your current thinking on conditioning

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your current thinking on conditioning

Postby Shana Moore » Thu May 14, 2009 6:30 pm

I know there have been several threads on conditioning, and I'm going to post some of the threads I found most applicable in a second post here. I've read many conflicting thoughts, particularly in regards to use and benefit of using a makiwara.

I am interested in what are your current thoughts on conditioning. By conditioning, I mean stregthening your body (particularly your forarms and shins, although other areas can be involved) against contact and bruising.

What methods do you think are best for solo conditioning?

What methods do you think are best for paired conditioning?

Do you think any techniques should only be done with supervision/training?

Any cautions/warnings/tips?
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past forum threads and misc articles on subject

Postby Shana Moore » Thu May 14, 2009 6:39 pm
References a Journal of Asian Martial Arts article on Iron Palm conditioning (have read it, and I agree it’s a great article!)

A very interesting article on body conditioning, by David Elkins, Michael DeDonato John Morenski
Discusses partner vs solo conditioning practice
Discusses damage vs conditioning
Specific section related to women/children and conditioning
Discussion of some solo conditioning implements (and humour)
Great discussion on conditioning sticks
Also reminder to start slow and work up from there
This article is an extract from Kenji Tokistu’s book “histoire de Karate-do”, and I offer here with no knowledge of how respected and/or knowledgeable either source may be
Article talks about a growing belief that Makiwara training had little use in developing strength, etc. and may actually be destructive to health
Discusses harm to fists as well as lack of effective technique
Interesting discussion of ways to condition hand and pros/cons
Notes that Kanbun did not use the makiwara
Muscle vs tendon development and conditioning
Article on body conditioning as a lost art
Kids, when to start conditioning of legs/arms
* Discussion on using small trees to condition shins, practice kicks (pro and cons discussed)
* Also discusses, briefly a technique for Makiwara use
* Also discusses constant tapping practice of old masters
Discussions on overtraining and bone conditioning
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Postby Shana Moore » Thu May 14, 2009 7:56 pm

I realize that thoughts and knowledge change over time, and I wanted to compile some of the thoughts that have been presented on these forums and elsewhere in one place and get folks current thoughts on the issue. I went back as far as 2005 in the posts above.

Personally, I've been looking at solo conditioning options to round out my personal training time. I've found I have options like a wooden rolling pin, the newspaper conditioning stick, bags or pails of beans, etc.

I'm also considering whether I want to build a Makiwara or something similar. When I was doing medieval re-enactment, we would build a pell with 2x4s and tires, and it had a good blend of solidness and give/spring, so you could practice sword strikes without killing your arm. I’m trying to determine if something similar would be a useful thing for training my kicks and strikes. I have found that kicking air really doesn't help me learn proper mechanics, so having something to strike is part of the idea, but something that will let me gradually condition my arms and legs would also be useful.

As always, I welcome all thoughts and opinions respectful to the posters/readers here.
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Postby jorvik » Thu May 14, 2009 8:29 pm

Hi Shana
I have always pretty much held the same opinion.......I really don't see the point :? ..either from a general martial arts viewpoint or more specifically a "Uechi" viewpoint. To me it is irrelevant because if I ever get in a fight I will be going for the unconditioned targets..........most probably the throat, neck and eyes so what is the point of conditioning :? are only conditioning the parts that I won't be going for :lol: ......and IMHO you are far better building muscle than calousous.....muscle is good it keeps you healthy,
I train in the Park on a sunday with a friend who does Hung Gar and he thinks my arms are really well conditioned by doing " Shaolin Conditioning"
but they are not. I work out my forearms using weights and wrist grippers and they are far harder than his :lol:
Now from a Uechi viewpoint Master Toyama said that all the conditioning stuff was a way to show boat the style ( my words and interpretation here )

and I believe that a lot of this stuff has got misinterpreted over the years
a little light conditioning, done regularly may help you a bit.but it's no big deal...especially in " our World" where Mr.Glock will blow you apart and Mr. Spyderco will shred you :wink:

Postby Shana Moore » Thu May 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Jorvik, thanks for your thoughts and I agree with some of it. I think the belief that conditioning will make you strike resistant is unlikely...particularly in neck, etc. First, you would have to know strike was coming, and then you'd have to flex fast enough to effectively "turtle up" :roll: :roll: BUT...I thought the point of conditioning was to be more resistant to bruising and pain...Perhaps, at the moment, I have a unique perspective that only a relative newbie can appreciate..blocked strikes and kicks..particularly hitting bone to bone or newbie shin to (feels like) concrete forearms of opponent...well it smarts! I do not want to be limping or hesitant to strike because it hurts or I have to explain mutltiple bruises to curious coworkers (who already think I'm unique) :wink: so I'm looking at gradual conditioning that will allow me not to...flinch..make sense? just want to make sure we are speaking of the same thing...have I misunderstood you?
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Postby f.Channell » Fri May 15, 2009 2:02 am

Although I have a Makiwara in my backyard and it has the cool "vibe" to it, I think a 50# bag is best. You can practice all your open hand strikes on it.
One of the cool things is once it starts swinging you have the force of the bag swinging running into your strikes and especially your kicks. You also have the added difficulty of timing the swings with your strikes.
I have 1-2 100# bags but I use these on the ground as Van taught us.

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Postby jorvik » Fri May 15, 2009 8:44 am

"BUT...I thought the point of conditioning was to be more resistant to bruising and pain...Perhaps, at the moment, I have a unique perspective that only a relative newbie can appreciate..blocked strikes and kicks..particularly hitting bone to bone or newbie shin to (feels like) concrete forearms of opponent...well it smarts! I do not want to be limping or hesitant to strike because it hurts or I have to explain mutltiple bruises to curious coworkers (who already think I'm unique) so I'm looking at gradual conditioning that will allow me not to...flinch..make sense? just want to make sure we are speaking of the same thing...have I misunderstood you?"
I don't think that you have misunderstood me :) .but I'll develop my opinions a bit more ( BTW this is one of those topics that folks get really upset about :lol: )
I'll talk about the kind of thing I think about as Conditioning i.e. folks moving up and down the Dojo hitting each other, and arm pounding

Firstly you will hear a lot of people saying that you shouldn't block a punch or kick, and you will also hear them say that you shouldn't use your fists to punch people because they are too weak.and yet the same people will argue for conditioning..I've never understood that myself :?

but my opinion FWIW

If you think about training to fight...then you have to think in terms of what skills and abilities that you want to develop and also fitness etc. So where does conditioning fit in here :? a fight the last thing that I want is to get hit, and the places I am likely to get hit are not the places that I would condition I mean folks generally don't condition their heads do they :lol:
( although when you hear some of the arguments you may at times think so) if you do get in a fight the adrenalin kicks in and you feel the pain but fight through it, so you don't really need to be conditioned, because the pain kicks in later.generally fights are over very quickly say 30 seconds maybe a minute at the outside........and yeah you will get bruised, but you'll get bruised when you condition anyway :lol: there are other factors to consider the first is that you don't know the size or build of the guy that you have to fight so you may be investing time in something that has no value because there will always be people who naturally are harder than you are, even with your conditioned limbs, these are most likely to be your prospective attacker.
The biggest objection that I have to it is that it trains folks to think incorrectly, they spar with full contact to the body and will tense to take hits, in the worst examples that I have seen they totally forget to guard their head, because they are so busy taking shots to the body...some folks think that it looks cool and do it for that reason :roll: those very same traits that you have developed by conditioning will work against you in a real fight against a larger,stronger opponent, or worse still somebody with a knife.................
If you do want to condition, and I've not said that you shouldn't I would do two things the first is get yourself some wrist grippers, and also one of those weight devices that Bruce lee had, which is basically a weight hanging from a stick which you hold out in front of you and raise the weight by twisting your hands, there are also other things that you can use ( reverse curls with a barbell, or wrist curls)...all designed to build up your forearms.............also an interesting fact is that your grip increases dramatically in a fight or flight situation , so why not help nature along. If you do those exercises you will condition your forearms by putting a layer of muscle on them.........but it does take time, you will also increase the power in your strikes.
For the legs I would just use a rolling pin, rolled up and down......If you train with sticks then I tend to tap my arms and legs lightly with the stick when I am practising.
I personnally don't like makiwaras............A lot of the Okinawan stuff seems to me to be improvised, because folks were poor and lived in a rural/ agricultural environment..although a lot of ideas came from China the training aids seem to be their own..they don't seem to use iron rings for example.
Today we have better things to hit, bags are great....and last Christmas my wife bought me a "Poor Bob" which is basically a plastic type figure ofa man that you can use to punch or strike and it ius really great fun to have :wink:

Postby Shana Moore » Fri May 15, 2009 5:34 pm

Thanks Fred! I have been using a wavemaster at my company gym, and I find the movement aspect kinda cool. Been practicing my kicks and I have to keep realigning with the bag, which keeps me moving and watching my footwork. It's also helping me to slowly get a feel for distancing. I'm not sure the wavemaster bag will remain a good option as I get stronger and faster, but it works for me now...and it's free. I'm looking to invest in a heavy bag eventually, I just got to find the place or a way to hang it where I live!

Fred, can you be more specific on the "on the ground as Vann taught us" comment?


Jorvik, again, some very good points to consider, and I'm aware there are many areas folks like to argue. As long as the discussion is civil and productive, I have absolutely no problem with disagreement. I think it often leads to leaps in understanding and consideration of alternative ways of thinking. Both good things.

I would point out that I've noticed several of your posts show you are not a huge Uechi fan, which is fine; however, I wouldn't discount an idea just because poor farmers came up with it. I know there are more tech gadgets and ideas that have since come to light that may be better. But....for some folks the inexpensive ideas are a great place to start and work your way from there. The one caveat, and this goes for old/new techniques of any do your research first, so you can avoid hurting yourself unintentionally and unecessarily!

That said, I wholeheartedly agree that proper muscle conditioning through weight training and practical application are the best way to prepare for an actual fight. I actually have been a fan of weight training for several years now, and still feel like I have so much to learn.

I, personally, like the concept of body movements that mimic real life usage, such as wood chops, as I think the actions work the small muscles and fibers that you may not work with simple, focused reps. So, again, we agree completely that you should train toward your purposes. It makes the training more interesting and more useful. It also only makes sense that building muscle will help to condition some areas like the legs and forearms, and I think everyone should include weight training and general body exercise as part of thier martial arts practice. Stronger body and stronger practice.

My disagreement would lie in the fact that bruising, as I understand it, is caused by damage to tiny blood vessels that leak into the increasing the muscle layer will not affect that issue at all. To be fair, I agree with you that pain and bruising happens. I have never believed that conditioning will "stop" either of those. But my understanding, and I still have reading and my own trial/error to do, is that conditioning will help toughen the skin and - - perhaps - - the muscles/bones beneath it (I'm not a doctor, so that last statement is purely a guess based on what I've read so far).

Again, what I'm looking to get out of conditioning is enough tolerance to both pain and brusing that I won't "flinch". Having not been in a real fight since high school (and not in a job where this is a daily requisite), I still remember that you don't think about pain or bruises in the heat of conflict...but the same is not true in training. I don't want to train to a "this is gonna hurt" flinch inadvertantly. I think conditioning will help my confidence and also simply give me additional practice time.

Now, something you said, that I also agree is that I don't think you should train for tensing to take hits. I just don't think that's generally useful, as fights are generally over very quickly. I think of conditioining as toning and toughing the skin, not tensing up the muscles...but...there are many ways to define conditioning.

So, Jorvik, we agree on much, but not all things...and that's pretty cool.
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Postby jorvik » Fri May 15, 2009 6:39 pm

I like certain aspects in Uechi, but others I don't. What I do notice in Uechi is that some folks take stances on certain things, even when historically they can be shown to be incorrect. Conditioning is one of them, I think it plays a part but that it is not as significant as some think. The general impression I get from the folks who make out that it is, is that they have nothing else in their Uechi, and that comment is not directed at anybody.

As to Makiwaras they were around long before Uechi, in fact they were used by just about everybody there, and I don't mean just martial artists, but folks who didn't do martial arts, ordinary people. I used a Chi-Ishi for years
long before I got into weight training ....but now I use stuff that I really like to use....As to using equipment correctly I totally agree. Some folks use a Wing-Chun Wooden dummy as a punching post :oops: was never meant for that.

I've had to tone down a lot of what I do because of my hip :cry: the escrima club that I used to belong to we used to punch pads without gloves that will show you how to shape your fist correctly and how to position yourself correctly..a hook punch when done badly can break your wrist, yet if you exclude it from your arsenal you neglect a good weapon................I do it the Uechi way :)

If you are stuck for room a makiwara is ok ( I have used them in the past)
you just need to be very moderate and sensible when you train them........Poor Bob is absolutely brilliant for training on your own....I know Van uses one as well.........I just love him and my kids do as well :lol: ....when you walk past you can't help but punch him .and he takes up no room at all.and it feels real.........I can really shake him with a bitch slap...absolutely superb piece of kit :wink:

Postby Shana Moore » Fri May 15, 2009 9:38 pm

Thanks Jorvik for taking my comments as intended. In some of the links I posted, there are some interesting discussions on pros/cons of makiwaras as well as proper use. Most agree to go slow and gradual and not whale on them for maximum power/force.

I've looked into the poor Bob...he's not cheap, but he does look cool. My concern would be the same issue I see with wavemaster...if you do kicks...does he fall over?

Again, thanks for your input! Good stuff to consider and your opinions are welcome.
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Postby jorvik » Sat May 16, 2009 12:05 pm

"Poor Bob" is on a stand that is adjustable. The stand is hollow and you can fill it either with sand or water. Which makes it very stable so it won't fall over like a wave master. My training partner has a wave master and says that he regrets getting it, although he is a pretty powerful guy, and a kick from him would probably fell a small tree. :lol:
I have started again employing low kicks to the base of Bob but I am a 95% puncher now, I train almost exclusively in Wing Chun so I do very close in punching,some elbow work and some stick work. With the stick work I use rattan escrima sticks, the padded ones tended to leave marks on Bob, but the wooden ones seem to be ok.
There are many advantages to having Bob...............It is very like having a real opponent and it is adjustable so you can make it into somebody who is larger than you. You can do scenario training with it. You can put clothing on him and use that to pull him around while you hit him ( You'll have to excuse my English I don't know whether to say him or it :lol: )
Another really great advantage is that you can use targeting at full power while you practise 8) ...........I have a certain training philosophy which works very well on Bob. I use a mix of classical and "What works" techniques.....I love bitch slaps and the push into the carotid's a clip of that one

and it really does work, the two strikes together will floor anyone, a lot of the stuff that I do now is very,very close...and this is were I disagree with some Uechi, because I believe that Uechi should be as close as I am..and very often it is not........When you are that close you are invading somebody's space, and that is something folks are hot wired to not do because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
I used to work with a woman we called the "Space Invader" because she used to do that all the time :roll: with Bob, he doesn't feel uncomfortable when you get that close.

The downside is I guess expence, but for somebody like me an MA junky who needs his daily fix it's great I can use it when I feel like.
I had even thought at one time of quiting the martial arts and just keeping Bob .and if my hip problems re occur then I may well have to
Usually a club will buy something like Bob. I guess I am unusual in buying it as an individual...............I don't know how much you spend on lessons but if you think in terms of a years training costs then Bob is good value.....if you use it and don't treat it like some folks treat gym memberships and it will toughen your hands .......

Postby hoshin » Sat May 16, 2009 9:18 pm

there are four main areas that conditioning affects, the bone , the muscles, the tendons and the nerve sensors.

this is something i wrote. i am sorry for it being a little long but it is on the bones only and i could post more on the other areas if desired.


