I thought my kicks were good, then I met...

’The Bag from Hell!’

“Go on, Al, kick it!”

I was surrounded by a half dozen black belts, all from a rival school, and they were very curious to see what my abilities were.

To the side stood Bob, their instructor. He just smiled affably.

In front of me hung...’the bag.’

It looked normal, probably about seventy pounds, a little dirty from foot marks. Okay, no problem.

I took a stance, launched myself through the air, and side kicked the bag.

Just what the doctor ordered!

My side kick was my most powerful weapon, but this time it didn’t do the job. I felt a dull thud travel up my leg, the bag moved about an inch, and I actually bounced off it.

While everybody in the garage looked down and smothered their snickers, I stared at the bag in shock.

The score: Bag--1. Al--0.

Okay, I was embarrassed, at least until I found out how the bag was made. Then I was proud that I had moved it even an inch, and hadn’t even broken my foot!

The purpose of this article is to give you a better kick, by enabling you to make a better bag. Then, when you kick some unsuspecting bag, you won’t be the one ‘getting mugged!’ 

The proper way to treat a bag.

Before we start, let me point something out. When you kick a bag you are kicking 70 to 100 pounds. The body of a mugger, however, might weigh two hundred pounds plus. So, no matter how hard you work at kicking that seventy pound bag, you are training yourself to kick half as hard as you need to.

So you need a better bag.

Heck, Bruce Lee, before he died, ordered a Monster of a bag. It was over three hundred pounds!

Now that’s a bag!

The bag is ‘de-feeted!’

And, if a 300 pound mugger came  around Bruce you can bet he would get t

hree hundred pounds of butt whipped, and whipped good!

Got it? Do you understand that you need a better bag? Good. Here’s how I made my first bag, and how you can progress past my ef forts to a true ‘Bag from Hell.’

It was about 1970. I had no money, and I wanted a bag. Heck, my weak and puny kicks were desperate for a bag.

So, I went down to the army surplus store and bought a duffel bag for two dollars. I then went to the local sawmill and asked if I could have some free sawdust.

They must have thought I was nuts, but they said yes.

So I went out and loaded my duffel bag with sawdust.

Tim Santos

Universal Core Karate

And I loaded a couple more grocery sacks with the stuff, too.

I went home and grabbed the duffel bag by the top, lifted it, and dropped it. And lifted it and dropped it. And....

A bag that has been kicked so hard it is ripped

is officially known as a ‘Frankenbag!’

A couple of hours later the sawdust was lower in the bag, so I added a grocery bag more to the mix. And, a couple of hours later, I added another sack of dust. At last, the sawdust finally refusing to settle anymore, I hung the thing from the beams in my garage. (I nailed a couple of two by fours to the supporting beams to make sure I wouldn’t shake the roof down, and I checked the windows to make sure they weren’t going to crack and break.)

And I had a kicking bag for a couple of bucks.

standing ‘wave’ bag

vinyl over high density foam

water/sand base

If you can’t hang a bag, and/or want something softer to start on.

Over the months I used that bag until it began to come apart.

When the canvas webs began to come apart I took the thing down to a cobbler and had him sew it back together, with extra material.

And I repacked it twice: I put a garbage can liner in it the first time, and the second time I just repacked the whole duffel bag into another duffel bag!

It was a great bag. Especially considering the price.

While I was improving my kicks on my own, I was also practicing on the bag at my school, the Kang Duk Won (House for Espousing {bubbling forth} Virtue.

The bag that hung there was solid, reinforced every time the support straps broke, and looked like Frankenstein. We had kicked a variety of holes in the thing, and it had been to the cobbler time and time again.  

hanging ‘wave’ bag

vinyl over three inches of foam with a water core

70/120 pounds, gives the feel of hitting a real body.

One day, after trying to knock the not inconsiderable stuffings out of the bag, I got in a conversation with Bob concerning what was in the bag, and this led me to the fascinating subject of how he hand packed his own bags, and, at last, I found out what was in the bag that had once kicked my fanny .

Here is how Bob packed his bag.

He bought an empty kicking bag and he packed it with sawdust, the same as I had packed mine.

The bag became quite packed, but it never became heavy enough for him.

What he did to remedy this was pour in a cup of sand every week.

The sand filled in the spaces, as it settled to the bottom of the bag, and the bag became heavier and harder.

hanging heavy (Traditional)

vinyl coating

one inch closed cell foam under vinyl

shredded fibre core

A good, tough hit.

40/70/100 pounds

Finally, the bag was more sand than sawdust, and it provided for a mighty meat of a kick!

My instructor, however, was still not satisfied with the texture and weight of the thing.

So, he began to add a cup of water every week!

His first problem was the thing became wet. Well, yeah. But he thought the moisture would go away and leave a better packing. It didn’t, it began to rot the


So he lined the bag with plastic liner and repeated the whole darn process, and this time he added a glop of bleach to stop the thing from rotting.

Well, the thing was a bag, but it was...weird. It was hard, but...squishy. And here was where my instructor showed his genius.

Instead of continuing with his efforts

to make the perfect bag, he tossed everything out and started from scratch..and here is how you make the perfect bag. Perfect texture, perfect weight, no rot, and built to make your kicks perfect, or else!

The author’s personal punching bag.

air filled, 3 pounds,


This bag is for people

with serious issues!

Get a stack of newspapers and cut them in circles, then simply pack them in the bag.

Oh my God! After all the endless hours of packing (well, I had built my muscles up a little bit) the solution had been something entirely different than sand or sawdust or anything else!


And you can add some sand to fill in the cracks.

I tell ya, a bag filled with packed newspapers is light enough so that you can still hang it from the rafters without

making your whole garage sag, and yet provides a texture that is as hard as a bag of cement!

In short, all the news that is fit to print can provide you with the ultimate kicking bag, a ‘Bag from Hell,’ a bag that just might be ‘too tough to kick.’

NOTE: The reader is warned, right now, that if you make such a bag you must be very careful. You hang such a monster at your own risk, and you kick such a beast at your own risk. The management will not be held responsible for injuries, either to the body, the roof, or the ego!



A bag can be filled with packed rags, air, water, sawdust, sand, grains, beans, or whatever your little heart desires, or whatever your fists can withstand. The reader should know that there is some evidence that improper toughening of the fists results in arthritis.

The fiber filling used in bags often comes from used furniture. It is shredded, then pounded into the bag by fellows with baseball bats.

Bags are usually covered with canvas, vinyl, or leather.

Canvas tends to tear skin and leather stretches. Vinyl is the best material for a bag. Leather is the best material for focus gloves, punching gloves, and so on.

Ropes are best for hanging bags. Chains are more expensive to replace and have no give, which can cause damage to structures. Hang a bag at least eight inches above the floor, as the rope and parts of the bag may stretch.

Joists and beams should receive extra support, and the bags should be hung so that the weight is spread out over the beams and joists.

The ‘grain’ of the bag should be up and down and sideways. Slanted grain causes misshapen bags.

One of the most popular questions at Martial Arts supply stores is, ‘What’s in the bag?’

Rafael Kosche (Valley Martial Arts Supply in N. Hollywood), who supplied the above data, reports sales of 50 bags a year, of which 10 are 200 pounds. Multiply that by 5000 stores, and you have a lot of fellows with a lot of bats.

Monster Martial Arts