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Makiwara Training

Shigeru Kimura Sensei 9th Dan Tani-Ha Shitoryu Shukokai had a punch that was like getting hit with a cannonball.

Kimura Sensei had won the All Japan Karate Championship two years in a row. His technique was lightening fast, crisp, and decisive. There was a problem however. Tani Sensei, top student of Mabuni Kenwa and founder of Tani-Ha Shukokai was a firm believer in the age old concept of IKKEN HISSATSU or "One Fist - Certain Death". Kimura Sensei was unsure that the technique he possessed was capable of that in a SHINKEN SHOBU or REAL life and death battle.

He and others of the Shukokai began experimenting with Bogu(Bogu is body armor, similar to Kendo, but modified for Karate). Kimura was dismayed that his punches and kicks lacked TRUE stopping power when applied full force against real resistance. Now Tani Sensei WAS an innovator and had "changed" traditional Shitoryu Karate waza to impart MORE force, speed and power. Tani was the FIRST person to coin the term "double hip" in reference to the torqueing movement used to create greater ballistic force.

Kimura Sensei went FURTHER. He developed other concepts based on modern sports science, training techniques and drills. This continued until his untimely death at age 58.

When Kimura Sensei first arrived in the US and began teaching at Yonezuka Sensei's Dojo circa 1970 he was interviewed by a well known local sportswriter. This gentleman commented in print that Kimura had a punch as HARD if NOT HARDER than any of many PRO-FIGHTERS including HEAVYWEIGHTS that this sportswriter had known throughout the years. HIGH PRAISE INDEED, considering most martial artists would assume that boxers possess the HARDEST blows of any of the combative methods!

The STAPLE of Kimura's Shukokai training was the use of the "punching" block, now known as the "impact" pad.

The original ones we used were simply polyfoam squares cut 14" X 14" stacked 8 to 10 inches thick and wrapped with a Gi belt. Three techniques were drilled CONSTANTLY for HOURS AND HOURS on end. They were the "gyakuzuki" or reverse punch, "maegeri" or front kick, and "mawashigeri" or roundhouse kick. Utilizing the principles of the "double hip twist", "muscular recoil", "the whiplash", "total body lock", and other concepts rooted in modern sports the dynamic speed and tremendous power one could develop made such training far MORE worthwhile than the usual "monkey" drills found in most other Dojos.

The use of punching blocks developed BOTH the hitter's ability to deliver massive shock AND the "hittee's" ability to RECIEVE massive shock. The punching blocks WORK. Since the blocks allow you to really work on penetrating INTO the target you can develop the ability to get excellent "feedback" on just HOW effectively you are striking.

JUST ONE PROBLEM! You NEED a training partner. Your training partner is the one who HOLDS the block and GIVES you VISUAL feedback on the effectiveness of your blows. In time and with proper skill development another "problem" arises. You will, when everything works right, be able to hit SO powerfully that after two or three "gut" blasters your partner will have NO interest in continuing. On a really "good" day you can even do it with ONE shot. One large and powerful individual (about 220lbs.) known for his body toughening and conditioning and a black belt in a system KNOWN for it's conditioning drills, who trained with us LASTED for only THREE punches. On the third reverse punch he dropped the bag and almost tossed his "cookies". He admitted that without the pad the FIRST punch could have "killed" him. Another large and powerful bodybuilder took ONE punch (through TEN inches of dense foam) and turned WHITE, lost his ability to breath and speak and dropped to his knees. When he recovered several minutes later he said he felt as if an electrical shock had "shut down" his HEART! He admitted that for a second he really thought he was going to die. The "puncher" in both these instances was about 150lbs.

So here's my solution to training without a "partner":

Any of you "old timers" remember Frank Smith? During the 1960's Frank Smith WAS the "powerhouse" of American Shotokan Karate. He was a TANK and executed the powerful direct style of Shotokan perfectly. His trademark was the REVERSE PUNCH! He developed his technique on a specially constructed "makiwara". This is what WE will use for our BASE. Here's how we start - One block of wood 6" x 6" x 6" lagged to the floor or wall (stud or concrete) another block attached at the angle of the wall and ceiling. Four eye-hooks, each attached on the SIDES of the blocks. One inch pine board that runs from floor block to ceiling block about 8 feet long and 8 inches wide. TWO bungee cords. One goes from eye-hook to eye-hook on the BOTTOM block securing that end of the board, and one doing the same on the top block.

There is YOUR BASE "makiwara". NOW as your punching improves you can KEEP ADDING BOARDS! And replacing the ones you shatter! NOW here's OUR addition! Get TWO more bungee cords. Get an IMPACT PAD from KAM Industries in NJ. Secure the pad at solar plexus/chest height with the bungees.

