View Full Version : Is the Makiwara still valid?

Michael Clarke
10th May 2002, 12:10
QUESTION : Do you still face the makiwara?

In this day and age is such training still valid?
What possible value can we get from such an activity?
Just for the record, I still use the makiawara at least three times a week for a minimum of half an hour each time.
As far as I understand it, this is still part and parcel of 'traditional Okianwan karatdo'. So are we not obliged to teach and practice every aspect of the 'tradition'?

Look forward to your opinions.

Mike Clarke.

Budoka 34
10th May 2002, 15:44
Makiwara training, as I understand it, not only builds striking power, but also increases bone density in the hands and arms, thus helping to prevent striking related injury, such as fractures. You must practice with good form or suffer joint and knuckle pain. I practice three days aweek one hundred tsuki, teisho, and shuto per hand each day. Besides the tell tail knuckles, my training partners have noticed an increase in my hand strength and striking speed.
IMHO as long as you train safely and responsibly, I think Makiwara is a great training tool.


10th May 2002, 17:02
Very good! Damn it, I voted for not sure..sorry. I am a firm believer in makiwaras. I regret that many, f.ie., Karate students start using the makiwara in their training so late. Excessive training does develop some nasty knuckles.. Just my .02 €

10th May 2002, 17:04
In my humble opinion,the use of the makiwara depends on what sort of fighter you’re training to be. If you’re a boxer, going o be wearing gloves and throwing multiple strikes on a moving target, the makiwara is probably less suited to your goals than a heavy bag and a speed bag. Personally, as a kyokushin karateka, I prefer the heavy bag to the makiwara, as I find it more appropriate to the fighting style I’m working on. However I find that the makiwara is still fun to pound on. For me, the most profound benefits were psychological. I found that driving forward, knowing my fist was going to impact hard and there would be a certain amount of discomfort, really helped me commit to my strikes and not worry about blocks or counters so much.
As far as validity, I think some people may argue that makiwara are no longer cutting edge or the best training tool available, but I doubt anyone will go so far as to say they’re no good at all. Any tool is useful.

Josh Gepner

hector gomez
10th May 2002, 18:49
Fighting in general reminds me of a puzzle,you need alot
of piesces to make the puzzle complete.

Can you use "one" piesce of the puzzle to address a certain fight
situation?sure,but the more piesces of the puzzle one has
,the more answers a practicioner has at his disposal for most all fight situations.

The problem with the makiwaras validity as a training tool for fighting is not wether it is a good tool or not,but how much time are you spending in your training adressing a certain portion of that puzzle.

The Makiwara,like zoyashi mentioned above,adresses a solid foward thrust strike in a primarirly stationary position to make hard contact with a solid object,that causes the body to tighten/contract and focus all it's energy on that movement to apply a powerful strike to a certain point or target.

The one shot kill or one strike/blow to end matters quiclky is not a bad idea,but in 8 out of 10 times that fights occur, it is a unrealistic view of what really might transpire in a fight.I also would like to end fights in this manner but the percentages are not on my side.

If fighting was only this easy,issues that need to be addressed that
might be of imortance,lateral movement,defense,combinations,grappling,submissions,positions,etc. I have known karate practicioners that are firm believers in makiwara training and spend many hours training with this tool,unlike the boxer,that might just work on a speed bag a couple of rounds,I have known some karatekas to work extensively for hours training to toughen the knuckles to be able to hit with proper force.

How much time is one spending on makiwara training?Is it balanced without neglecting other crucial areas in your training?

Of course trainining tools are developed to address a certain area or
portion of that fight,are we putting all are eggs into one basket?bottom line ,is the correct time invested in this specific training area equally balanced?

Hector Gomez

10th May 2002, 21:16
Originally posted by hector gomez


Is it balanced without neglecting other crucial areas in your training?

Of course trainining tools are developed to address a certain area or
portion of that fight,are we putting all are eggs into one basket?bottom line ,is the correct time invested in this specific training area equally balanced?

Hector Gomez

Sounds like Hector is concerned with the old question of specialization vs. generalization.

A true specialist - Someone who knows everthing about nothing.

A true generalist - Someone who knows nothing about everything.

Have a good weekend everybody.

hector gomez
10th May 2002, 21:22
Hi Ed,Please elaborate!

Hector Gomez

10th May 2002, 21:50
I refer to an old argument that is common with doctors and academics.

A specialist concentrates all his studies and efforts at mastering one thing and when he get outside of that one thing he knows nothing. When taken to the extreme he is said to know everything about nothing ( or just one thing ).

A generalist spreads all his efforts and studies trying to learn about everything so in effect masters nothing. When taken to the extreme it is said he know nothing about everything. (Jack all trades, master of none so to speak.)

This is an old debate that can be applied to many areas of human endeavor.

hector gomez
10th May 2002, 22:02
I guess a good balance is something to strive for.

Hector gomez

Kevin Meisner
11th May 2002, 02:48
I agree with Hector's analysis above. I like pounding a makiwara, but I also like pounding a heavy bag, focus mitts, kicking shields, etc.

Kevin Meisner

Michael Clarke
11th May 2002, 14:18
Hi again,

Just to pick up on something Hector said in his first post, about a
"solid object". I hope no one out there is hitting a makiwara that is 'solid' (ie, without any kind of 'give' in it). All makiwara should have some 'give' in them (just as people have when you hit them), but I'm sure everyone knows this?
Like all training aids the makiwara has it's limitations,still, I'm heartened to see that people continue to find something from working with it.
It's good to know that others have linked the conditioning of the body with the conditioning of the mind. This kind of harmony is something all martial arts share, though we may go about grasping that "feeling" in lots of different ways.

Mike Clarke.

Goju Man
11th May 2002, 15:47
Excellent thread. I agree with points made by everyone. Makiwara is crucial, imo, to many of karates' techniques to work the way they were designed. Without it, many techniques are rendered useless in reality or just for kata. But I agree that it has to have correct training proportion. I've known karateka with hands like wrecking ball. I even nicknamed a freind of mine "dead hands" because of their toughness. However, some of these guys couldn't hit a barn from the inside. Point being, if you neglect your technical training in leiu of makiwara and breaking, all that conditioning will be of no use. Many of us talk about makiwara and such but not very many actually train the whole spectrum, knukite, ippon ken, boshi ken, etc. An analogy that comes to mind are the thai boxers. No one has harder shins than a thai boxer. But he does not neglect his technical training and conditioning to toughen his shins.

