry magazine, there’s a jargon-tastic quote from Starla Paulsen, who says: “while still popular amongst sports enthusiasts, protein beverages are also consumed as a weight management product or simply as a wellness beverage. Because of this move towards the mainstream, consumers are also demanding higher quality beverages with improved flavor and mouthfeel, as well as nutritional value.”

Speaking of taste and ‘mouthfeel’ (which the internet tells me is a real word, in use since at least 1951), the Q5 Amass Whey Premium I had was described as ‘vanilla’. Mixing a scoop of it with some water results in something that doesn’t taste great, but it also isn’t face-scrunchingly horrible. If you’re not careful to mix it thoroughly, the ‘mouthfeel’ is a little unpleasant, as there will still be little bits of congealed powder in the drink.

You don’t need to worry about measuring it out, as a scoop is included. I didn’t actually realise that at first, because the scoop was buried in the powder. I was initially using a spoon and had assumed the hard thing I kept hitting was compacted powder. It was in fact a scoop. D’oh.

From my experience taking Q5 Amass Whey Premium over the last few months, the best option is throwing two bananas and some water into a blender then adding a scoop of the whey protein powder (no doubt there are much more complex options, but I found that one cheap, easy and quick to make). The vanilla tastes pretty good alongside the bananas, and because it’s been through a blender you don’t get that congealed powder at the bottom.

I also tried Q5 Amass Whey Premium in some porridge, mixing a scoop with the milk beforehand. That also worked ok, although I don’t know if the heat has any kind of negative impact on the whey protein. The taste wasn’t especially different from when I normally have porridge, though I think the vanilla helped with the sweetness (I would usually dump a load of sugar on the porridge. No, I’m not a very healthy eater. ;D).

It is difficult for me to judge if it has been of major impact to my recovery. I have had some soreness in my legs and fingers as normal, which possibly was a little reduced, and I’ve definitely got some soreness by my groin. In my case I tried taking Q5 Amass Whey Premium at various times of the day to see what happened, but the recommendation is to take it within an hour after exercising. Still, I did find a two hour Zumbathon I did a while back quite easy and had no soreness, but then I’m used to dancing around like a crazy person.

The real test was the 24 hour GrappleThon, which is why I delayed this review until after the event. I wanted to see if taking Q5 Amass Whey Premium in the weeks leading up to the event and directly afterwards would help my recovery. I am a bit sleep deprived, obviously, but all things considered I’m not feeling especially sore today, which is the day after the event. My calf was slightly sore in the morning, but nothing major: I had no difficulty doing my usual 20 minute cycle to work, which is up some steep hills.

Speaking of the GrappleThon, my fellow GrappleThonner Seymour mentioned a good point as I was gluggling down a big glass of Q5 Amass Whey Premium augmented smoothie. To buy a 924g tub (which it states will provide 30 servings) is £35 in the UK or $49.78 in the US, which is quite expensive. What is the difference between Q5 Amass Whey Premium and a cheaper alternative? The product description provides some potential answers:

I know you’ve tried lots of protein mixes, so have I. My favorite used to be the red jug at Cheap-Mart. If I was there for something else I’d grab a tub for $26 and call it good.

But that was before I knew that most of the big brands source their whey from China and India to keep costs low. Both places are known for weak regulations, suspect food ingredients, rampant environmental pollution, and terrible working conditions. China in particular has a history of adulterated dairy products.

That’s why we source 100% of our whey from New Zealand, home to some of the purest dairy production facilities in the world. New Zealand has strict laws in place to protect the quality of both the dairy products and the health and welfare of the animals. Growth hormones for cows like rGBH are completely outlawed, same with antibiotics.

It’s certainly true that China and India don’t have a reputation for fantastic working conditions, though I know just as little about economics as I do about science. Whether or not it is true that the methods used in New Zealand are vastly superior (I suspect that they are, but I don’t know enough about dairy production facilities), then you may feel that is not an unreasonable justification for spending a bit more on your whey protein. You can buy Q5 Amass Whey Premium Protein here.

References

‘Why whey is shaking up the food market’, The Independent, 8th September 2012

Barnes, Gail, ‘Positively Protein’, Prepared Foods, 1st June 2009; Vol. 178, No. 6, p. 41-44

Christiansen, Suzanne, ‘Exercise is the whey’, Dairy Industries International, 1st December 2010; Vol. 75, No. 12, p. 30-33

Ebaid, H., Salem, A., Sayed, A., & Metwalli, A. (2011). ‘Whey protein enhances normal inflammatory responses during cutaneous wound healing in diabetic rats’, Lipids In Health And Disease, 10235.

