Part 4 of 6. Footnotes, references, and demonstration video clips will be posted in the last entry.

Now Dig It

Securing this makiwara in the ground is a similar process to installing a regular one, but there are a few additional considerations. It will be hit from all sides, meaning that bracing has to be attached to accommodate force coming from all directions as opposed to just one. This can be achieved using 4” screws to attach lengths of treated 2×4 lumber to the post. Four of these braces should be at least a foot and a half long, and two of them a foot long. Attach two of the long boards horizontally at the bottom of the post, directly opposite from each other. A foot and a half above these, attach two more long pieces opposite each other. On the two “sides” remaining, attach the foot long boards about halfway in between the longer pairs, opposite from each other. This should provide enough bracing all around to prevent the post from eventually being uprooted under repeated omnidirectional onslaught.

Dig a rectangular hole two and a half feet deep and wide enough to allow the bracing to fit securely against the soil walls on all sides. If the hole is not deep enough, the makiwara will list to one side like the Tower of Pisa after you hit it a few times. If you are working in sandy or very loose soil, you may need to go a bit deeper. Once you have reached sufficient depth, us a tamping bar or the post itself to flatten out the bottom of the hole.  A shovel full of gravel will provide drainage as water seeps into the ground around the makiwara’s bottom end.

Place the post into the hole, making sure that the bracing is somewhat close to the walls. If it does not sit level, add some more gravel until it stays upright on it’s own. Once the post is in place, packing several fist-sized rocks tightly around the bottom will help to keep it securely anchored.  To pack the soil tightly around the post and bracing,  add a few scoops of dirt and then use a tamping bar (a 2X4 end will also work) to compress the soil all around the post. Splash some water into the hole to moisten this layer, then add more soil and back it down. Repeat until the hole is filled.  This will result in a much tighter fit than simply shoveling it all back in at once.

Concrete may seem like the more logical (and quicker) choice, but the 60-80 lbs required for such a job would add a considerable counterweight to the overall resistance of the makiwara. The resistance of a post set in unyielding concrete would most likely negate the recoil of the slats and cause excessive  strain in the joints of the user.

Initially, I tied the top ten inches of the post with cord per the various diagrams’ instructions. Tying it tightly only forced the slats together, eliminating resistance. After a few experimental whacks, I removed the cord entirely and found flexibility to be more satisfactory. It seems that the rope straw used in the example versions is there to provide an impact surface, which is not necessary if using modern materials  for padding. I initially used several yards of ¼” closed cell foam sheeting, wrapped in alternating layers down the length of the slats and bound with heavy duty duct tape. However, after two weeks of consistent use, I found that uppercuts and hook punches thrown with full body rotation (more on this later) tend to tear the tape and foam underneath. Hitting bare wood full on is not a pleasant surprise.  In light of this, I recommend using heavier foam rubber as padding.  I’ve found  a ½” thick foam camping ground mat to be satisfactory (Fig. D). Wrapping it around the makiwara and binding it with duct tape provides an excellent, forgiving surface. Be careful not to bind it too tightly, as this will compress the slats inward and lessen the amount of recoil. I recommend that beginners wrap the mat around the post at least three layers thick. After you’ve gained experience and confidence with the ude makiwara, the layers can be reduced to one or two.

Fig. D

Duct tape wrapped around the entire striking area will hold up quite well and cover any seams. 10 Be sure to use a good sturdy brand, like 3M.  For the more enterprising, a covering of leather, canvas or some other durable cloth can be made. If the makiwara is installed outside, it will be exposed to the elements. A heavy rain or a few days of foggy conditions will cause the wood in the slats to swell, decreasing resistance in the makiwara. It’s best to let it dry out for a day or two before attempting to strike it. Freezing temperatures in the winter and hot dry conditions in the summer will eventually “check” or crack the exposed top of the post. Placing a coffee can or bucket over the top in between uses helps keep the weather from deteriorating the post.

Next: Stick and Move- using the ude makiwara

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