Ron Rompen
11th May 2002, 23:14
Just a brief question in regards to Goju Man's last post (btw, I agree with everything he said).

I am familiar with most of the terms in MA, but what is knukite and boshi ken? (No, not being a smartass, just an honest request for information)

Goju Man
12th May 2002, 00:29
No problem. Boshi ken refers to a thumb strike. It is used like our mawashi uke, the top hand would strike with the folded thumb.
Knukite is the spear hand strike.

13th May 2002, 07:32
I've always understood that it was bad for the small bones in your hand, is there any truth in that??

Michael Clarke
13th May 2002, 12:45
I can only say that after almost twenty years of training with this tool I have had no trouble with my bones, small or otherwise.
Bunny hops and other such stupid exercised which I was requiered to do back in the early 1970's have however left their mark.
Interesting to note also; if you stop hitting the makiwara your hands will return to their normal state within a month or two.
There have been some good articles written about makiwara training and the effect it has on the hands, by doctors and so on, so there is research out there if your interested?
Happy hitting!
Mike Clarke.

Budoka 34
13th May 2002, 14:54
Great thread guys.
Just a couple points I would like to throw in. Makiwara and heavy bag work should not be mutually exclusive. It should not be one or the other. The makiwara teaches targeting and builds bone density, while the heavy bag develops proper body alignment and gives a good general body workout to the muscles, not to mention endurance.
Just a thought.

Michael Clarke
14th May 2002, 08:03
Yes, I agree.
My main point in asking the question though was not to debate makiwara -v- heavy bag, both are great tools I think.
It just seems to me that although many today refer to themselves as 'Traditional' karateka, they do not train in the traditional methods, nor with a 'traditional attitude. In the makiwara's case in particular, I have a sneaky feeling it's because it hurts for a while at first that many people avoid it?
Mike Clarke.

15th May 2002, 06:17
You gotta have balance. Proper makiwara training is definitely part of karate,but I also think, you need speed bags,focus mitts, heavy bags, Thai pads are good, and so forth.

Remember that Okinawan karate also uses hanging makiwara, kaketebiki, and many other devices for many other things, including stepping and sliding drills, turning and guarding as you hit, ducking, and so forth.

Also, hanging pieces of paper for certain types of strike, and other types of training, putting out candles with a punch, hitting water, and so forth, are all parts of training.

Parts often forgotten.

Tape a quarter to the arm of an old chair and drop backfists onto it until you put a given knuckle on that quarter every time, for instance.

Best all around training devices? hanging piece of paper, for speed training, and heavy bag.

Heavy bag is a realistic moving object, and you gotta hit from all angles and have that wrist straight or else.

Sped bag is good for speed and reflex training.Like to hang one from an elastic band and spar with it, duck or else.:-)

Maki is okay, but like a bycycle, once you get it, you don't forget it.Also, train properly with this or your hands won't forgive you later in life.But, straight karate, traditional, you need it to understand dynamics of the straight and reverse punch, at the very least, and it can help with all strikes as well.Do one wrong on it, you never forget.

Michael Clarke
15th May 2002, 07:23
Hi John,
Yes I agree with you, you have to work with many tools. I have a complete set of traditional Okinawan training tools in my dojo (from the goju-ryu traditiion anyway) and my students and I train with them every week.
I understand that unless you condition the body you don't always have the weapon you think you have by training in thin air all the time.
My only question was about the makiwara, and if 'traditional' people still use it?
Of course our traditions include much more than just this one tool, but this is the tool I was thinking of with my original post.
As you said also, if people are using it? they should not limit themselves to just static pounding away with a punch, but move and hit it with different techniques.

Mike Clarke.

16th May 2002, 06:15
Hi Mike-
Good stuff.Actually I think Goju Ryu may use more equipment than Shorin ryu, or emphasize some of the traditional weights more anyway.

I think, its funny, most traditional stylists in the US, tend to use something Like a makiwara, but not necessarily a traditional makiwara.

For instance, the leather punching pads, are often seen in may dojo, maybe fewer use the actual makiwara posts.

I don't anymore myself use them, as I got into some internal training a few years ago, which uses different things,such as the earth itself,hitting it that is, but fulfill same need.However, bag training is still done.

But as I said, if doing nothing but karate, you do need the makiwara or a device filling the same need, to get the connection between the floor and the fists, and yes, moving around to different angles, is a good thing too.

Now, if you train for real contact, you need something to make contact with, and the makiwara is probably the most challenging such thing.It is less forgiving than a water filled bag, though a sand filled one comes close.The old Okinawan jute rope makiwara though, is schooling in the Old Way of karate.Blood, sweat, tears and toil.
Good talking with you.

Michael Clarke
16th May 2002, 12:57
Hey John,
Thanks for the feedback. I'm with you on all the points you raised. The word 'Makiawara' I believe comes from the type of rope that was wrapped around the post in the old days? (Maybe some one out there can confirm this?).
I think the key thing is for traditional people to 'hit' things, and not just do their karate in thin air all the time. Hojo-undo (supplementary training), is a vital part of traning and should not be missed in my opinion. Conditioning the body conditions the mind too. Henry Plee, one of the first people in Europe to train and teach karate (1950's) said : "That which the makiwara teaches can not be learned in any other way."
I think the point he was making was that you learnt not only about your technique when you hit things, but about yourself too. As karateka we can not hit other people in the dojo with as much power as we might be able to generate, so makiwara, bags, pads, etc, are all good ways to find a 'feeling' of impact.
Good hearing from you.
Mike Clarke.

