Makiwara Training - The Board of Wisdom

Makiwara training is being rediscovered by successful business people as well as martial arts practitioners. This ancient oriental training tool originated approximately 400 years ago in Okinawa, and is used to forge the spirit and focus the mind and body. Honing has revitalized the use of Makiwara as a valuable tool to help foster creativity and enthusiasm. Makiwara training teaches each individual to focus and direct energy in a constructive direction. Makiwara is a lost and dying art. Even in Japan it is not frequently used in training. But today, as it was 400 years ago we know that rank is a matter of knowlege and skill, not with official menjos displayed on a wall, or notches on a belt. In order to develop ones skill to the level of the original Okinawan Masters, you must train like them. Once you begin training like the Masters, you begin to think as they thought and to see as they saw from the eyes of the warriors.

Frequently today, students are confronted with conflicting and confusing information about karate. Very often there are political and/or financial conflicts of interest from these sources.

In the quest for stronger, better and more effective martial arts, many students fall under the influence of well-intentioned karate or martial arts leaders that are misinformed or misguided. Often students are misdirected or are misled by a martial arts leader who truly believes that you can develop the ability to kill with a single blow or develop the skills of a Samurai warrior without hard physical training, and without Makiwara training. This type of theory just doesn't hold water with what we do know to be fact.


For the beginning student of the makiwara, which includes any rank or dan student who has not had formal, proper instruction and training under a makiwara trained Sensei, makiwara use should take place in a gradual continuous upward towards higher intensity. The beginner always uses a highly padded board, as the ligaments, joints, nerves and muscles must be conditioned slowly and damage must be avoided. At least 90 to 120 days of consistent training on the makiwara board using all striking surfaces with equal persistence is necessary to begin the conditioning process. During the first stage of makiwara training , the conditioning or strengthening stage, the body goes through many changes and in conjunction with other training, great strides in physical fitness are made.  The second stage of training, the toughening stage, begins with the resurfacing of the board with less padding and adding a layer of fine gage hemp rope. The purpose here in the second stage is to move the conditioning of the body into actual toughening of the tissues and bones of the body and of course with the addition of the hemp rope, to condition the striking surfaces of the body. During this stage, if the student strikes the makiwara with too much zeal, he may find his knuckles will crack and/or bleed. Not to worry though, these are only minor flesh abrasions. This stage soon passes, and with proper care no damage is done. During the third stage, the hardening stage, the student learns to make fine changes in the timing and positioning of the technique used on the makiwara and of course solidifies the body and technique. By this stage, the student is capable of "burying" the front board 8 to 10 inches (depending upon body size and mass) with the striking forms and punches without injury. From this point onward the student begins to forge more than merely the physical form. The stages beyond the hardening stage forge the mind and spirit and hone the body to a fine edge of precision.

A very important point must be made here regarding makiwara training. It is recommended that no one under the age of 18 actively pursue makiwara training, especially not into the latter stages of hardening or beyond. The reason for this is that under the age of 15 (older with males, younger with females) the epiphysis or growth plates of the bones have not completed the task of bone growth.

1. Converts fantasy to reality and shows what it is really like to hit something.

2. Strengthens wrists and joint, as well as muscles, ligaments and the mind.

3. Proper hand and foot positions are developed by practice on the Makiwara.

4. Builds powerful technique and teaches proper distancing and hip position to maximize force.

5. Builds stamina and speed. Like the heavy bag, Makiwara builds stamina and endurance. Unlike the heavy bag, which will make your kicking and punching sluggish and dull, Makiwara develops speed and mental activity.

6. "Board of Wisdom" -tells the truth on how strong or weak your punches and kicks are, as well as the mind.

7. Makiwara develops spirit because at times it takes courage to continue. Often, it flies in the face of common sense, but 400 or so years of history have proven it out.

8. Ancient Traditional -This separates paper tigers from combat-ready warriors. It's easy to talk a good workout, but when you are doing Makiwara, you don't talk, reminding us again that karate is a thing of action, not words.

9. Ikken Hissattsu (one blow, one kill) -Makiwara is the most essential piece of equipment to develop
this ability. Don't fool yourself, heavy bag work won't do it.

10. Focus (Kime) -The whole purpose is to develop focus. Focus requires coordination of the mind, body, and breathing technique. In order to develop focus to the level of a Master, it requires years of practice with a true Sensei. It requires years of dedication beyond obvious reward, and it requires intense levels of work and perspiration over long periods of time. It always seems that when you never think you are going to get it, when you quit trying to force it, and when you least expect it, focus makes its appearance; not just physical, but mental focus shows itself. You will then begin to realize what the Masters knew. You now begin to feel what the Masters felt, and you now begin to see the world as the Masters saw it.
Randy B. Haskins (Hachidan)
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