Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Surprising Efficacy of Hit Medicines

Bottle of  Hit Medicine
I believe that most practitioners of Okinawan karate know that hit medicines are/were used by most serious Okinawan karate masters. Higaonna shinshi and Hokama shinshi (and others) have advocated this practice to their Western students fairly vocally. However, Western karateka have been largely uninterested in the use of these medicines (unlike many Western practitioners of Chinese styles). It would seem that the general consensus among American teachers is that these medicines are unnecessary (if not totally ineffective).  I have used hit medicines on and off over the years, but I was really never sure whether they worked. The main reason for this uncertainty was that I have always been careful about avoiding over-training. This has been impossible over the last several weeks because I have recently been experimenting with different machiwara designs and that meant I couldn't stop hitting them just because my hands were getting sore.

 Over the last month and a half I have built and tested 5 different machiwaras with the aim of creating a moveable indoor machiwara which is fully capable of surviving the rigors of thousands of intense impacts to various surfaces on the board. This has been more challenging than I would have believed it would be. I was shocked when a very solid 1.5 inch thick machiwara literally snapped in two after only a week of testing, and I was then disappointed when a my next attempt (designed to be much more flexible) failed to supply sufficient resistance to my strikes. After three failed attempts I now have 2 movable indoor machiwaras which meet my design needs (I will post photos and design instructions as well as notes on what went wrong in the failed designs in a future post).

In the process of building and testing these machiwaras I have had to repeatedly slam my fists into bare oak with maximum power on a daily basis. I personally believe that machiwara training works best at only about 70% of full power (because it is nearly impossible to do a good structural "body audit" when hitting at full power), but to ensure these machiwaras were actually strong enough to withstand months (and hopefully years) of daily abuse I had to REALLY unload on them.

At first my hands were merely getting a little sore. However, after a few weeks of this hardcore design testing my hands started to become very painful and more importantly they also became bruised in the knuckle and finger areas and my *entire* hands eventually became quite puffy and swollen.

So, I found some of the hit medicine that I had used before and started applying it to my hands before and after testing my machiwaras. Much to my surprise and delight, I found that this would reduce the swelling in my hands within half an hour, and even more surprisingly I found that most mild bruising would litterally disappear overnight if I applied it to my hands before going to bed.

This really amazed me, and I am quite glad I decided to start using hit medicine again. I now realize that I can train much more vigorously than I had previously believed I could because I no longer need to take several days off for recovery if I over-train to the point of bruising and swelling.

I have now invested in enough herbs to make several gallons of this hit medicine. I'll post again at some point in the future to provide a recipe and detailed instructions about all of the stages in producing this medicine.

Once again the wisdom of the old masters has been proven to me, and I urge all my readers to carefully consider the older Okinawan methods and to be very cautious about dismissing old training concepts as outdated "old wives tales".

As my dad likes to say: "old wives tend to know what they are talking about" ;-)


  1. My teacher brought some Dit Da Jow one class after some conditioning we were doing. It's effects were almos imediately noticeable. Is this what you mean by hit medicine? Also he mentioned there are several types of Jow, such as cooling or warming Jow. Can you shed some light on these subjects?

  2. Yep, dit da jow is hit medicine. Herbal medicine is a pretty complex subject and I am at best a dilettante. Here is a list of the most common functions of various herbs. What a jow emphasizes will depend on how these functions are balanced.

  3. Happy to see your blog as it is just what I’ve looking for and excited to read all the posts.

  4. I'd been toying with the idea of trying these, thanks for posting this. also, looking forward to seeing your recipe and makiwara plans :)

  5. Hi Ryan, I'm practicing judo (at beginner level after 1.5 years), and I'm suffering back pain ( I mean my back).

    It is mostly due to I have to sit too many hours daily because I am a computer programmer.

    Do you think the hit medicine could apply to my back in this case?

    1. I guess if I were you my first concern would be getting a new chair, which I've heard can go a long way towards helping back pain from sitting too long. But as to you question, the hit-medicine I use seems to work IMHO (both in terms of the reduced bruising and in terms of swelling) because of some remarkable anti-inflammatory effect. So if you have swelling, heat, redness I suspect it would work well. Absent those things it -might- work but hard to say. If you think an externally applied (but still quite powerful) anti-inflammatory would help, I'd say go for it. I use the "Golden Lotus" 34 herb formula. I can give you a link to purchase either do-it-yourself kits (much cheaper to make it than to buy it) or to prepared bottles (from a reputable source) if you would like me to. I also have the exact recipe if that would help you.

  6. Hi Ryan,

    Here is an excerpt of Matthew Polly's autobiography of his time in Shaolin (p.102), which basically says the same as what you have come to experience and pointed out in this post:

    "...hardening the body was only half of iron kungfu practice; Chinese medicine was the other half. It was needed to heal that part of the body so one could continue practicing just as hard the next day, otherwise you’d have to wait for it to heal on its own. “Without medicine, your iron kungfu can only improve so much.” "


  7. Hi Mr. Parker:-) I have recently started practising with a Tire Makiwara (the closest design I could get to a traditional design at this point) and I find myself only being able to use it a few times a week because of the rigours of training. I have been trying to find a serious recipy or information on "hit medicine" for a while know but it is difficult to find any reputable sources. I have followed your blog and writings for quite some time (since this blog was relativly new) and I trust your knowledge and I really apreciate everything you share with us. Eventhough it is free knowledge in that we all can read what you have to say without paying you I know that your knowledge has not come to you for free so that makes me appreciate even more the insights you share. In this post you said you would at a later date share a recipy and maybe a video on how to make hit medicine. Do you still plan to share this or have you changed your mind?:-) I hope you will continue writing:-) best regards from Ørjan