There you GO! You can use the Impact Pad and see and feel the developing speed and power WITHOUT a training partner. As your technique develops and gets STRONGER you ADD boards! Overload training for your PUNCH! The only HARD part here is "developing" the RIGHT and proper technique. Kimura Sensei always said that YOU DO NOT "train" or "practice" Karate as much as you STUDY IT. Think about that. Every repetition of EVERY technique is a COMPLETE STUDY of body mechanics, speed, power dynamics, balance and EFFECTIVENESS unto itself.

EACH technique should always TEACH YOU SOMETHING! Kimura Sensei went on to totally re-vamp his "style". This is when Kimura-Ha Shukokai really came into its own. He developed a system based on what he termed "Left Gear". Though I have trained in this method, I am NOT of the "new" school. My Shukokai technique is based on study with the four Sensei primarily: Kimura, Yonezuka, Kidachi and Ishihara. I have trained with Nanbu but this was very limited.

As a point of fact - The LAST black belts promoted at the Cranford JKC by KIMURA SENSEI, KIDACHI SENSEI and YONEZUKA SENSEI in TANI-HA SHITORYU SHUKOKAI were the following: Mr. Anthony LaForte, Mr. Daniel Chin and myself. The black belt certificates issued were from the Hombu Dojo in Japan, signed directly by Chojiro Tani and under the direct auspices of the World Shukokai Karatedo Union. Last comment: Training on a "traditional" makiwara is excellent for developing hand and wrist strength as well as for toughening the fist and hand. The "makiwara" as described above is the BEST way for developing the IKKEN HISSATSU or better yet the "ICHIGEKI-HISSATSU"(one ATTACK - certain death) concept.

The old methods (Okinawan styles) made heavy use of hanging sand bags (probably the Chinese influence) and the makiwara. REAL makiwara training develops some great attributes. The true Okinawan experts use weights suspended from string 8 to 10 inches behind the board and same distance to the wall.

When they strike with "chinkuchi" or "kime" similar to "fa-jing" the energy transfer to the weight THRU the makiwara is EVIDENT. This is responsible for developing the REAL "tsuki" were energy is dumped INTO the target NOT just AT IT. The true "Ryukyu-Ken" or Okinawan fist (also known as Daikento) is misunderstood. The proper alignment is 70-40 or 80-30 on the INDEX KNUCKLE (EXPLAINS TO A CERTAIN EXTENT THE MOTOBU-KEN). You can only REALLY train this on a makiwara.

I have several different "types" of makiwara. Some imported from Okinawa. Each has a different "feel". My MAIN one is constructed with thick rough hemp AND topped off with a leather makiwara cover from Shureido. Why? I use the hemp wrap for KNUCKLES and EDGE of HAND. I use the LEATHER pad for "Ipponken" phoenix eye or one knuckle, "Oyayubiken" or thumb knuckle and similar single point weapons.

The base for this one was CUSTOM made at a welding shop. One of the "pai" of Gungfu Wusu that I studied was an offshoot of what could best be described as a combination of bakmei, five-ancestor fist and phoenix-eye. SO................Yep, you guessed it! Big reliance on the INDEX KNUCKLE strike. Conditioning of this weapon for this style was SAND BAG training (AND one knuckle pushups on cinder blocks). This was in essence a heavy bag filled with sand. Pretty brutal to start with, BUT this is what I thought was really GOOD about this as opposed to a "regular" heavy bag:

You could drive into the same spot with CONCENTRATED force over and over. Little if ANY sway or movement and NO worry about spinning canting or whatever that would make you slip off the canvas and rip or scrape something open!

I am ASSUMING we are talking about BAREHANDED striking, NO gloves. When REAL Korean Karate (MooDukKwan) expert Ki Chung Kim was teaching at Yone's Dojo, the heavy bag that was used was ALSO filled with sand! I questioned Mr. Kim on this one day and he gave about the same answers as I posted above.

Sand filled heavy bags develop the drive, penetration and energy dump or "sinking" energy VERY VERY WELL. For my money, I hit EVERYTHING. Each will develop a different and important attribute.

Copyright 2003

Carl Cestari began his study of the martial arts with judo at the age of 7 under the direction of Yoshisada Yonezuka. During the past forty plus years Carl has dedicated his life to studying the martial arts, hand to hand combat systems, history and religion. What makes Carl unique is his combination of martial arts, law enforcement and military and real world experience. Carl has been exposed to a multitude of people with a wide variety experience. The following is a list of some of Carl's ranks and honors.

Shinan (Founder) Tekkenryu jujutsuRyokudan (6th degree) Koshinkai Karate under John BurrelleGodan (5th degree) Jujutsu under Clarke of the World Jujutsu Fedaration (now defunct)Sandan (3rd degree) Nippon Kempo under Narabu SadaNidan (2nd degree) Judo under Masafumi SuzukiShodan (1st degree) Judo under Yoshisada YonezukaShodan (1st degree) Shukokai Karate under Kimura, Kadachi and Yonezuka Shodan (1st degree) Daitoryu AikijujutsuInstructors Certificate- Charles Nelson System of Self Defense under Charlie Nelson


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