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A note of thanks to Mario McKenna, who graciously posted a photo of the kakiya from Kyoda Juhatsu’s garden dojo, and provided me with some estimates of it’s height and arm length.

By Popular Demand

I’ve received a few emails asking about where a kakiya can be purchased or how it can be made. I don’t know of any place where one can be purchased. Below are the materials and steps that I used to build mine. If you aren’t into power tools and concrete, I am open to the possibility of assembling kits and selling them: contact me at REMsimpson at gmail dot com and make an offer. The reader assumes all risks from building and using this piece of equipment.

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If you haven’t noticed already, we at TKRI love making gear out of an assortment of cheap or found items and copious amounts of Duct Tape. I’ve been perusing How-to-box . com lately and finding some interesting ideas on a variety of topics related to training, and it seems like they share in our love of MacGyvering gear instead of paying absurd prices for it. Today I ran across their feature on how to make your own double end bag out of common items, such as Nerf Balls and ice cream buckets. Having never worked in the Nerf Ball medium, I wonder if it would be possible to add a little weight to their design by slicing the ball open, inserting a balloon or two full of sand, then duct-taping the whole thing together again. Stay tuned…

Read it here

I’ve owned and rather rapidly destroyed a few of the “Gripp” brand hand strengthener balls. They’re great for about a month, but inevitably whatever is inside of them comes oozing out. Instead of continuing the vicious cycle, I spent a couple bucks on several containers of Silly Putty, which is essentially the same thing as the Therapy Putty used in hand/forearm rehab (but not as expensive).


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If you have followed my posts over the last year you will have seen lots of links to videos of people using foam rollers to help relax overly tight soft tissue. Here is another video demonstrating self myofascial release techniques with the foam roller:

Cheap foam rollers break down pretty quickly so I have created an inexpensive, durable DIY alternative. It requires a two foot section of two inch diameter pvc pipe, some weather stripping foam, and (drum roll) duct tape.

Wrap the middle section of the pvc pipe with the foam weather stripping and then cover it with duct tape. The foam may break down, but it can easily be replaced, the pvc should last pretty much forever. I spent about four dollars for ten feet of pipe (cut into two foot sections), and about three dollars and fifty cents on the foam. I already had the duct tape so I spent less than eight dollars total. The entire project took about ten minutes.

Here are some pics:

At the end of this summer’s TKRI/Seijinkai Gasshuku, Robert Miller charged me with a mission: to figure out a way to make a kongoken out of parts found at the hardware store and document the process. I’ve made all sorts of training equipment for myself and for the dojo out of a mixture of concrete, duct tape, logs and items scored through dumpster diving, so making a kongoken seemed like the next logical project. Our dojo will definitely benefit from having one around, but Bob’s ulterior motive was to provide Chopper (his student, my teacher) with a conditioning tool that he could use safely following an upcoming knee surgery.

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I’ve noticed lately that during my personal training time, I tend to default to a few combinations when it comes to working the heavy bag or ude makiwara. I may reshuffle the various techniques into different orders, but after awhile the same 4-5 strikes manifest themselves. Straight left, outside right hook, lead uppercut, hammer fist on the return, etc. There’s nothing wrong with having a few specialty techniques ingrained from doing lots of bagwork and from sparring experiences, but at some point a habit becomes a limitation.  A problem made itself obvious: how can I incorporate a degree of randomness into this training time, thereby moving outside of certain habits, without becoming unproductive? I’ve also noticed that people learning karate generally learn best when they have “discovered” something for themselves rather than being given every minute detail and then told to master it all.  So how to incoproprate this into my solo training, as well as for working with others?

In between rounds on the heavy bag last night, my mind wandered to thinking about getting some index cards for making flashcards of each unfamiliar word or phrase that I come across as I read through a collection of Latin American short stories in Spanish (another summer project).  Look it up, use it in a variety of contexts, combine it with what I already know, learn it . And as I went back to the bag, I wondered “why not do that with striking combinations?” So I grabbed 50 or so index cards and wrote a different strike on each one:


Reverse punch

Shovel hook

Outside hook


Palm strike



Forearm smash

Elbow smash

Rising elbow


Reverse backfist

Front kick

Roundhouse kick

Knee Strike

For each strike I also included cards with simple variations, such as front hand/leg, rear hand/leg, low and high, to address all of the variables for using that technique. I also threw in some ‘wild cards’ that read “switchback,”  “turning,” and “shifting” to incorporate some basic footwork into the deck. The result? A very effective way to train combinations and force your body to work in ways that you might ordinarily neglect. Below are four samples of random combos that I drew while training yesterday evening:



In these FOD (Flashcards of Doom) I found a very effective answer to my problem. Partner or not, I can shuffle through the deck and stretch both my brain and body a bit. I had a couple of willing students try them while doing some pad work this morning, with very good results. By the end of it they were moving through even the most counter-intuitive combos with fluidity and power.   Give it a shot- just get a packet of index cards and write out your vocabulary of strikes and footwork. When you come across techniques that are new to you, or that you are uncomfortable with using freely, add them to the deck. Shuffle thoroughly and you’ve got hours of fun on your hands. Well, maybe not fun, but you will find yourself working combos that you’ve never thought of, and realizing that you have certain bad habits (dropping your hands between techniques, bad balance in transitions, pausing when throwing continuous strikes from the same limb etc). And you’ll be suprised at how much the random combo training eimproves the rest of your practice.