Most styles of martial arts do not subscribe to the practice that we in Uechi ryu call body pounding or conditioning. Conditioning in this sense is not cardiovascular. It is not a direct practice of most arts so when we speak of conditioning it is most often misunderstood.
Conditioning is a hammering or pounding of certain body parts to create a specific and desired result. This can be done with two people making contact with limbs or solo with the help of wooden mallets or some other instrument designed for this specific use.

I trained in my first martial art system for 10 years and like many other arts this system did not know about body conditioning. We were taught that being hit was a big deal and physiologically because of the avoidance of hard contact we feared it. I was mentally programmed to believe that if I got hit it was possibly the end of the fight and on the other side my hits would incapacitate my opponent.
All of this changed when I found Uechi ryu. My teacher was a big advocate of conditioning. In fact he is known through out the Uechi community for his conditioning and “army tank” like presence. Yet he is only 5’9 and out on the street you would never guess.
On my first class we did arm pounding and I was pared up with a women green belt. She had been training for 6 months. I was in shock at how this women only training for a short time could make me really try very hard to not lose face and want to quit. Like I said I had walked on the floor like a 10 year veteran. I was humbled.

What I have found is that like most things concerning the body it takes about 6 months before you start to see progress. This is true for weight loss as well as body building.
From my own experience I can attest to the fact that I trained for 10 years without conditioning and then 10 years with constant conditioning and there is a very beneficial and substantial result from this practice. I have seen its results in the extreme in my teacher but also in my classmates, in my students and mostly in myself. It is a track able, predictable and almost measurable progression in everyone I have personally trained with.
The key is, understanding the science of it, how to condition correctly and how to progress without injury.

In conditioning we are not trying to build calluses on the skin. We are trying to make the body stronger from the inside out.

The bone structure (taken from a medical reference book)\

….calcified tissue forms thin plates called trabeculae. The trabeculae are laid down in response to stresses placed on the bone. The trabeculae undergo self-regulated modeling that not only maintains the shaft and other portions or the bone but also maintains a joint shape that is capable of distributing the load optimally. The loading history of the trebeculae, including loading from multiple directions influences the distribution of bone density and trebeculae orientation. Increases in bone density in some areas as well as decreases in other areas occur in response to the loads placed on the bone…….
Bone has the capacity for remodeling, which occurs normally throughout life, as it responds to external forces (or loads), such as the pull of tendons and the weight of the body during functional activities.

What does this mean? The bone will respond to mechanical and shear stress. As the bone senses a week part of the structure it will send cells to this area to help build and reinforce the stressed area adding density and mass.
We take advantage of this bone building process by putting stresses on the bone during conditioning. The bone in return makes the contact area and any other parts the body feels are week and make them thicker, denser and stronger with the ability to cope with these impact stresses.

One of our schools students was a surgeon at UMASS medical center. Out of curiosity he took my teacher in for an MRI on his arms to see if we could see anything different with his arms compared to the average person. What the MRI showed was there was about ¼ inch layering of extra callus tissue on the surface of the bone which I believe is the outer layer of cortical bone.
30 + years of constant very heavy conditioning had done its job and thickened the bone.

Deflection is the amount of “bend” a hard surface has under force. Bone has a very small defection number and if this number is pushed to its limit the bone will fracture, go beyond this point and the bone will snap in half. Doing conditioning increases the amount of force a bone can withstand before it reaches its max deflection point and fractures or breaks.
This allows the individual to withstand strikes like a round kick to the thigh, that would on a normal person snap the bone in two. Because the bone was conditioned no damage was done.
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Postby Sue G » Sat May 16, 2009 11:23 pm

Thanks Hoshin - this has interesting and important implications for women, bone density is a huge health issue later in life. I've always hoped that the regular impacting that even "normal" karate gives my long bones would build density and help to ward off osteoporosis in old age. Maybe conditioning can help even more - anyone have any other thoughts/information?

Good for the body and so much fun haha :lol:
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Postby Bill Glasheen » Sat May 16, 2009 11:45 pm

It's true, Sue.