Harry Cook
16th May 2002, 14:31
The term makiwara does indeed refer to the "wrapped straw" which is used as the target area. It is also of interest to note that when E. J. Harrison wrote his Manual of Karate (Foulsham 1959), a book which is almost certainly one of the first books in English on karate and essentially a fusion of two translated Japanese books, he said at the beginning of chapter 5 "it is essential that you should on no account neglect the assiduous training of your natural weapons by means of the special auxiliary apparatus recommended for that purpose. If you do then real power and efficacy of the art will be reduced by half...The makiwara: for the training and hardening of the hands and feet - the parts of the body oftenest used for attack in karate - this implement certainly ranks as the most important." (p32)
Mike asked the question do people still face the makiwara in training. In my opinion its use is in decline in the UK, even among those who think of themselves as traditionalists. I have asked a number of Shotokan, Goju, and Shito dan grades over the last few years if they used the makiwara regularly and only one of two had any experience of using it. Ons Shotokan 3rd dan had never hit a makiwara and a number of Goju practitioners had only used it occasionally.
Harry Cook

Budoka 34
16th May 2002, 15:58

I've been asking the same question of local Yudasha since this thread started. In our dojo most of the Yudansha train regularly with makiwara. We just remounted ours after a major building and remodeling project. Many of the local schools,(a collection of unafiliated American Karate, Kenpo, and several independent Shuri Ryu dojo's) don't have, or even know what makiwara is. It seems that only more "traditional" schools/styles i.e. Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Shuri Ryu' etc. still offer it as a training tool. I find this very interesting!


17th May 2002, 02:08
Mike, Harry, everyone,

Yes, this is very interesting indeed.I wonder what exactly is the reasons that makiwara use is not only down , even among traditionalists, but sometimes completely left off?

Is it that karate has become either a sport or a phys ed activity in the minds of many, and some martial aspects such as makiwara training are neglected?

It is I think, quite true, that if you don't at some point face makiwara, in whatever incarnation it may be, you won't have true karate power in technique.

But if some do karate, for other reasons than possible martial defensive use, rather as a sport only, or an activity of physical fitness/excercise, or even social reasons, thern makiwara might be seen as unnecessary pain and trouble?

Could this, I wonder, be the reason for the statistics mentioned, and which I doubt not at all?

I wonder if this also affects other areas of karate practice?Or is this not correct and reason something else?

17th May 2002, 06:53
I made one in my yard
okay this might be a stupid question, but:

any instructions how to make one yourself?

Michael Clarke
17th May 2002, 08:38
Thanks for your input. I have a copy of that book and yes it would seem that in the past makiwara training, and conditionaing in general, was all part and parcel of karate.
I can believe that many people today do not train in a traditional way, and yet still refer to themselves as traditional? I think they get this idea because they still train in a white do-gi?

There are a few books that show how to build a makiwara. Two that come to mind right off are Higaonna Morio sensei's 'Traditional Karate vol 1', and Nakayama Masatoshi sensei's 'Dynamic karate'
There are a number of ways you can build a makiwara for your self. If you want to put one in the ground you should dig a hole about 3 feet (one meter) deep. Place a couple of house bricks at the base and put the post at the back of them. Fill the hole up to a little over half way (making sure you pack the earth as you go) and then place a further two house bricks across the back of the post. Continue to re-fill the hole and pack down hard.
You may well need to hammer in some wedge shaped lengths of wood at the sides, back, and front of the post, just to firm it up. Please remember the post should have some 'give' in it.
An important point to remember also is that the post should lean a little to the front slightly. The reason for this is to allow for the first two knuckels to impact the pad first. As your punch pushes through the makiwara will 'straighten up' for a second.
You should also make the makiwara so that the pad at the top is in line with your chest.
This is how I have made makiwara for years. If they move(which they sometimes do) then put a few more wedges in. As I said in an earlier post, I have had no bone damage from training with this tool. I would strongly advise anyone new to it, to take things slowly and carefully. The idea is to build a strong technique, not 'big knuckles'.
One last thing.
I was always taught to make my own hojo-undo tools if possible. In days gone by they were items that were found around the house/farm etc. So to go out and buy factory made stuff kind of takes something away for me. Having said that, I did have to get a 'kongoken' made, and I did ask a potter to make me two sets of 'gami'. But I made my own 'chi-ishi' and many of the other tools too.
Mike Clarke

17th May 2002, 09:27
stupid me... I should have done a search on google before asking (thanx for the reply anyway :D)

found me a good link: making a makiwara (http://www.ctr.usf.edu/shotokan/makiwara.html)

Harry Cook
17th May 2002, 13:08
I think that the makiwara is being slowly abandoned by at least some "traditionalists" is because of the influence of tournaments. One British university dojo had their makiwara removed in case the students "hurt their hands" but the same group enthusiastically enter competitions whenever they can. I was also told by a senior Shotokan teacher in the UK that he didn't like to use focus pads as it encouraged his students to "hit too hard" which meant they were disqualified in competitions for excessive contact! A case of the tail wagging the dog I think. As Mike said traditional in many people's mind only means wearing a white gi.
The method of fixing a makiwara post described by Mike is excellent if you are able to dig a hole in your garden, but if you have a cement or concrete yard it is not so easy. One method I have used, and still use, is to get a blacksmith, or welder, or whatever to make you a steel plate a couple of feet square. Have a section of box girder welded to the middle of the plate, large enough to take the base of your post, and then fasten the plate to the concrete with self-tapping bolts put through a series of holes drilled into the plate at the corners and sides. It is wise to have the box section a fair bit larger than the base of your post and hold it in with wooden wedges, so that if you manage to break the post (which of course you should be trying to do!) it is easy to remove and replace. For the actual striking area I have tried using the straw bundle fastened with straw rope but in the somewhat damp atmosphere of Northumberland it quickly goes mouldy and I don't want to pick up any kind of infection through a grazed knuckle. Accordingly I use a block of closed-cell foam taped onto the wooden post which can easily be cleaned with an antiseptic wipe when necessary. If you have a group of people training on the same makiwara this is an important consideration.
I agree with Mike that whenever possible you should make, find or scrounge your own hojo-undo tools. I have a pair of cast iron wheels from a small coal truck I found in a river when I was out running, and a round iron ball used to keep the chain on a crane straight which has a handle fastened to it (known as 'the egg' to my students) and which I lift and swing around in various ways. I was given one useful piece of equipment as a present by my wife. She found a pair of spring loaded Sandow dumb-bells made in about 1905 or so. When you practise Sanchin kata they add a whole new dimension to gripping the fists tightly.
Personally I prefer to train with equipment rather than attacking thin air, and in fact this approach is the core of the kind of karate I teach and practice. The feed back from all kinds of equipment is the input need to improve, and so I feel that those who ignore this approach are missing a great chance to genuinely improve their technique, power, conditioning etc.
Harry Cook

17th May 2002, 22:43
And Mr,. Cook,
Thank you very much for input on this. Tournaments may indeed be the cause of this loss of emphasis on makiwara/hojo undo, etc.