Fuhrman, Elizabeth, ‘Whey protein builds on success’, Beverage Industry, 1st April 2011; Vol. 102, No. 4, p. 62-64

Hulmi, J., Lockwood, C., & Stout, J. (2010). ‘Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein’, Nutrition & Metabolism, 751

Roosevelt, Max, ‘When the Gym Isn’t Enough’, The New York Times, 14th January 2010

Wright, Rebecca, ‘The Nutraceutical beverage market: thirsting for new ideas’, Nutraceuticals World, 1st July 2011, Volume 14; Issue 6

Zhou, J., Keenan, M., Losso, J., Raggio, A., Shen, L., McCutcheon, K., & Martin, R. (2011). ‘Dietary whey protein decreases food intake and body fat in rats’, Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 19(8), 1568-1573


Equipment Review – Defense Soap

Short Review: Defense Soap sent me a sample of their shower gel, which is meant to prevent ringworm, staph, MRSA and various other unpleasant skin infections. The active ingredients are tea tree and eucalyptus oil: there are numerous links on the website to follow up if you want to investigate the scientific basis for their efficacy. Judging by other reviews, there are lots of happy customers, some of whom claim Defense Soap has actually cleared up their ringworm. I’ve never had any skin infections, so I don’t know for certain if I can thank Defense Soap for my continued health over the last few months. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal soap, as far as I can tell, Defense Soap is a respected market leader.

Full Review: You certainly can’t fault the customer service at Defense Soap. When Guy Sako announced he would send out his product to anyone who asked over on this thread, I took him up on the offer. A sample was sent out to me almost immediately: I received the shower gel version. The package also included some coupons and Natracil soap. I’ve now given the Defense Soap shower gel a thorough test, after several months of use, so it’s time for a review.

The product itself is a light orange colour, with a fairly liquid consistency. It smells somewhat clinical, but not offensive. It doesn’t go quite as far as the brand name shower gel I compared it with, but that little blob in the palm of my hand was good for light coverage over most of my body. I found that on a few occasions when I had mat burn, such as on my shoulders, the product stung slightly. Though to be fair, on that particular night they also stung when I lowered myself into the bath, either from the water or the bubble bath (yes, I love a good bubble bath. ;p)

I’ve now been using Defense Soap for the past three months. It is difficult to judge just how effective it is, but I can at least say that I haven’t had any staph, ringworm, MRSA or anything of that nature over the period. Of course, I’ve never had any of those in the five years I’ve been training. For a proper test, you’d need to have a few people along with a control group roll at several gyms where there had been an outbreak (though that could be a somewhat dangerous test, so probably not advisable or ethical). For me, that currently means the main benefit of a product like this is peace of mind.

From the little pamphlet that was included, the whole range includes bar soap, essential oils, shower gels and wipes. The literature states that this is superior to anti-bacterial soaps because of its ‘all-natural’ ingredients. I have to admit that when I read ‘all-natural’, I tend to assume that is a euphemism for ‘untested’, which is unfair on my part. I have no issue with synthetic products, as I’m more than happy to trust in science and progress.

According to the website, Defense Soap is endorsed by USA Judo. It also has a section entitled ‘Defense Clinical Studies‘, which states that somebody called Erhardt Bell from the PetLabs Diagnostic Laboratories conducted a trial in April 2006. I’m no scientist, but as far as I can tell, it states that Bell grew some bacteria in his lab, then transferred it to some plates. A few drops of water saturated with Defense Soap were added to the plates and marked. After nine days, there was lots of bacterial growth, except for those marked areas. Bell and PetLabs does pop up when you do a Google search, so that is presumably a legitimate study. Bell also appears in a few MMA related articles, like a piece on staph for Fight! magazine.

Elsewhere on the main website, the active ingredients are listed as tea tree and eucalyptus oil. Below that information there is a long list of references, which you can follow up here. There are even more sources to check out on the active ingredients page. Personally, I’m dubious of anything purporting medical properties which hasn’t been through lots of clinical trials: it would seem that Defense Soap has been through at least one successful test, and if the sources listed on the site are reliable, the main ingredients have been carefully examined too.

Continuing my brief background check, I then typed in “defense soap” and “fraud”, to see if any criticism came up. The first result was the review I already mentioned, where the guy says it cured his ringworm, so nothing critical there. Second result? This thread, which apart from an obvious troll was entirely positive, not only about the product, but the company too.

There also appear to be plenty of other reviews around, judging by the same search engine. This guy claims it cleared up his ringworm in 2008, whereas this guy does a pretty thorough job of comparing a number of different Defense products. No complaints over on Amazon, with two five star and a three star review: that includes another claim that it cleared up ringworm, along with a wrestler who says he uses it regularly. Finally, the mighty Meerkatsu did a comparison with Fight Soap a while ago, where his verdict was essentially that they’re both ok, but he wasn’t sure if they were sufficiently superior to a simple high street alternative to justify the higher price.

