Friday, February 22, 2013

Makiwara - Build Your Own Martial Arts Training Equipment

In Arizona, many martial arts schools have heavy bags for striking. Heavy bags tend to respond to force in an unnatural way. They pivot along the axis attached to an overhead chain or rope, just exactly the opposite of striking a person whose feet would be on the ground and pivot along the axis attached to the earth. There are bags available that have water-filled bases that tend to correct this problem, but essentially every one we  tested were cheaply constructed with very thin padding. 

Okinawan karate-ka (karate practitioners) developed an excellent tool in place of a heavy bag that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. All you have to do is go to a local lumber or hardware store and buy a few materials to build one, dig a hole, and ‘walla’ – you’ll have a great striking surface known as a makiwara.

The makiwara can be constructed using a board about 10 feet long. However, the Arizona soils (if we can call them soil) are filled with so much clay, caliche and volcanic ash that they are very hard to dig in. So you can get away with an 8-foot board. In Wyoming, we used a 2 x 8 inch and 2 x 12 inch boards which do not have a lot of give. So in Arizona, we went for a thinner board  (1 x 8 inch) and was pleasantly surprised that the thinner board was much better because of  greater flexibility.

After you purchase the board, take your 8-foot board and dig a 3-foot hole. Go find two large rocks while resting from trying to break through the caliche layer. If you are in Colorado, Utah or Wyoming (or anywhere else in the US except maybe New Mexico), you might want a 10-foot board. In this case, plant it 5 feet deep. I’m not sure what to recommend in Alaska or Canada other than wait for summer before you plant your board. 

Now that you have a hole for a makiwara, place the board to the appropriate depth and take two large football-sized rocks placing one in front of your board at the bottom of the hole. Now fill in the hole. When  it is nearly full, place the other rock on the opposite side ( back) and then cover it. The rocks will provide spring to the board. Now buy some hemp rope from a local hardware store and pick up some carpet pieces from you local carpet store for padding. We found hemp at Harbor Freight in Mesa. The hemp is great for training knuckles and the side of your hand.

Next, place pieces of carpet under the hemp to increase padding. When your knuckles get use to striking the hemp and board, you can remove some carpet pieces.

Ideally, you will want to practice tsuki, shuto, koko and empi uchi along with mae geri, maewashi geri, yoko geri, kozumi geri and other strikes and kicks (see Japanese Karate Dictionary for translations). Now you have an excellent tool to supplement your karate training at home and drive your neighbors nuts (they’ll love peaking through their curtains and wondering what is wrong with you). At first, it will be difficult to hit the board with a lot of force with your bare knuckles; but after months of training, you will look forward to hitting the board. When the it finally breaks (the board, not your hand), buy another.


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