I too, believe that without some forms of feedback, training in air gets you nowhere fast.

Even the Chinese internal styles use feedback drills, bags, towels on a table, the earth, and other methods of strengthening and feedback.

Consider for instance if judo was taught only as a solo excercise and done into the air.:D

Wouldn't be considered very practical art I imagine. Howbeit, that having been said, I do note that when using equipment for training in striking, and one spars, one will tend to make contact and with some enthusiasm, with one's opponent, so it may be the explanation is that in Shotokan and other such shiai, one will be disqualified. In some Okinawan styles of which I was a participant, the kendo-like bogu gear allowed plenty of contact in kumite with less possibillity of injury.Also, the ma ai was a very realistic one.

Either way, if one is to ever have karate available at maximum effectiveness in possible defensive situations, the makiwara, and other implements, do become most helpful if not absolutely imperative to use.

It is not enough merely to do arm conditioning through kumite drills, one needs to weld the connection of the floor to the fist, and all between, through the training which makiwara gives, for karate, best.Those who never trained with this, when they at first receive the shock, from a punch thrown with power, by them or another, are totally stunned.Karate is contact.

20th May 2002, 21:03
Originally posted by Harry Cook


I agree with Mike that whenever possible you should make, find or scrounge your own hojo-undo tools.


A friend of mine has a student who work as a lineman for a electric company. He gave him 2 insultlators that are used a high voltage lines. Thet are solid ceramic with 3.5 inch lipped tops like nigiri game. They only thing is they must weigh 35 or 40 pounds. You have to be pretty strong to grip and turn them all the way over.

31st May 2002, 04:37
Makiwara is solid, causing you to properly align your bones and muscles, which is a must for maximizing impact power.


Andreas Kuntze
11th June 2002, 18:58
Thanks Mike for an excellent thread!

It seems that everyone has their own version of Makiwara. Ours is a bit different from any I've seen. A senior Sempai in our dojo built it over 20 years ago. Quite ingenious really:

The makiwara is set in a plywood base (roughly 1 metre by 2 metres).
The post is fastened in an iron clamp, onto the base.
The post itself is tapered. The bottom is 10x10 centimetres (or 6"x6"); this tapers to a very flexible top (rougly 1/2 centimetre thick).

This design gives you a portable makiwara! You stand on the base to give it stability(you can line the bottom with leather strips to give it more friction grip). Its flexibility, which as Mike has said is very important, allows you to punch "through" the target. I was taught to punch or kick as straight as possible, feeling the extension from the floor, through my hips and connecting through my back.

My instructor emphasises the extension and connection more than the power or conditioning of the knuckles. In fact, for younger or beginner students, we have installed a cork filled leather patch over the wood. This prevents unnecessary injury.

Perhaps this method is a bit different from the old makiwara methods taught by some Naha groups, but this is what was taught in Japan within our system (Shito-ryu). What do you think?

Michael Clarke
12th June 2002, 01:09
My plesure Andreas,
I too trainind in Shito-ryu for the first ten years of my karate life but we did little makiwara training. Although we did do an awful lot of hitting pads held by a partner, so we did get to 'feel' our techniques and didn't just hit 'thin air' all the time.

I once had a makiwara much like the one you discribed. Not sure if your suggesting that you make contact with the wood, or with some sort of pad? I have always had some kind of pad. Mostly a piece of leather. But for the past 20 years or so I've used a strip of rubber gasket (the type they use in industry). I still place a thin bit of leather over the top. I do this mainly because its easier to keep clean, and is a little safer when the skin is cut and there's blood around.

Higaonna Morio sensei had a very good makiwara in his Tokyo dojo back in 1987 when I was training there. It was made by hanging a car tyre from a length of rope against a pillar of a wall. Across the tyre he had fixed a piece of wood, and in the middle of that he placed the punching pad. When you hit it you had to be dead straight or the whole makiwara would 'twist' on you. After a while you could do this on purpose and as the side of the tyre came around you could practice blocking with your elbow before hitting the pad again. It gave the tool an extra dimention.

Anyway, I'm just happy that there seems to be people out there that are still getting something from this old but (in my opinion) very valid tool.
Happy hitting!
Mike Clarke

Andreas Kuntze
12th June 2002, 01:30
Yes, I think the use of a pad of some sort can be cleaner and safer.

Our instructor doesn't really emphasize Makiwara anymore. Basically, he doesn't show anyone how to use it until they have the basic form correct. I think in his mind, that point comes with the Sho-dan. Only then are you ready to feel that connection. I'm not sure some students wouldn't gain immensely if they started earlier in their training. However, you know these Japanese instructors - sticklers for perfection!!

BTW, in Japan I once saw a senior (7th Dan, 65 years old) instructor use a hand held makiwara board. He had a colour belt hold a block of wood (wrapped in conveyor belt rubber). He would do a simple Oi-tsuki. Every punch drove the kid back at least half a metre. The amazing thing was, he did it with little effort. Just 'relaxation' and speed.

I'm trying to achieve that level of smoothness and power in my own technique. Maybe some day!!

