Even from the beginning, Martial Arts practitioners tried to condition and toughen their bodies using different methods or tools. From running and lifting weights to hitting rocks or trees. But maybe the most common and popular tool for toughening in Karate is the Makiwara.
What is a Makiwara?
Makiwara is a martial arts tool constructed from a flexible wooden board that is usually stuck in to the ground. Traditionally the upper part is cover with a bundle of rice tightly bonded with rope to the board. However, it can be covered with any kind of material that can protect the skin and absorb the energy.
Types of Makiwara:
Shuri Makiwara – As high as the practitioner’s breast bone, this type of Makiwara is usually used for short distance.
Naha Makiwara – Solar plexus hight, it is commonly used to train from deep stances.
Ude Makiwara – Unlike the other two that are made from flat boards this one is rounded on all edges. The rounded shapes offer the possibility to train other parts of the body that cannot be used on the flat makiwara.
Of course Makiwara training is not recommended to everybody. First of all, if you are a beginner don’t use the Makiwara – you will get injured. As a beginner you don’t have the technique and most likely you are not used to squeeze your punches properly every time you punch. A better option for you will be knuckle pushups. Keep doing this until you get used to the pain, then you can starts using a Makiwara, but be careful what type of Makiwara you pick.
How do I pick a good Makiwara?
There are a lot of Makiwara models on the internet, but not all of them are good.
For example, avoid wall Makiwara that looks like this one.
Because this type of Makiwara is not flexible enough and while you may end up toughening your knuckles it will tear your joint. This can keep you off from training for weeks maybe even months before you fully recover.
Instead look for something that looks more like this (Good Makiwara example). This are great because they are flexible enough to absorb the shock wave and protect your
joints. If is your first time using a Makiwara make sure you pick something more flexible, like a pine tree. In time as you get used to it you can change it for something that offers more resistance. My advice for beginner is to work under someone’s supervision. Now that we are done with this let’s get to the next step.
How to use the Makiwara properly
First of all, as I said before, make sure is flexible enough.
Secondly, put some kind of protection on the upper end. I know most of them have (if you buy one) but if you feel is too tough for you change it with something more comfortable until you get used to it.
Do not snap punches when you work at Makiwara, no matter we are speaking of ura ken or choku zuki. You don’t want your fist to be thrown back. On the contrary, you want your fist and your whole body behind the wooden board – so you can make proper muscle contraction.
If is your first time training with Makiwara start with 10-20 reps of each technique. You don’t want to ripe off your skin. This will force you take a long brake from training on Makiwara.
Also, if you are a beginner do not practice Makiwara training every day. Your body is not used to it.. Not to mention, your skin is not used to that and it may not last being stressed that often all of a sudden. Just give your body time to recover. In a few months, when will get used to it, you can practice every day if you want. Until then take it slow. My personal advice is to start with 2-3 days a week and slowly build up.
Do not ever use gloves or shin guards while practicing on Makiwara. The idea behind Makiwara training if to turn the human body in to Iron. It may hurt in the beginning but eventually your body will get stronger and the pain will fade away.
Do not use it as a worm up. Makiwara training requires proper worm up in order to avoid injuries. The best way is to incorporate it at the end of your training session. By then you will be properly worm up, and most likely you had already practiced some of the techniques you plan on using on the wooden board.
Importance of Makiwara training
Here we can have a strong debate on this with experts opinion being divided in two big categories. Some people consider that the main purpose behind using the wooden board is toughening your bones. The other big opinion is that Makiwara first teaches correct segment alignment and that limbs toughening comes as a second effect. Despite which of the previous arguments has priority, Makiawara is a very useful tool and it should be a part of every Karate practitioner training sessions.
Makiwara training is beneficial for:
- Proper muscle contraction during punching or kicking at impact.
- Improving distance.
- Breathing control.
- Learning how to strike through the target.
- Making your techniques more natural, helping you to get the maximum amount if impact power with minimum of energy.
- Increase joint power if training is done properly – make sure the board has the proper amount of resistance for your body. As I said before, too much resistance will damage your joints.
Other alternatives to Makiwara
Used tire – this can be a very good alternative for a classic Makiwara. Just wrap something around the part you plan on using it for striking and you are good to go.
Small tree – just tie something around it, like your belt for example and start working out.
Baseball bat – good for toughening fore arms and shins.
Heavy sand bag – you can work every part of your body. Isn’t going to tough the bones as much as the Makiwara, but will cover most of the other beneficial aspects of Makiwara training.
This list can go on and on, but I think you got the point. Just use your imagination and make sure to follow the safety rules. Until the next time I wish you all the best and if you have any questions or request for other aspects of Karate training just contact me via my email address George@ShotokanKarateDiary.com.
All the best,