Hi everyone! It's been a couple of months since I added a blog post to the site (been working hard on my house extension), so I thought it was about time I rectified that.
I was up at 4am (yes, 4am!!) this morning, as our new dog figured that this would be an appropriate time to start barking. Nevertheless, not one to pass up an opportunity, my morning practice turned out to be very enjoyable. Indeed, there's something very 'pure' about practising karate early morning. And with the sun just beginning to rise outside, I took a quick picture of my 'friend'. At this point, the dog was fast asleep beside a chi-ishi...typical :-)
The makiwara I have installed in my garden dojo and the implement that has been my training partner (and teacher) for many years has a couple of adaptations to help add some versatility to my daily practice.
After switching between a leather and straw pad for a while, I decided one day to simply utilise both. The leather pad is wearing in nicely, so now feels much better to work with and the wrapped straw rope underneath offers a contrasting striking surface. In total, I usually use three striking surfaces during my session: the leather, the straw and the wood itself. For me, switching between these materials between sets gives a much better level of overall conditioning. I also add to my makiwara training some floor-based pressure and alignment exercises, but I will look to write a blog post about these in the near future.
Recently, I also added a second leather pad to the bottom of the post to help develop my toe kicks (tsumasaki-geri), which I'm currently working with. A few years ago I fractured my left toe, so one side is taking a little more time to develop than the other. This is a very unique and interesting kick in old-style karate, but in terms of small surface striking, seems to make common sense when compared to similar techniques with the hands such as the single knuckle fist (ippon-ken). Of course, it's application in more modern reality-based self-defence is debatable (since we all now tend to wear shoes outside the dojo!), but as a method of conditioning for the 'weaker' parts of the foot and to help keep the old-ways alive, I always enjoy this kind of training.
So what was the point in me writing this short blog post? Well, I suppose it was to recommend that for anyone who has a makiwara installed at their home or dojo, it's worth keeping an open-mind with regards to it's use. Indeed, many of the old supplementary training implements in karate are only limited by one's imagination, but certainly for the makiwara, it can become very easy to get 'into a rut', by simply standing in front of the post and throwing mindless reverse punches for thirty minutes. To help keep things fresh, think about changing striking surfaces, striking angles, weapon formations, body dynamics, body movement (tai-sabaki) or distances from the post and rep rhythms.
All the above, plus any others you can conjure up will only accumulate to offer a richer, more comprehensive and far less monotonous training experience!
Happy striking :-)
Chris Denwood has been studying martial arts since childhood and specialises in the practical application of karate's traditional principles for civilian self-defence, personal development, life integration and discovery.