Michael Clarke
12th June 2002, 12:48
I suspect the 7th dan you saw in Japan had a very good feeling of how to exchange his bodyweight too. This is a point that many don't think about, or if they do they shift their weight poorly (with regards to the weight change backing up the technique). The breath too has a lot to do with producing power, so I guess we all need to find the balance we hear so much about in karate, and one way to 'feel' it is on the makiwara.
As you said Andreas, the art of 'relaxation' is also a key factor in the smooth transmission of power. It also stops the power you generate coming back into you.
In Okinawa I have trained with a portable makiwara. Two people hold what looks like two planks of wood lashed together at both ends, but with a 'spacer' at either end that keeps the planks apart. The feeling you get when hitting it is very different from the 'post' kind of makiwara.
Mike Clarke

Hank Irwin
18th June 2002, 03:54
This is one of the Maki's I make. It is for open hand and weapons.

Hank Irwin
18th June 2002, 15:15
I myself discourage fixed maki's, they promote elbow and shoulder damage. If you are just trying to condition the knuckles it's fine, but you need the flexability that is associated with a real maki. You will shake the room you are in that's for sure, Hahaha! I started off with a pine tree about 9" in dia. Fixed a strip of tire to it and off we go. Over the years you will see some dramatic changes to the tree. I have been punching steel now for some time, not to make the knuckles ugly, and they will get ugly if you don't massage them. 2 years ago I started collecting big rocks for punching/striking and for training devices, chishi's and such. Always make sure you have Zhing Gu Shui/ "real" Dit Jow and other healing/conditioning oils to preserve your "tools". Otherwise you will wind up with stumps for tools and/or arthritis. Another good herb is Barley Green if you do lot's of conditioning. Makiwara is a very important tool in training, most people just don't want to do it, too bad, the difference is unbelievable. Between koreatay/kotiate(conditioning) and maki you learn much. As far as affecting the status of a point fighter and excessive contact, well, what do you expect? Real fights have no rules or points. Koryu practitioners should stay away from point sanctioned matches. You will be looked down on for destroying your opponent( doesn't matter to me)and in some cases confronted,(have had it happen already) Hahaha! Nothing wrong with being disqualified. In life I think it is a win. Sport competitors will always have us(Koryu) on their backs. I competed for over 10 years in point matches. The best matches were always full-contact. Most if not all sport competitors will not participate in Koryu matches. Why? They don't want to get hurt. Sure you can get hurt in point matches, in fact, some of the worst incidents I have seen happen have been in point matches. But anyway, the results of maki training I noticed a long time ago from just touching someone with my knuckles. Without maki training you are really losing something in training. Sorry to babble guy's.

Budoka 34
18th June 2002, 19:25
I use a small palm size granite rock for palm training. I've been amazed by the firmness and power you can develop using the older "traditional" methods. I now use alot more openhand techniques in Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, and with greater effect.


Michael Clarke
20th June 2002, 00:02
The use of stones is also a great idea for conditioning the hands. I have used what I call a 'slapping' stone for years. It's just a large smooth stone I found in a river in New Zealand. It's helped with the development of a very strong "Slap". This is very effective for both blocking and striking.
However, and I'm really happy to see so many still 'hitting' things other than thin air, this thread was posted to find out what people thought about the makiwara as a tool, so stones and other tools are great, but lets keep talking "makiwara".
Happy hitting,
Mike Clarke.
ps. Kenzo,I think you're going to be asked to move, real soon :)

3rd July 2002, 10:30
I like the design Andreas gives, for the full size, flexible, but portable makiwara.

I've been thinking about making something like this myself. I was thinking of a number of ways to achieve a portable, non fixed design that doesn't need to be buried. I too live in a flat - no yard to bury a post and I don't want to put a huge hook in the ceiling for a heavy bag. Nor can I afford a free-standing frame to hold a bag, as these are 3x the price of the bag.

I thought about the flat base for standing on, but I was concerned that the thing would move around when you punch. Most of the designs I found on the net for this type of thing involved bolting the base to the floor... something else I don't want to do.

How did you go with the free-standing base? Did the large size you mention for the base (1 x 2 metres) help? Or were the grip pads underneath more important?

I'd like to build one of these, but don't want to accidentally end up with a "wheel-less skateboard" that flops around the floor with my body movement. ;)

I definitely intend the post to be very flexible. Hitting something too hard and rigid just causes you to pull your punches, else break your knuckles. A softer target, that flexes and bends, more realistically mimics striking a human body. Plus it lets you go all out.

Regards wall mount makiwara, I don't think any of them are any good. Padded boards are bad, clappers not much better (and should be mounted to a flexible board, not a wall). My favorite, and the only thing I'd hang on a wall, is the traditional canvas sack filled with rice or sand. Simple and very cheap, but it lets you belt it pretty hard and has enough give to not break your knuckle. Plus it can easily be hung at different heights, or layed flat for palm slapping, hammer fist, etc.

Andreas Kuntze
4th July 2002, 22:34
Yes, the size of the base is very important. It should be large enough so that both of your feet are firmly planted on the board when in Zenkutsu-dachi. This ensures the stability of your Makiwara. The leather strips are an extra measure.

Also, please be aware that this design encourages a more subtle technique. You need not beat the s**t out of it to gain the desired effect. You must perfect the transfer of energy from the floor through your hips to your fist -- the key is to be as smooth as possible to your target, and then push forward from the soles of your feet so that you feel the connection.

After contact, which needn't be hard, you can flex the board forward. The most important aspect of this method is that you bend the board straight back -- thus your energy transfer is as direct as possible.

One visitor to our dojo went straight for the Makiwara, and proceeded to pound the living hell out of it. The pad, which was made of soft cork, fell to pieces. Obviously, he had little or no experience, but wanted to show off his proficiency. No-one had the heart to tell him.


6th July 2002, 05:31
Thanks for the tips, Andreas.

I'm not sure if you'd find my style "crude" or "smooth". I certainly go hard and fast, and could probably shred a cork mat as well if I wanted to, but of the key to speed and power is being relaxed and only using the muscles necessary, no "antagonizers" or whatever the personal trainers call them. I've noticed that most karateka try to tense EVERY muscle on the moment of impact, but I don't even do that, preferring to keep my biceps loose the whole time, until I actually retract the punch.

Took a look at the ninpo videos. Is that a tatami mat you're using as a striking surface? Interesting... How do you keep it up like that - I can't see much support in the video but I assume there is a board attached to the back or something, and a post propping it up?

OK. I'm off to the hardware store to look at wooden posts.

Hank Irwin
9th July 2002, 14:23
The "sled" in theory sounds good, but for most of you that try it, I think you might be dissapointed. For one, it won't be light and you better have some good lag screws to hold it in place from the underside of the plywood, otherwise you will punch it right off the base. A metal bracket for post to base would cut down on vibration, but then we are talking portable right? Convenience? Sometimes not possible. Make finding a place in the woods for maki a part of your training. Bring a portable striking surface to mount on a small tree. Now that sounds a little more senseable to me. Living in a space that does not provide for training will only limit you to what you are able to do. Even if a portable maki like the one we are talking about works to a degree, it still is going to make noise and possibly still vibrate. The maki was developed to condition a various number of striking tools of the body. A powerful punch for one, takes force. So, smack that sucker hard, not at first, but eventually with all you got. I punch mine at least 500 x's each hand everyday, sometimes more. And that is just seiken. Have been doing that for at least 25 years now. No limitations yet, but I try to take care of my "tools" too. Don't forget that conditioning goes both ways. If you do not use medicines(conditioning/healing oils & salves)you will leave yourself damaged permenately. Mo'ichi do! Hip! Schmack!! Hip! Schmack!! Hip! Schmack!!! :D

12th July 2002, 10:36
Noise and vibration are not really an issue. I live in a commercial area and the pounding of a makiwara is only one small noise amidst it all - trucks coming and going, guys whacking at meat with cleavers and tenderizers for hours on end, jackhammers pounding on the roads and paths all around, live bands in the corner pub, commercial laundries, and printing presses rolling away all ensure than I can make as much racket as I want and get away with it. (Not to mention my 'pro DJ' flatmate cranking awful dance music at club volume whenever he feels like it)

There's just no ground to actually dig a hole for a post!

For portability I can just carry the canvas bag around. It has hoops that can be hung over a nail or hook to hold it up. The full size makiwara doesn't have to any more portable than, say, my bed. It only moves when I do...

Anyway, good luck trying to get a hardware store or timber yard to actually cut or even supply the wood. One guy virtually swore at me and kicked me out of his shop. I ended up at a custom wood fitter and turner company that specialized in doors and windows! Suprisingly the guy was quite interested in my plan, made a copy, and took me down to the workshop, where he began pulling out and testing various types of wood. He was right into it, explaining how the angled cuts would affect stiffnes, showing me the flexibility of different woods. He put a 5' x 0.5" plank (red cedar?) into a vice, and showed how it could bend about 2-3' quite easily. Also discussed a composite laminate that would make it ultra strong and flexible, but very fast and snappy - similar to how a modern long-bow is made.

I await a price quote... ;) I just hope it isn't too expensive, because he was really describing a "Rolls-Royce" makiwara, right down to the french curved back. :D

12th July 2002, 13:25
Hi guy's,

First,in answer to the original question,
yes, I believe makiwara training is still valid and I train regularly. I have one in my yard and it is one of my most valuable training tools along with the heavy bag.

I think the important thing to note is that one trains properly using makiwara and know how to hit it. Just having one and punching it daily doesn't necessarily constitute makiwara training. You need to be able to get that all importent "feedback" from your makiwara.

I've read through the thread and if I missed it I appologize but I didn't see anyone stating the prefered wood type for their makiwara's. I've seen good construction ideas but not specific wood. I'm interested to know if anyone has, through experience with different wood, found one they think is better than the rest. One that is flexible yet still has that nice kickback.


Hank Irwin
12th July 2002, 15:51
Pine is a good wood for any makiwara. There are a lot of varieties of makiwara to choose from, and if you are experienced with woodworking, you can produce some fine results. Basic maki is 2x4 fixed to floor or dug in ground. Striking surface preferences vary from trainee to trainee. Beginners should start with soft rubber or straw sheath/ tatami pad. You can fix a half tire to the bottom for conditioning the toes/foot and shins. Totesan, is concrete what you are fixing it to? If so, expansion bolts work really well. You will need a hammer drill and a masonry bit, but it will hold a good metal bracket down nicely. Bags for us are for training the legs/knees and elbows. You can go to any welding shop and have a bracket for maki made. Can cost up to $50.00. Bracket should last forever if kept away from rust(treated paint) Holds a tapered 2x4 that is fastened through the braket plate by knut& bolt. If any one would like an exact diagram for it just say so. Have one design that has an arm with a string to a bag filled with pebbles, that will swing down and hit you in the groin if you don't catch it on the return with chudan uke after punching. Lot's of fun, Hahaha! If you use a 2x4 and don't taper it, it will have more flex than if you do taper it. Not to mention a tapered one will be less likely to break after awhile.
Maki's can be modified also, which leaves the imagination open to many ideas. But as always, be cautious in your training, it will stay with you for life. When you get to be an old man/woman, you will be hard to hurt and quick as a rascal. Maki training not only builds the tools, it builds the spirit.

13th July 2002, 05:50
Hey, you're the first person I've heard recommend pine.... :D

Pine is actually the worst wood you could use. It's stiff, inflexible, yet still fairly 'soft' and tends to snap. A pine makiwara will either be like hitting a log, or it will snap in half with one blow - no inbetween.

The traditional wood is Japanese cedar (shu-ji). After researching on the web a bit, the following woods crop up as the most suitable/commonly used: cedar, oak, maple, and cherry.

The wood should be a long-grain wood, which is flexible and springy. (Again, unlike pine. Pine is used for breaking!). If you look at the example I give a few posts up, I found a wood (can't remember if it was red cedar, or red something else) which would allow a 5' plank 1/2 inch thick to bend about 3 feet without snapping. Cut short (2') this board could probably be used like a speed-bag! Anyway, by thickening the base and tapering up to the top, stiffness and flex can be adjusted to your preference, from punching clown sloppy to ultra stiff, only moving a few inches back when hit.