Update June 2011: PizDoff just shared a link with me to this interesting Bullshido thread reviewing both Fight Soap and Defense Soap, including contributions from the founders of both companies.

I think I’d have to agree with Seymour. However, I say that as somebody who has yet to suffer from any skin infections: as per the aforementioned reviews, there are at least a few people who found Defense Soap actively cleared up their ringworm. I was impressed at how confident Defense Soap appear to be in their products, given that they clearly send out plenty of free samples (my review is one of many).

They also sponsor lots of grappling related sports and events. Looking online, I can see they’re involved in judo, wrestling and MMA, along with charities like Maya’s Hope Project and the ‘Grapple For the Cure’ benefit held by St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. I particularly like the fact that they support female fighters as well. According to this interview (where he comes across well), Sako started his company after his youth wrestling team had a major ringworm outbreak: he states he has been involved with wrestling for thirty-four years.

If you want a respected, natural, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal soap from a company that not only supports grappling but appears to have a social conscience, Defense Soap looks like a good choice.


Equipment Review – Defense Soap

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=slistralog-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B001FYZLPE&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrShort Review: Defense Soap sent me a sample of their shower gel, which is meant to prevent ringworm, staph, MRSA and various other unpleasant skin infections. The active ingredients are tea tree and eucalyptus oil: there are numerous links on the website to follow up if you want to investigate the scientific basis for their efficacy. Judging by other reviews, there are lots of happy customers, some of whom claim Defense Soap has actually cleared up their ringworm. I’ve never had any skin infections, so I don’t know for certain if I can thank Defense Soap for my continued health over the last few months. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal soap, as far as I can tell, Defense Soap is a respected market leader.

Full Review: You certainly can’t fault the customer service at Defense Soap. When Guy Sako announced he would send out his product to anyone who asked over on this thread, I took him up on the offer. A sample was sent out to me almost immediately: I received the shower gel version. The package also included some coupons and Natracil soap. I’ve now given the Defense Soap shower gel a thorough test, after several months of use, so it’s time for a review.

The product itself is a light orange colour, with a fairly liquid consistency. It smells somewhat clinical, but not offensive. It doesn’t go quite as far as the brand name shower gel I compared it with, but that little blob in the palm of my hand was good for light coverage over most of my body. I found that on a few occasions when I had mat burn, such as on my shoulders, the product stung slightly. Though to be fair, on that particular night they also stung when I lowered myself into the bath, either from the water or the bubble bath (yes, I love a good bubble bath. ;p)

I’ve now been using Defense Soap for the past three months. It is difficult to judge just how effective it is, but I can at least say that I haven’t had any staph, ringworm, MRSA or anything of that nature over the period. Of course, I’ve never had any of those in the five years I’ve been training. For a proper test, you’d need to have a few people along with a control group roll at several gyms where there had been an outbreak (though that could be a somewhat dangerous test, so probably not advisable or ethical). For me, that currently means the main benefit of a product like this is peace of mind.

From the little pamphlet that was included, the whole range includes bar soap, essential oils, shower gels and wipes. The literature states that this is superior to anti-bacterial soaps because of its ‘all-natural’ ingredients. I have to admit that when I read ‘all-natural’, I tend to assume that is a euphemism for ‘untested’, which is unfair on my part. I have no issue with synthetic products, as I’m more than happy to trust in science and progress.

According to the website, Defense Soap is endorsed by USA Judo. It also has a section entitled ‘Defense Clinical Studies‘, which states that somebody called Erhardt Bell from the PetLabs Diagnostic Laboratories conducted a trial in April 2006. I’m no scientist, but as far as I can tell, it states that Bell grew some bacteria in his lab, then transferred it to some plates. A few drops of water saturated with Defense Soap were added to the plates and marked. After nine days, there was lots of bacterial growth, except for those marked areas. Bell and PetLabs does pop up when you do a Google search, so that is presumably a legitimate study. Bell also appears in a few MMA related articles, like a piece on staph for Fight! magazine.

Elsewhere on the main website, the active ingredients are listed as tea tree and eucalyptus oil. Below that information there is a long list of references, which you can follow up here. There are even more sources to check out on the active ingredients page. Personally, I’m dubious of anything purporting medical properties which hasn’t been through lots of clinical trials: it would seem that Defense Soap has been through at least one successful test, and if the sources listed on the site are reliable, the main ingredients have been carefully examined too.