Bone is a piezoelectric substance. To an engineer, that means that it will generate a current when force is put on it. Furthermore, your osteoblasts (bone cells that build things up) will deposit calcium along the lines of force. To make a long story short, you need to stress your bones to keep them from shattering when you need them.

One of the highest ranking women in Uechi karate shattered her arm when going up for her shodan. Oops... :oops: Yes, that's what can happen when you don't properly condition your body in myriad ways. Kata are fine for getting you started, but it isn't enough. You need conditioning (weight training, kotekitae, ashikitae, jar training, etc.) to sculpt the body (bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments) into the weapon it needs to be in order to use it.

It is NOT about developing callouses, or about deadening nerves. I love to show people my hands. They always have been fine-boned, and my skin has always been softer and smoother than most women I've gone out with. And yet I can get up on the kuckles of my shoken, hiraken, and boshiken - one handed. And I NEED to be able to do that if I expect to use those weapons.

Fist? No big deal. :sleeping:

I also like to remind people that I did open heart surgery for 4 years (30 publications). Obviously I wasn't "deadening nerves" in my forearms and hands. Oh, and I teach my son piano.

This didn't happen over night. In fact when I first started Uechi, I had resigned myself to not ever being able to do most of these "pointy" things in the system. Many years of gentle, steady conditioning and a few paradigm shifts later, my body now "gets" it. MANY years. Not a few days, months, or even one or two years.

Mind you, I'm no Nakahodo. I need a few more years of practice. ;)

There's another issue here, and it was alluded to above. Years ago when I taught large classes of men and women, I noted something interesting. In the first semester of training, I started off with slightly more females than males. That ratio stayed the same through the end of the first semester, with the women on average scoring ever so slightly better on the first test.

And then came the partner work. And then those whose bodies weren't quite ready to take on the normal wear and tear of everyday marital activity - person with person - started dropping out like flies.

The more time I spent doing conditioning in the first semester, the fewer people dropped out when starting the partner work. And you don't really know squat in this business until you press flesh with another human (or two or three or more).

It's really no different than American football. Weight training off season is fine. But you don't dare throw someone out on the field until they've had the contact work. The body needs to learn how to deal with force. That can happen by redirection, getting off the line, or creating an elastic collision. But one way or another, you can't just take it and accumulate damage. You need to become friends with force.

There is a right dose and a right pace for this. Do it right - with proper diet and rest outside of class - and it is a HEALTHY activity. You start by leaving the ego at home. From that point forward, you have faith in an evidence-based process, and hopefully a few good teachers along the way.

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Postby jorvik » Sun May 17, 2009 11:58 am

I'd just like to clarify something that I said about training with Poor Bob.
When I said punches I should have really said strikes :oops: this is one area that having Bob is really good. In Wing Chun it isn't just chain punching, that's meerly showing you the area, but palm strikes are widely used as well, both with the fingers pointing up and also to the side and you can cup the chin area when you thinking about it I may just get a Maki to develop my palms a bit more, although to be honest I doubt that the palm needs hardening, I mean it may be an effort to do pushups on your knuckes but the palms are the natural choice, one guy I met could tense his palm and it grew 8O and looked like a really effective weapon
Check this clip out
and here is somebody using a poor bob

...........I think the important thing though is to train for the things that you are most likely to use, rather than just do things willy me conditioning as in pounding the arms etc comes pretty far down the scale of training needs,
I constantly reappraise what I do and the reason that I do it. I am not in an occupation or live in an area where I am likely to be fighting anytime I tend to think back to the fights that I had in my younger years and in none of them did I ever need to be conditioned and similarly I used to punch then, but I never broke or damaged my hand not even once
So I would question which area you are more likely to hit with and then train accordingly.if you are going to use palms then train them if you are going to use your arms, or your shins as weapons well train them.but if you are not going to use them then conditioning them is just a plain waste of time :wink:
Another thing that some folks use is Jow, this is a Chinese ointment to relieve soreness.....I use Tiger balm :D .but my friend is going to give me some of the real stuff.he is the guy I did the arm pounding with, and he can use his arms like I guess he needs the conditioning for that


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