Too stiff a maki is counterproductive - it will make you pull your punches (no follow through) and stop early because of knuckle damage. Only with the right flex can you learn to hit properly, follow through, and do enough constant repetitions without having to stop because your knuckle has almost fractured. Add a fairly soft, smooth pad and you can pound away with minimal knuckle damage for as long as you want.

Ironically, if you're after nice big 'iron fist' callouses, you should also use the soft, flexible makiwara. The difference is in the striking surface, which should be rough, but still relatively soft and paddded, like the traditional straw and rope bundle. It is the rough scratchiness of the rope which causes the callouses. Not hitting something hard and smooth. (like steel or plain wood) Rough yet soft = callouses. Smooth and hard = impacted knuckles. Smooth and soft = no visible side effects.

Having this rough pad on a soft, flexible maki will let you hit it harder and longer, actually building the callouses faster than using something too hard. Also you won't be damaging the bone underneath, just grazing the top skin layer.

Of course, for most nowdays, the best option would be the smooth, soft pad on a flexible maki. It will teach hard striking and give you slow "internal conditioning" without damaged knuckles or big callouses.

13th July 2002, 06:08
Hank San, regard the fixing method, I want to avoid permanent attachment, hence the "sled" idea. The floor is actually wood, and quite old and creaky. If I bolted straight to it, I think I'd rip up the floorboards with a good punch! There is a concrete balcony, but I'm loathe to drill into it.

I was going to use a few standard "L" irons to hold the post. They have them at the hardware shop and seem pretty solid. Probably attach that to another metal plate underneath, in order to evenly distribute the force on the wooden base. I would be interested to see your plan though, as it could give me some new ideas.

Actually, I'm really interested in that swinging arm design you mention as well. That would be a cool addition.

Hank Irwin
13th July 2002, 17:45
Been a Carpenter for 30 odd years now, pine(yellow pine that is) works just fine. It is more resilient than you think, as long as you get a knot free specimen.The reason you see cedar being used in Nihon is because Pine is traditionally revered. No makiwara should be too springy. You are trying to build total power punches. A springy one will cause you shoulder damage in the long run from the recoil. Makiwara is not a rocket science, it's a training tool. I've seen the one on Higaona Sensei's video, that particular makiwara will build knuckle/hand conditioning, not punch power. A variety of makiwara is always best. I'll put up some pics as soon as I can. Be careful of what you buy when it comes to fancy dancy training tools. It can get expensive. For those of us that have pine trees available to us, what more could you ask? 8" pine tree,perfect makiwara. Rubber pad with bungies or string to attach and off you go. I get some real strange looks from folks at the local parks. Ha!Ha!Ha!


13th July 2002, 23:38
Hello Caleb,

Pine is actually the worst wood you could use. It's stiff, inflexible, yet still fairly'soft' and tends to snap. A pine makiwara will either be like hitting a log, or it will snap in half with one blow - no inbetween

I have one in my yard made out of a standard 2x4 (treated wood)it's TOO flexible. These standard construction grade 2x4's are normally pine, at least thats what I thought I bought trying to be thrifty:D

Ironically, if you're after nice big 'iron fist' callouses, you should also use the soft,flexible makiwara. The difference is in the striking surface, which should be rough, but still relatively soft and paddded, like the traditional straw and rope bundle. It is the rough scratchiness of the rope which causes the callouses. Not hitting something hard and smooth. (like steel or plain wood) Rough yet soft = callouses. Smooth and hard = impacted knuckles. Smooth and soft = no visible side effect

My opinion differs on a couple of points. Maybe your just making a point on this one and I appologize for my misinterpretation. But are you implying that the purpose of the makiwara is to toughen the knuckles? Tough calloused knuckles are *what happens from consistant training* but it's more of a by product than a main reason for practice. Learning how to punch properly and with penetrating power is key.

Second is the callous thing itself. You will get calloused no matter what the surface. Ever see the knuckles of trainess who do hundreds of pushups every class on wodden floors (smooth, pollyurathaned wood)? Thick callouses is what. Big thick grey cracked callous.I worked as a kid in construction, sweeping and shoveling. Smooth handles brooms and shovels is what calloused up my hands real good.

What happens, no matter what the surface is that the skin breaks, or a blister forms then breaks, and the raw area bleeds and eventually scabs over. It's a friction thing from pounding away. If you don't let it completely heal and continueously re-open the wounds or iritate them by pounding away again and again the body protects itself from what it percieves as constant attack. How? by forming a callous.

You could wrap that makiwara with silk, as long as it's still "hard" enough, and your punching hard enough and "long" enough, you'll break the skin. Keep doing this over and over and your body will say "ok, you wanna keep hurtin' me, I am forced to protect myself".

Punching a makiwara isn't a pleasant practice, it needs to be hit with everything you got! Most people are afraid to hit it that hard. The surface should be soft enough for you to not break your hand with one shot but still thin enough for you to penetrate and if the whole maliwara didn't give you would feel wood.


14th July 2002, 03:08

Please forgive the newbie asking questions here, but this thread has gotten me very interested in the makiwara. I study karate, and was at a local martial arts supply store today. They had a couple varietieis of makiwara - one was basically a wood board with a canvas pad on it, and another was much smaller with a leather pad not much bigger than a fist on a chunk of wood with "gills" cut out behind the punching area to give it some flexibility, feedback, and vibration. The store clerk said the latter (smaller) one was more advanced.

Here's the thing; I live in a NYC apartment and would have to install the thing on a wall - the makiwaras already have holes to hang it. Will this work? Will this be a decent makiwara?

I will, of course, talk to my sensei about this, but would like to get your opinions as well.

Thanks in advance.

14th July 2002, 04:10

Those are static makiwara and I would advise against using them. Even the one with the "gills" as you call them which are supposed to absorb the shock. In an apartment it would be very noisy as you would be pretty much pounding on the wall.

A properly made makiwara such as the ones you've been reading about here are made to "give" and absorb some of the shock. Pounding a wall mounted punching board can lead to some serious joint damadge.

Besides the fact that without the *follow through* a traditional makiwara supplies you won't be learning proper punching mechanics, the main purpose of a maikiwara.


