Review: SMAK-Stiks - Safe Martial Arts Kombat Reviewer: Bob Hubbard Item Reviewed: X-Series - 28” length Where to Buy: http://www.smakstiks.com Cost as Reviewed: $49.95 each US + S/H SMAK-Stiks is a new contender on the padded stick market. They offer a couple different options for the stick practitioner. I will be reviewing the X-Series, which they advertise as being designed for heavy duty training such as take downs, chokes, grappling, disarms and other close range techniques in addition to normal striking. Observations: Weight: The weight was on the light side compared to Rattan, but still felt solid in my hand. Weight was comfortable, in that the stick had obvious mass when swinging, but not so much weight that you tired easily. Balance: Balance was good. Twirling and spinning them didn’t show any imbalances in the product. Surface: The striking surface of the SMAK-Stiks are covered with either a black or red rip-stop type material. While the last 2 tests aren’t “standard”, they do serve to show the strength of the material covering the striking surface. The handle is wrapped in what appears to be standard athletic grip tape, resulting in a solid grip, and the butt end or punyo, was covered with an inch deep rubberized pad making it much safer than the other brands I’ve used. Feel: The sticks felt very comfortable and natural in my hand, on par with the feel of my normal rattan. One complaint I do have is that the athletic tape wrap left my hands somewhat sticky. Impact Transference: Being familiar with 2 other companies padded stick products, as well as having made my own, I compared feel, flex and “hurt”. SMAK-Stiks are much stiffer than the others I’ve used. Often, when sparing I’ve encountered the “whippy” effect, where a block which would have stopped a solid weapon such as a stick, flexes around the block and strikes the defender. Sparring with SMAK-Stiks this effect was minimal. When striking a surface, you feel the feedback, but not in a jarring way. The impact on your body is a stiffer shot than competing products. Getting hit can sting, so head and hand protection are recommended. The chance of serious injury is lessoned greatly by the padding, but safety especially when sparring is encouraged. If I had to rate a full-impact bare skin strike, I would say it’s much less than a paintball shot, but a bit stiffer than other commercial padded sticks. Overall Product Appearance: Product is about 28” long. Majority of stick is the padded striking surface, which is covered by a protective rip-stop fabric. Seams are sewn straight and neat. Handle grip is an angled tape wrap extending under the rubberized butt cover. The last ¾” under the rubber appears to be a dense padding. Stick is stiff, but has some flex to it. Durability: SMAK-Stiks show a good wear resistance. The fabric was very resistant to showing signs of wear after hard use, and numerous strikes against a chain link fence. In addition, it showed solid resistance to cat claws after I spent an evening teasing my cats with them. Numerous weeks of sparing with them, as well as other “non-standard” abuse tests and the test sticks show no noticeable signs of wear. Customer Support: The few Emails I’ve exchanged with SMAK-Stiks were answered promptly and professionally. Conclusion: SMAK-Stiks offers a durable product that allows the practitioner to go full force with minimal protection. Sparring at full tilt and a realistic reaction are possible due to the combination of it’s padding and stiffness, which allows the SMAK-Stick to be safe to use while giving a real enough reaction to blocks and strikes. It is stiff enough to use for throws and chokes, while allowing a reasonable safety margin, though any object used for chokes can have a danger factor. Priced at the higher end of the padded stick market, SMAK-Stiks offers a solid bang for your buck, and will be a regular part of my training. === Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site MartialTalk.com and president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More of Bob's articles can be found at rustaz.net. Please contact Bob if you would like him to review your martial arts product.