Here is our newest toy:

Chariots of Tire View 1

Chariots of Tire View 1

Chariot of Tire: View 2

Chariot of Tire: View 2

It is just an old tire, two twelve foot lengths of rope, some duct tape, and two 5 inch lengths of radiator hose (for the handles).
To make one follow these steps and look at the pictures.
1) Tie one end of each rope to the tire.
2) Thread the rope through the hoses at the other end.
3) Tie off the rope to make loops for handles (make sure the hoses are in the loops).
4) Duct tape your knots so the ropes stay secure.

It is easy to use just pull it after you while running. Try running both forward and backward with it. For an extra challenge have someone sit in the tire (ride in the “chariot”).

The real challenge is figuring out how you will explain it to your neighbors.

Here it is in use:

Chariot of Tire: Chris, Dave, and Bill

Chariot of Tire: Chris, Dave, and Bill

Chariot of Tire: View 4

Chariot of Tire: Bill and Chris

Chariot of Tire: Chris and Dave

Chariot of Tire: Chris and Dave

Chariot of Tire: Chris and Bill

Chariot of Tire: Chris and Bill

Try this simple math problem at home:







Concrete + recycling bin = a set of 10 pound ishi sashi/ergonomic dumbbells

Use like stone or metal ishi sashi. The handles on the coffee can are perfect for sliding the fingers into, so you can work on finger/hand strength, catches, pinch grips, sanchin conditioning, etc. When puring the concrete, make sure the inner hollow  of the handles gets filled  for a stronger sashi and more weight.  Putting a piece of rolled up hardware cloth or chicken wire in the center of the container before pouring the concrete in will keep the concrete from cracking over time. Depending on how far you fill it, you’ll get a 9-1o lb. sashi.

Part 5 of 6. Footnotes, references, and demonstration video clips will be posted in the last entry.

Stick and Move

Now that the whole thing is firmly in the ground and well padded, what exactly can one do with it? For starters, try out a straight reverse punch. As with all makiwara practice, take it slow at first. If tenderness begins to develop around the proximal phalanges, in the carpal or metacarpal areas when making a fist, this is a sign that your alignment is off and you are hitting too hard for your hand. Take a few days or weeks off from hitting anything hard until the discomfort subsides, and begin lightly when resuming training on this makiwara. Since the shape of the ude makiwara is rounded as opposed to flat, these sorts of injuries are very easy to rush into. Punches with a curved trajectory will probably feel awkward, particularly if you are only used to throwing straight “karate” punches, or hitting bags. Even a solid makiwara-conditioned wrist will have a tendency to hyper extend as it deals with the circumference of the impact area. Using a tate or vertical/standing punch might feel more reliable to you than the standard corkscrew type punch. The wrist is generally stronger in a vertical postion as opposed to  fully pronated.

Experiment with light strikes from different ranges and vectors of movement, noting hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder alignment. I recommend limiting yourself to three sets of ten punches per hand for the first several sessions. Apply this plan to the different types of punch and strike; becoming fmailiar with a straight punch on the ude makiwara is not the same as being used to throwing hooks or uppercuts, so spend some time working on them seperately.  After several sessions of moderated acclimation, the fun can begin.

The main advantage of the round design is the expanded striking area afforded by its shape. Critics of makiwara training often cite that the flat post only offers one surface to strike, thereby making it an unrealistic training experience. While I find this to be a misinformed perspective, I do agree that a flat makiwara does limit the techniques that can be trained upon it. This is not an issue for the ude makiwara. Combinations of punches can be thrown to the sides of the post while facing it straight on, such as jab/hook/elbow. As another example, a roundhouse kick can be followed by an elbow smash without having to readjust the body. Performing a switchback with the feet allows you to repeat strikes and combinations with both sides of the body in alternation.  Striking from different angles will highlight a poorly centered punch in that it will  simply graze off of the  circumference. If your knuckles are not properly aligned, a very hard punch might seem to “bounce” off of the surface. Again, if discomfort develops anywhere in the punching arm, a misalignment of the impact surfaces or supporting joints is indicated.