Continuing my brief background check, I then typed in “defense soap” and “fraud”, to see if any criticism came up. The first result was the review I already mentioned, where the guy says it cured his ringworm, so nothing critical there. Second result? This thread, which apart from an obvious troll was entirely positive, not only about the product, but the company too.

There also appear to be plenty of other reviews around, judging by the same search engine. This guy claims it cleared up his ringworm in 2008, whereas this guy does a pretty thorough job of comparing a number of different Defense products. No complaints over on Amazon, with two five star and a three star review: that includes another claim that it cleared up ringworm, along with a wrestler who says he uses it regularly. Finally, the mighty Meerkatsu did a comparison with Fight Soap a while ago, where his verdict was essentially that they’re both ok, but he wasn’t sure if they were sufficiently superior to a simple high street alternative to justify the higher price.

Update June 2011: PizDoff just shared a link with me to this interesting Bullshido thread reviewing both Fight Soap and Defense Soap, including contributions from the founders of both companies.

I think I’d have to agree with Seymour. However, I say that as somebody who has yet to suffer from any skin infections: as per the aforementioned reviews, there are at least a few people who found Defense Soap actively cleared up their ringworm. I was impressed at how confident Defense Soap appear to be in their products, given that they clearly send out plenty of free samples (my review is one of many).

They also sponsor lots of grappling related sports and events. Looking online, I can see they’re involved in judo, wrestling and MMA, along with charities like Maya’s Hope Project and the ‘Grapple For the Cure’ benefit held by St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. I particularly like the fact that they support female fighters as well. According to this interview (where he comes across well), Sako started his company after his youth wrestling team had a major ringworm outbreak: he states he has been involved with wrestling for thirty-four years.

If you want a respected, natural, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal soap from a company that not only supports grappling but appears to have a social conscience, Defense Soap looks like a good choice.


Equipment Review – Brute Shockwave Headgear



[Update Apr 2010: As far as I can tell, Brute have unfortunately discontinued this product, so it is probably going to be tough to find]

The possibility of cauliflower ear has hovered in the back of my mind since I started BJJ, as I’d prefer to keep my ears as they are. I haven’t had any major problems with my ears up until now, except for a brief period of general soreness on my right ear, which seems to have faded.

Nevertheless, that prompted me to buy some protection, for the same reason I use a gum shield: I’d much rather pre-empt injury rather than wait to get hurt before acting. For this particular injury risk, wrestlers are the most experienced, because cauliflower ear is common in that sport. I’ve even heard that in some countries it is viewed as a desirable goal. I for one don’t wish to replace my ears with grotesquely twisted lumps, which meant I needed to invest in some head gear.

There are numerous brands of head gear (the term varies: I’ve also seen it referred to as a headguard, earguards, head protection etc), so as I’m not in the know when it comes to wrestling, I had a trawl through BJJ internet forums to see what people recommended. The name that kept cropping up was the Brute Shockwave (e.g., this EFN thread): as I could find it fairly cheap on eBay, I plumped for that.

The Brute Shockwave is lightweight, comfortable and at least so far, durable. I can still hear ok with the headgear on, as the material has small slits by the ears. I also didn’t find it made any noticeable difference when somebody was trying to choke you, as I’d previously thought it might (except that people trying to crush your head when they can’t finish the triangle is a bit less painful).

You do need to be careful if you have any cuts or scabs on your upper neck (such as if you were a bit careless shaving that morning), because that will chafe against the strap: I’ve got some kind of spot thing on my neck at the moment, so haven’t worn my ear guard for the last few lessons. Men (and some women too, depending on how puberty went for you: contrary to popular belief, it isn’t necessarily just men who have a protruding prominentia laryngea) will need to watch their larynx, as if you wear it too tight, that will also rub against the strap. Apart from that, it doesn’t take long to get used to wearing headgear.

There are adjustable straps on the front and back of the head, as well as on the neck. I’d suggest experimenting to get an ideal fit, as you need a balance between choking yourself out with the strap and having it spin around your head due to being too loose. Leaving about two fingers between the strap and my neck seems to work for me, but then I have bony fingers. 😉

After a while, depending how much you train, sweat accumulates throughout the head guard and starts to stink. I had been told that it’s even more pungent after washing, but putting it in at 30 degrees and then hanging it up to dry seems to work fine. I wouldn’t advise spin-drying, though I haven’t tried it myself, and you should also be careful of the velcro: try not to leave any exposed when you put it in the wash.

This is a fairly common product, so its available all over the place. If they’re in stock, you can buy one here for $16.99 (or if you prefer a UK supplier, they’re available here, but for £30). Personally, I bought mine from this guy’s store on eBay. That worked out at around £20 (which included shipping to the UK, so reasonable), although as a small supplier I’d assume stock varies. More eBay options below: