Thursday, May 23, 2013

Moveable Indoor Makiwara: Dimensions & Design

"There are no karate men who do not use the Makiwara."
 - Nagamine Shoshin shinshii

This is the first of a series of posts on Machiwara training. I thought it best to start out by offering a look at a couple of simple designs for moveable indoor machiwara which can be constructed with a minimal amount of skill required. Building these two machiwara cost less than $100 total and they have held up to many months of daily abuse so far (with only minimal maintenance).

Heavy Duty Moveable Indoor Tachi-Machiwara

The vertical "shaft" of the machiwara is constructed of 3 separate pieces or Red Oak (1" thick, 1/2" thick, and 1" thick again). The three boards are all 4" wide and are fastened together with a high strength bonding agent called "Gorilla Glue" as well as a few wood screws for extra strength.

This is designed for a person 75 inches tall. Adjust proportionally to your height.

Click to enlarge

The below picture just shows the same machiwara with the pad at 3 heights. People sometimes ask me why I built such a tall machiwara... These days people are mainly only familiar with the Nafa-Machiwara (Naha-Makiwara, named for the town it was popular in) which is solar-plexus height. However there were also taller machiwara such as the mid-to-high sternum level Sui-Machiwara (Shuri-Makiwara) and a machiwara as high as the bottom of the chin (utagee). Using a tall machiwara allows me to practice at any of the three heights merely by adjusting the pad. The Nafa-Machiwara is the best to begin on as it discourages raising the shoulder (which I believe is why it became the most popular). It is quite easy to punch downward (with the direction of gravity as in the Nafa-Machiwara) without raising the shoulder. This builds sound neuron-muscular habits. It is more difficult to punch straight out (roughly mid-shoulder height) without raising the shoulder (as in the Sui-Machiwara). It is fairly difficult (without sufficient training) to punch upwards without raising the shoulder (as in the Utagee-Machiwara). I think this progression in difficulty explains why the various versions are more or less common... The most basic being the most common. I would suggest that the reason for the varying popularity of the different heights/designs of machiwara is the same reason that solar plexus (up to mid-sternum) level punches became the norm in karate... The more difficult methods being practiced (and thus passed-on) by fewer people than the less difficult / less advanced methods. While I believe a certain amount of weight must be given to the hypothesis that head level punches are quite rare in kata because head punches are more likely to result in injuring the hand... I would also stipulate that a martial artist that engages in frequent machiwara training and also engages in Okinawan hand conditioning (tetsusa-te / tetsu-te) would be unlikely to injure himself/herself when punching to the head...

Light & Flexible Moveable Indoor Tachi-Machiwara 

The light tachi-machiwara below is made of a single piece of 1" X 4" Red Oak. Being more flexible than a machiwara which is thicker at the base it is used for training with Keikoken, Nakadakaken, Boshiken, and similar strikes which utilize small surface areas. Like the heavy duty machiwara it still provides progressive resistance (meaning the more force that is applied the greater the resistance).

Click to enlarge


  1. Excellent post, I am currently using this as a guideline to fashion my own Makiwara. One question, how well does this work for strikes and blocks where one would have to be off of the base? (Knife Hand, Round Kick, etc.) I would imagine you would need to weigh it down in order to keep it from lifting off the floor. Thanks in advance and hope to hear back soon!

  2. Awesome what are you using brackets though are those just shelf brackets

  3. Utagee-Machiwara: is it your personal "invention" (i.e., the result of your research and experience in the field)or is it connected to and therefore can be found in the "old style" karate? many thanks, lorenzo semeraro (italy)