This feedback, if heeded, provides a valuable insight into the technique being practiced. Since karate techniques will be applied bare-knuckled in the context of a violent encounter, it is imperative that practitioners have an awareness of exactly which knuckles are making contact at the termination of punches, especially rounded ones. Throwing a hooking punch changes the alignment of the standard “karate” straight punch and often places the unsupported metacarpal bones of the ring and little finger in line to absorb the impact, which can have very unpleasant results.11 This is easy to miss when hitting a bag (very firm ones being an exception), which will deform enough to accommodate the fist wherever it lands. A blow that may well damage the hand on a more rigid target will still feel powerful without any negative feedback aside from a scraped knuckle. But considering that the human face is made up of rather bony structures, a refined awareness of knuckle alignments on all punching trajectories is an imperative skill to develop.

Striking the makiwara from different angles can also highlight any weakness in the muscular contraction around the shoulder joint and torso, and throughout the body, during the delivery of rounded and hooking punches. A hooking punch that is not ‘connected’ via muscular contraction to the body core will produce a feeling of separation in the shoulder joint as the body follows through and the arm stays behind, absorbing most of the impact, and losing power at the joint. This particular problem is  not as evident against a bag, where the punch will still move the target regardless of anatomical efficiency (or lack thereof). If the shoulder is driven upwards upon impact more contraction of the shoulder girdle, lats, serratus anterior is needed to stabilize this area (on impact- tensing before impact will slow the punch and rob it of power). Likewise if the shoulder is raised in anticipation of this rebound, the punch will feel as though it bounces lightly off the makiwara, regardless of body follow through. Extending the arm into a wider hook will concentrate this feedback at the elbow and indicate where a weakness has developed there. Fully committed body rotation behind a punching arm strongly integrated (via contraction of the shoulder/lat etc.) to the body will provide a blow that transfers power smoothly from the drive of the legs to the target without losing any in the displaced shoulder joint. The ude makiwara can inform bag work as an adjunct for ‘fine-tuning’ and naturalizing properly supported form. Alternating between striking the ude makiwara and striking the heavy bag is a good way to higlight bad habits and problems that may develop unnoticed on either tool if used alone.

Since the ude makiwara may be struck from all angles the practitioner is not limited to one general direction of movement. “Walking the circle” drills can be utilized, allowing the user to move around the target, letting the techniques be trained in a free-moving manner, also good for reinforcing an awareness of the ever-changing centerline. The same mobility can be experienced with a hanging or standing bag, although the ude makiwara offers feedback and rotational conditioning that are lacking in bags.

In the absence of training partners, arm conditioning may be pursued on the ude makiwara. Inward and outward blocks/strikes can be thrown in succession without constant readjustment, also motivating hip rotation. There are no angles to be avoided, and the round shape provides a surface that is similar to the curves of an arm or leg. As such, the impact feels a bit more concentrated than with a flat surface. A word of caution: take care that the elbow joints are not locked, and no more than ¾ of the way extended to provide some protection to the joint upon impact. Hitting this target with the arms locked will damage the joint as intensity is increased; pay attention to stiffness and pain between uses, a sensation not unlike tennis elbow. Avoid slamming the lateral and medial edges of the forearm into the post, as the ulnar and radial nerves/arteries run along the respective bones. Forearm smashes should likewise be inclined towards the posterior surface to avoid compressing these pathways. Since the arms can be used in alternation, everything may be done while moving around the makiwara to add variety to training and incorporate footwork.

Virtually all of the strikes in the karate vocabulary may be practiced on this makiwara in conjunction with free moving footwork. Individual techniques can be worked into more dynamic drills as well with the makiwara serving as a proxy for another person. All of these techniques can be worked on both arms in succession, or with a combination of other techniques. Forearm smashes and elbows thrown with alternating arms provides good motivation for core rotation behind the techniques, distancing for close-in fighting and a good general workout (such as Tabata Protocol style “burst training”). Alternating roundhouse kicks against an unomving (but springy) target develops good commitment to the kicks. Shifting off the center from a designated ‘front side’ while utilizing rolling hands or two handed parrying into counter strikes provides nice training for shifting off an attack and counterattacking along an opponent’s weak angle. Sanchin style takedowns can be conditioned by shifting around the makiwara and entering with a close strike followed by hooking the leg around the post as the upper body drives into it.

In closing, I would hope that the information presented in this article lives up to the final comments in Funakoshi’s makiwara appendix in Karate-do Kyohan: “The makiwara is suggested simply because it can be made cheaply and easily; thus anything can be made with some ingenuity, without too much cost, and with readily available materials will be suitable.”

Next: Part 6, in which some training methods for the ude makiwara will be demonstrated

Commercially available weight vest: $50-200

Homemade version: a trip to the garage and the goodwill store


The vest is a fishing tackle vest, and the weights are some scuba weights I had laying around. The weights shown on the vest fit into the front pockets and add up to 24 lbs. The cylindrical weights can be added to the back panel pocket for an additional 6 lbs.  Just when you thought push ups, dips and pull ups were getting easy…

"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin


July 2020

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