Originally posted here: Datsusara MMA – Chris Odell, President KaosX.net --- DATSUSARA MMA - Hemp Gear, Sportswear and Apparel Datsusara is a company who makes hemp gear for mixed martial artists. This unique blend of hemp gear and military inspired design provides not only style but function too. I recently had the chance to talk to Chris Odell, President of Datsusara MMA to find out more about the company and their products. --- How long have you been training in martial arts? About 5 years on and off. Did you start out in a traditional martial art or has it always been MMA? When I was about 13 I tried Koei Kan Karate, which involved 2 months of practicing one punch and dealing with tons of harassment from the instructors to get more sign ups, that sucked and I stayed away from martial arts for years because of that. Then when I was around 27 I learned that Bruce Lee had his own system so I tracked down an old student of his and tried Jeet Kune Do. Unfortunately it was a Jeet Kune Do “fundamentals” school so they were not evolving the art as I felt Bruce had intended, it was basically the same stuff he taught in the 70′s which is good but limited, so I left after 6 months. I then saw some UFC fights and realized that MMA was exactly what Bruce was talking about, using what works from all styles and dumping the rest. So I found a good gym MMA in Berkeley (Modern Combatives) and I trained there for 5 years. I started doing standup and had one competitive match about 6 months later in which I was sandbagged by an instructor with many years under his belt, I survived for 2 rounds and then in the pain of a massive headache I decided maybe I should focus on jits for awhile since this whole getting hit in the head thing was really annoying. Since then I have done some standup and clinch work but I focus on my jits which is more fun for me. i just moved to San Jose and I’ve been slacking for the last few months so I need to get my as into a new gym and get back to it. How long after you started training did you come up with the idea of Datsusara? About 2 years into MMA training I was really getting annoyed with my gym bag. It got nasty so fast and it’s wasn’t big enough to hold all of my MMA gear. What does “Datsusara” mean? The Japanese term Datsusara literally translates as “to escape from being a salary worker”, my loose interpretation is that it means to spend time doing the things you love rather than working for the man. I saw this term in Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four Hour Work Week” and I felt it resonated with me on a personal level but I also thought MMA practitioners would appreciate it. I think most pro MMA athletes are living the Datsusara life already and the rest of us in the gym are taking time off from our busy schedules to participate in a sport we love and escape from boring daily routines. Which product was the first you designed? The PGB, or Pro Gear bag (at the time we called it the LGB for large gear bag). Was there a reason you designed that particular gear of first? That solved my problem as far as bag size and breathability. How long did it take to go from conception through design, prototype and finally manufacture? It took about 8 months to get through the process, we made 3 prototypes before settling on the design for the first version and then it took a few months to get the first 100 bags made. Were there any unexpected challenges along the way? One of the challenges was finding real hemp for the bags at a fair price. China is like the old west sometimes, they don’t have laws that keep companies from cheating each other, so it’s hard to know if you are getting what you asked for. We had to test various samples of fabric before we found a real hemp sample. The ongoing challenges come from testing the gear properly and then making sure the manufacturers use the same materials in future units so you don’t have something breaking that didn’t on the prototype. We had problems with the backpacks a few times now where material was substituted without our knowledge and then units failed. It’s a constant struggle to assure quality. How did you settle on the hemp fabric for your gear bags? I have been a fan of hemp since I was a teenager, I knew it had many uses and was good for the environment. It’s the perfect material for sports gear since it’s strong, breathable, and naturally anti-microbial. What makes your products better than the standard ones that have been used for years? Not only do we use hemp which has the properties I mentioned (strong, breathable, anti-microbial) but we also make our gear to military standards so it’s about a s strong as can be. Other bags don’t breathe, tear easily and are really just repurposed generic sports bags (not designed for MMA). Do you use all the products you sell? If so, do you have a favorite? I still love my PGB, it kicks ass. How important is design from a visual aspect when you’re working on a new product? I consider it secondary to function but still very important, I like our gear to have a covert military look. How do you keep in touch with your customers and fans? (social networking, forums etc) Facebook has been very useful to us for posting updates and getting feedback from customers, we also have an email list and myspace page but I think I’ll kill the MySpace soon since MySpace sucks. I hear you’ve been doing side/upgrades for your customers, can you explain that concept to me? I wanted to offer something to our loyal customers so we came up with the upgrade/crossgrade plan. So if you just want to upgrade your current unit such as a PGB-02 to a PGB-03 then we’ll give you $30 off the purchase of a new PGB-03 (you keep your current bag). The crossgrade is if you own a BP and would like to try the PGB or vice versa, then we give you $20 off. It’s a bit of a crazy deal but I love our customers so much that I’m willing to take the hit on our profit to keep them happy. How many employees make up Datsusara? Is it a one man operation? Don’t tell anyone but it’s mostly just me here heheh but we do have a guy that help with design, graphics, and website work. This will change someday when our bottom line looks better, but for now I’m a slave to Datsusara (I am sadly aware of the irony in that). What’s next on the product roadmap for Datsusara? We have to get a full product line up and running. The shorts and gis are on the way hopefully this year. After that we want to do a small version of the backpack and then get into rash guards and some very cool t-shirts that we have designed but require some fancy and expensive all over printing. It looks like you’re expected to get more of the Datsusara Gi’s in next year, are there any improvements being made to the GI since you last offered it? We are hoping to use a new 100% hemp fabric that will still meet international competition requirements. The cut will also be tightened up and more BJJ than the old cut which was more judo style. I’m a big guy, which is why I got into MMA (to lose weight), and it’s been really difficult for me to find a Gi in a good price point that is still quality that will fit me, people on the smaller side often have this issue too – what sizes will your Gi be available in? On the first batch we will be offering pre-orders so that you can be sure to get your size. This is the best way now since our funds are limited but in the future we’ll have at least A1-5 in stock. Did you watch UFC117? What did you think of the match ups? I watch all the UFC’s and that one was great. Two guys I don’t care for personality wise did really well. Matt Hughes pulled that crazy move and had my living room full of WTFs from all my jits buddies. Sonnen was very impressive and I consider those first four rounds fight karma for the last four of Silva’s previous fight where he acted like an ass and didn’t do shit. I want to see a rematch with Silva in good shape and hopefully this time he’ll beat the crap out of that homophobic shit talking idiot (Sonnen). I liked Fitch’s performance too (and I better since he trains at what might be my new gym down the street, AKA). Guida always cracks me up and I enjoy seeing him do well. Nelson has great heart and I almost wish he won since he is my excuse for having a big belly, but alas Santos is a badass and did very well. Any predictions on UFC118? I expect BJ to take his belt back, he wasn’t in the game last time. I’d like to think Maia can pull off a win, he’s a very talented guy if he can get his standup defense up to par. I expect Diaz to win but I hope he loses Davis. I think Florian will do well and likely get the win over Maynard. I’m not a huge Couture fan but he seems like a great guy and Toney is a foolish man to think his boxing can defeat any decent MMA fighter. I also predict Joe Rogan will say some funny shit, I love his commentary. If you could let the people who will read this interview know any one thing about Datsusara, what would it be? The only thing we care about is providing the best gear that helps you enjoy your life to the fullest.