Makiwara training is more destructive than useful

Makiwara training is more destructive than useful

In his search for effectivity, Master Egami trains assiduously with the makiwara in the beginning and then distances himself from it. He describes this evolution process and the goals:

A makiwara is considered an essential instrument for karate training.

For many years I thought of the makiwara as my lifelong companion. I trained dilligently with it for 24 years. No matter what the circumstance, I never missed a single day of training with it. Even on my trips I took a makiwara with me, for without this exercise I felt bad. But as I advanced, my way of thinking changed. I started to progressively distance myself from the makiwara finding it of little use, later on I found this exercise had no use whatsoever and today I think makiwara training is destructive for karate.

One autumn day, when I was about 20 years old, standing in front of a chestnut tree, I thought to myself: “Could I make all the chestnuts fall down with one blow at the tree trunk?” I scratched the bark a bit to facilitate the fist’s contact, then I hit it with all my might. With a small sound only a few chestnuts fell as if to console me. I was very far from having made them all fall down. Furthermore my fist immediately became swollen, so much I began questioning myself if I might have really broken something. After this experience I obtained a very solid fist and could break boards and tiles but I never really obtained a total trust on my blow’s effectivity…

I many times found people with calloused fists due to makiwara training, where the first knuckles were covered with a black thick hard covering as a heel. They were terrible hands to look at but when I asked them to hit me, their blows were not effective. These experiences made me distrust the makiwara. Deep inside I thought that my blows were not as those of other people and I continued to search for different ways to hit confronting a series of difficulties. In the course of this search I forced myself to change the way I made the fist and ended transforming it completely. My conclusion was as follows: to obtain an effective tsuki, you must not hit as normally taught, you must change the fist’s form. If you put your fist in this effective form, you can no longer practice makiwara. This is why I abandoned makiwara training completely. This was in 1958. Continuing with my research I furthermore understood that makiwara training is not only ineffective but actually bad for the health. This is evident when you study a bit of acupuncture or shiatsu.

This analysis and the conclusion obtained by Master Shigeru Egami are even more important and interesting if we consider that he practiced very profoundly the karate form he would later criticise. With respect to the makiwara, for example, it is not the criticism of a person that merely reasons without ever practicing. He establishes the criticism with the experience 25 year of practice. A simple and worrisome question appears: Why does makiwara training exist and why is it part of the karate tradition in Okinawa? Is the fundament incorrect? Is it a relative issue because Egami actually overcame the traditional methods of Okinawa and his considerations were no longer limited to the makiwara, rather to the method as a whole?

Originally to spanish by Xavier Mínguez, Shotokai de España