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World's Greatest Martial Arts Inventions

The Black Belt List

muhammad ali

Counting down the World's Greatest Martial Arts Training Inventions from ancient times to modern day, these innovative ideas took shape and form and changed the way that we practiced and mastered martial arts. 

Regardless of whether our training space is a garage or a dojo, the necessity for training equipment remains universal in maximizing our learning and performance in martial arts. Let's raise a toast to both the inventions themselves and the imaginative minds that brought them to life. Cheers to the tools that enhance our martial arts journey!

Black Belt Mag Articles

Safety Equipment 

safety equipment

There was a time not so long ago when martial artists-in-training simply wrapped elastic bandages around their hands, feet and shin and placed dense foam rubber underneath it as a training aid in lieu of boxing gloves or other protective equipment. Enter Jhoon Rhee, the Father of American Taekwondo.

Rhee’s concerns about violence in Taekwondo led him to invent safety equipment specifically designed for martial arts. One incident in particular motivated Rhee; at a 1969 championship tournament, he saw one of his students take a hard kick in the face, breaking his cheekbone. Rhee became determined to do something to reduce the frequency and severity of martial-arts-related injuries. The result was Jhoon Rhee Safe-T equipment: protective gear that covers the “weapons”—the hands and feet—and the head, allowing full-contact training and competition without the risk of serious injury. 

No one in martial arts had worn safety gear before Rhee invented it; he believes its presence has changed the nature of martial arts for the better, removing the stigma of brutality and attracting more women and children as students.

The headgear invented by Jhoon Rhee, is now used for multiple applications in various sports and even for medical rehabilitative protection.



BOB stands for Body Opponent Bag. Created by Century Martial Arts. The invention is quite simple: take a man's torso at the proper scale and size constructed out of a seemingly indestructible, high-density urethane foam, use a water base for stability and you have the perfect training partner that never hits back.



Grandmaster Takayuki Kubota, also known as Tak Kubota, is the founder of the Gosoku-Ryu style of karate. He is also the inventor and holder of the trademark of the Kubotan self-defense keychain.

The five and a half inch plastic Kubutan keychain is Kubota's most important invention. It was designed as a tool for female Los Angeles Police Department officers, and registered as a trademark in 1978. 

Kubota was a self-defense instructor for the Tokyo Police Department in the 1950s, where he was noted for his expertise in practical karate. He has devoted his life to learning, creating, and teaching the application of self-defense techniques to military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel.

Black Belt Plus

Wooden Dummy

wooden dummy

A Wing Chun dummy actually isn’t the name used for this training dummy. Its real name is Mu ren Zhuang, which translates to “wooden man post.” The legend behind how the idea for the dummy dates back centuries. One of the five elder Shaolin monks, Ng Mui was said to have created the original Mu ren Zhuang.

Mui allegedly made it from 108 different other training dummies to make the Mu ren Zhuang. There’s no proof to back this up, but it’s a nice legend to tell. Before Wing Chun, various forms of Kung Fu used some version of a wooden Mu ren Zhuang. The modern Wing Chun design as we know it today was created by Wing Chun founder Ip Man. 

The “Hogu” Chest Protector

chest protector

Hogu is the body armor protector worn by practitioners of Taekwondo during sparring competitions. Translated into English, hogu means chest or chest protector.

The hogu has been used in sparring since the 1950s and is considered the most important piece of sparring equipment in the Taekwondo practitioner's arsenal. The hogu is the most common scoring area in Taekwondo sparring. 

Modern Kendo Equipment

Modern Kendo Equipment

Imagine yourself a samurai in ancient times with the desire to train but everything was “Real Steel,” live blades with no room for error or you die. The need for practice equipment was required in order to develop skills without hurting yourself at each practice. Nearly 400 years ago that solution was addressed.

Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori 1638–1718), third son of Naganuma and the 8th headmaster of the Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-Ryu Kenjutsu, is credited with improving the art of Kenjustu with Japanese wooden and bamboo swords, according to his gravestone's inscription. He is also credited with refining the armor by adding a metal grille to the headpiece and thick cotton protective coverings to the gauntlets aka kote).

Naganuma Sirozaemon Kunisato 1688-1767) inherited the tradition from his father Heizaemon in 1708, and the two of them collaborated to improve what would become modern kendo training armor.

Martial Art Drills

MMA Glove, Open Finger Glove

mma glove

Initially required in Japan's Shooto promotion, small open-fingered gloves became a standard in most MMA promotions as the sport evolved and gained regulation. The primary purpose of introducing gloves was to safeguard fighters' fists, minimizing injuries, and reducing facial lacerations that often led to stoppages due to cuts when fighters went bare-fisted. Additionally, the adoption of gloves aimed to promote striking with hands, enhancing the appeal of matches for fans. Notably, there are parallels with the wrist-supporting, closed-thumb, broken-knuckle kempo gloves featured in Bruce Lee's iconic 1973 film, Enter the Dragon.



The Wavemaster is the original freestanding heavy bag. Prior to the wavemaster boxing gyms and martial arts schools were always challenged in the instability of a hanging bag enter the wavemaster with an ingenious Hollow base that could be filled with either sand or water creating up to 200 lb of stability with an anchor-like effect that allows students or practitioners to punch or kick the bag without the bag falling down.  Century martial arts patented the design and today it is one of the most popular martial arts training equipment inventions in the world.

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Swain Hybrid Mat

Swain Hybrid Mat

Mike Swain (World Judo Champion, 4x Olympian) transitioned from sensei to creating a mat company. But he found that a majority of his customers had mixed feelings about the “Tatami Texture” vinyl on his mats. The “Tatami Texture” was perfect for the traditional martial arts practitioners, providing a non-slip surface that was the safest mat for pivoting without “sticking.” It was also a mat with some of the best impact absorption rates for big Judo throws. With that being said, many people in the grappling/martial arts community were not happy with the surface due to mat burns and increased workload trying to keep the mats clean.

Mike Swain and his team of engineers had to come up with a solution to meet the needs of all martial arts practitioners. The product was the Swain Hybrid Mat. All of the same quality workmanship and material that went into his mat for the last 25 years with a specially designed low-profile tatami vinyl. This low-profile tatami provides the ultimate flooring surface. Think 50% smooth 50% tatami.

Foam Rubber Nunchuck

Foam Rubber Nunchuck

Nunchakus experienced a surge in popularity outside of the martial arts community in the early ‘70s when Bruce Lee’s iconic battle with the weapon in Enter The Dragon exposed the nunchaku to a whole new audience. Since then, many a wanna be Bruce Lee poser has knocked themselves silly with a knock on the head. Until the good folks at Asian World introduced us to the Black Practice Foam Nunchakus. 

Black Belt Wellness

The Gi 

the gi

The term "gi" is derived from the Japanese word "Keikogi," and is commonly used in various martial arts, known as the karate-gi, judo-gi, or jiu-jitsu-gi depending on the specific discipline.

Some scholars propose that the martial arts gi has its roots in Okinawa, Japan, with similarities to the sturdy, unbleached white cotton clothing worn by fishermen and farmers during that period. This attire typically included a robust jacket, pants, and a belt, emphasizing functionality and ease of movement.

Different martial arts styles, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, and Kenpo, may have variations in gi colors or color piping, reflecting unique traditions. However, the traditional gi in Japanese arts predominantly remains white.

Grappling Dummy

grappling dummy

Imagine transforming a simple punch bag into a dynamic training partner by adding arms, legs, and a head – voila, you've crafted a grappling dummy. Originally designed for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), this innovative training tool serves as a versatile partner for honing various combat skills.

Its purpose extends beyond mere striking practice; the grappling dummy is a dedicated apparatus for refining throws, takedowns, submissions, and intricate grappling techniques. Some models even boast moveable arms, elevating training sessions to include self-defense drills and simulated submission maneuvers.

Black Belt Wellness

Kicking Shield 

kicking shield

Bruce Lee frequently employed a kick shield in his training regimen, and the genesis of this iconic equipment traces back to the Rawlings Saf-T-Air kick shield originally designed for football practice. Introduced to Lee by his friend Dan Inosanto during personal training sessions, this kick shield gained widespread recognition through its prominent appearances on the television series Longstreet (CBS, 1971-1972) and in Lee's film, The Way of the Dragon (Golden Harvest, 1972).

What began as a tool for gridiron athletes has evolved significantly over time. Today, the kick shield is available in various sizes, specifically tailored for martial arts training. It has transcended its initial purpose on the football field, becoming a staple in martial arts studios worldwide. The kick shield, once associated with Lee's dynamic training, has now become an integral part of modern martial arts training, embodying a legacy that extends far beyond its athletic origins.

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