14th July 2002, 07:46
Hi Joshua. Tommy is right about those "wall" makiwara. The "gilled" version still only has about 1" of play - even a weak punch pushes it back this far, then it becomes totally solid. Ouch! They're also known as "clappers" for a reason - VERY loud when struck hard. Forget about them... BTW, those hooks on the back - useless. It'll bounce off the wall first hit.

The version we have been discussing is something like this:


Traditionally the post is just buried a few feet in the ground. However this version features a free-standing base and mounting bracket for the post, for those lacking the required "soft ground".

In this case, the flexibility and stiffness is based mainly on the type, thickness and cut angle of the wood. Of course, we all have our own personal preference for exactly what that should be, hence all the debate about wood types and thicknesses.

This is the beauty of the makiwara - it allows subtle and infinite variation of the theme, all having slightly different "feel" and characteristics when struck. (Kind of like people.) Of course, we all have the same aim - to develop a powerful, fast, accurate punch that can be delivered consistently, without hurting yourself.

Tommy, I'm not suggesting anyone build a knuckle conditioner. I said IF... IF you really want this, rope and straw will do the job much quicker. Also you won't need to punch until you blister and rip the skin. It just sort of roughs them up a bit, even with soft strikes. You might get little "pin hole" bleeds that heal in minutes, but not big weepy blisters. (What if you actually need to USE your punch while the knuckes are all blistered and raw like that?) I think they'd build faster without wearing skin raw daily. Anyway, as you say, anything will build callouses given time. I have a habit of resting my left elbow on the armrest of my "home office" chair, and it's become as rough as sandpaper.

I have struck a "clapper" mounted on a concrete wall about 80-90% force with a single knuckle fist. I have the biggest knuckles I've ever seen (proportional to my hand), and the whole thing turned purple and stung like crazy for a few days. I couldn't hit anything, and even light strikes made it sting again. Never again. All this without the skin breaking even slightly. Now that knuckle is even bigger than before... hmmm. All this convinced me I need a soft maki with lots of give, and that callouses are only good for looking scary and intimidating people out of fighting you. (And that a smooth hard pad will break my knuckle before breaking skin).

Hank, I didn't consider that "shoulder injury from recoil" point, but thanks for making me aware. I've heard that your punch should retract even faster than you strike, so in theory this would teach that, huh? (Or else you cop a sore shoulder). Anyway, with 30 years of carpentry experience, I won't lecture you on wood ;-) I was just going on hearsay. The pine I've seen in the local Aussie hardware shop has looked pretty poor - stiff and breakable, but I don't know if this is the "yellow pine" you talk about or not. Ours looks full of knots.

Looking forward to the pictures. Maybe we can build the "e-budo hall of custom makiwaras" :D

14th July 2002, 09:28
Originally posted by Hank Irwin
I've seen the one on Higaona Sensei's video, that particular makiwara will build knuckle/hand conditioning, not punch power.

I'm curious about that statement. I've seen the video (if it's the old panther video your talking about). What's wrong with that makiwara? It looks fine to me. He seems to send it back at least six inches and the spring back looks fine which leads me to believe the flexibility is good. Are you thinking it's too stiff because of the way it vibrates on the return?

Can you elaborate.


Hank Irwin
14th July 2002, 16:44
Yes, is from old video. That is a good makiwara for the hands/wrists, but also good for beginners because of flexability. If you notice later he is striking rock wheel, no flex in that, just making the hands/arms hard. If any of you guys/gals have not seen Higaonna Sensei's training video, I recommend it highly. At a novice level conditioning is looked at quite skeptically. As you grow with conditioning so does the prowess of it. You will move from the makiwara to the occasional heavy bag, to makiwara to rock to steel. You build the knuckles up then smash them down with knuckle-ups, it works very well, but standing on knuckles(in push-up position) will helpp square off your fist. I have big knuckles, but they have a different kind of callouse on them, the skin on my knuckles is like shark skin but not cracky like concrete. Sifu Pan of Canada has some of the most god awful knuckles I have ever seen. He's been striking steel for years, my Sensei also. His hands are however like mine, but his 2 front knuckles look like one knuckle. I am almost there. It helps to put a piece of cork between the 2 first knuckles when doing knuckle-ups as this will condition that spot to become part of the first 2 knuckles. I am also a guitar player for almost 30 years and I paint. I have NO restrictions when it comes down to pliability of my fingers and hands. This I think is because of the oils and massage I have given them. Sorry to ramble again guys/gals. Speaking of which, I notice that there are not very many females that participate at E-Budo. Wonder why?:rolleyes:

15th July 2002, 12:18
It's interesting that some people can do decades of relatively severe knuckle conditioning and still have perfect, arthritis free hands, while others seem to have a terrible time.

The use of jow is probably a deciding factor. I know I always use one myself.

However, I've heard that old style bare knuckle boxers used to sometimes use vinegar to strengthen and harden the skin. I've also seen recipes for jows that use a vinegar base. What's wrong with this, you ask? Well, acetic acid in vinegar loves to react with and absorb calcium. Basically - it disolves bone. So long term use of vinegar on the hands will give you tough skin, but very brittle bones. NOT GOOD! Tough bones are even more important than tough skin for punching - which do you think would hurt more if broken in a fight - skin or bone?

I wonder if this use of vinegar is partly/largely responsible for the idea that knuckle conditioning will ruin your joints and give you arthritis?

A good jow, on the other hand, should strengthen bones, as many are used as treatments for arthritis and broken bones. To quote the leaflet in the box - "heals bone fractures, relieves pain, dissipates swelling and bruises, accelerates blood circulation... hastens growth of osteoblasts (new bone tissue)...effective in preventing and dissipating rheumatic pain" amongst other things.

Michael Clarke
18th July 2002, 13:52
In former times boxers would piss on their hands. Using the urine in much the same way we use dit da jow these days.
Did it work? I don't know.
Was it smelly? Well, you had to pick your moment when you were introduced to a boxer back then. Shaking hands was something you did before training, never afterwards. :)
Mike Clarke