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Do we really NEED Makiwaras?

Take a deep breath, Not because I am going to rock your world so bad, but sometimes, you just should :) Okay, so in my quest to challenge more masters, I am going to ask, why the heck you need a makiwara? Maki what? That is the typical response I get when I bring up this particular item. For those who think I am making words, I am going to tell you what a makiwara is. A makiwara is a board where the top part has a rope tied around it. So what we are talking about is just flat piece of wood with rope tied around the top foot or so. Then you stick this post into a hole in the ground. If you have ever seen Steven Seagal's "Hard to Kill", you saw him punching one on the top of a hill. After you have stuck this post into a hole in the ground, the idea is to punch away on that thing for as long as you can stand. Ummm yeah, it sounds like rocket science to me also : Okay, before I start blasting tradition, let me say that makiwaras were once VERY useful. See, karate was developed by okinawan peasants as defense against armed (and armored) samurai. So karateka (practitioners)used to punch makiwara to condition their fists. There is an old term in the martial arts, "ikken hitsatsu" which roughly translates to "one punch, one kill." The idea was not that you would likely kill someone in one punch. The idea is that you put everything you have into a punch because it may be the only chance you get. This is where the makiwara were extremely useful. The hard rope and wood of the makiwara were very useful in conditioning the hands. Often, the karateka would develop hug callouses on their knuckles after practicing on the makiwara. In their minds, if they were going to punch through the bamboo armor of the samurai, they would need tough hands to do it. And believe me, they were quite successful in doing a LOT of damage in only one punch. The fact of the matter is, many karateka would move beyond their makiwara, and punch trees full force. If you don't believe me, feel free to look up Japan's greatest karateka, Mas Oyama. He founded a hard style of karate called kyokushin, and they seem to live for that kind of hardcore stuff. But I digress. Makiwara were a very successful in those days in preparing the hands of karateka for their life and death encounters with samurai. And when I say life or death, I mean that literally. The samurai were allowed to kill peasants willy-nilly, and they were quite proficient in a variety of war arts. If the peasants were going to survive, they had to practice endlessly, day in and day out for as long as it took to prepare themselves. Now, let's jump into modern times, okay? In theory, training in a martial art should be very self-defense oriented. A whole lot of us train with the mental image of some hulking intruder who is looking to do harm to us, or to our family. That is where the hardcore makiwara training does not seem like such a bad idea. And it is not a BAD idea, just an unnecessary one. The beauty of martial arts is that people of all walks of life can participate in it. Punching a makiwara hurts at first, and I can think of a number of people who don't really want to have calloused or desensitized hands. Let's start with a masseuse. I don't think that their clients would appreciate rough hands working on them. If I am going to get a massage, I don't want someone with sand-paper hands working out my life stress. But maybe I am just being a softy. How about a surgeon? I also doubt that anyone who needs to do serious precision work with their hands is interested in losing their sensitive touch. What is more, is that makiwara training can be reasonably considered outdated. Call me narrow-minded if you must, but I really doubt that Mike Tyson can hit so hard because of his makiwara training. I don't think that Ali, Ken Norton, Joe Louis, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Rocky Marciano, or Sugar Ray Robinson did any serious wood punching during their boxing careers. I think that, no let me change that, I KNOW that our methods are currently just as effective as the old ones. My hands are considerable stronger than the average person's, but I don't do much makiwara training at all. I have been hitting heavy bags only, and my hands do just fine thank you. I have never had any opponent tell me, " gosh, you must not do any makiwara training. That punch didn't hurt at all." So for those of you who are interested in preserving the old ways, you just makiwara yourself into traditional bliss. But if you question the need for that sort of thing, relax. You are not the only one. Smile, look at that heavy bag, and be glad that you aren't fighting a samurai.


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