Last autumn, I decided to step up my at-home karate game by making and installing my own makiwara. You can read the post here, but I have to say that I was pretty proud of the accomplishment and I did get SOME use out of it before the winter hit and training outside was no longer optimal. My son Nathan was quite helpful with drilling the holes and installing the bolts that hold the 2×4 wooden planks together, as well as binding the cord and making it stable. Although many makiwaras are floor-mounted, I had no such place to appropriately install one. So Nathan and I dug a 3-foot deep hole at the corner of our backyard and placed the post into the hole, filling it with dirt and yellow clay.
In case you haven’t read the previous post (or any of the others where I’ve used the term makiwara), a makiwara is a hard, stable striking surface that’s usually made of wood. Depending on your style, background and training methods, they usually have a pad or designated striking area. In Okinawa, they usually scoff at the use of padding with preference for striking the bare, wooden surface. If you’ve ever seen photos of an Okinawan karate master’s knuckles, you know why this can be a problem. I built mine so that the top, striking area is wrapped in nylon cord. This allows for a harder striking surface than a punching bag, while preserving some of the bone structure in my hand.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was in the middle of a rather spirited boxing circuit in my garage. It involved a full minute on the punching bag followed by 45 seconds on the makiwara. That was one set. I did this for 30 minutes in total with no breaks in between. Somewhere around the 15-minute mark, I was striking the makiwara and the entire post shifted sideways and the dirt and founding around the bottom collapsed. The next couple of punches basically had the makiwara bouncing up and down as I struck. I had uprooted my homemade striking post. It was now useless.
Because I’m not a big of giving up, I put some thought into how I could repair it and ensure the same thing wouldn’t happen again. Just to be clear, I’m no Hercules. I have no illusions that my strikes are so powerful that nothing can withstand them. But even though water is the softest stuff in the world, single drops will eventually penetrate stone, if continued on a consistent basis. I had to recognize that prolonged use of the makiwara would always result in some level of damage, in the long term. The question was how to prolong its existence.
Nathan and I went to a home improvement store and purchased a bag of “Post Haste” concrete. Basically, this stuff is designed to harden and set within half an hour. Perfect. We followed up with a trip to our local dollar store and bought a plastic, 10-galloon bucket to mix the concrete in. $8 for the concrete and $4 for the bucket. Probably one of my cheapest repair projects. We were good to go. Nathan was excited and was itching to help me repair the makiwara and wanted to be involved in all the steps. Great.
I started by removing the makiwara, which unfortunately came out of the ground far too easily. This spoke to how unstable I had it, in the first place. I then used a shovel to scoop out the excess dirt and yellow clay and set it aside. I followed the instructions on the bag and placed two litres of clean water in my bucket, followed by emptying the contents of the concrete bag into the water. I was surprised that the water came to the surface, displaced by the density of the cement powder. I used an old wooden staff to start mixing the concrete.
It was tougher than I thought and it started getting too dense to move the stick. I had Nathan add a bit of water to help with consistency but when the stick came free and moved, I splashed myself with concrete. All over my left leg and all on and in my sneaker. Bloody marvellous. I would need to hose all of that off before going inside, as I really didn’t want to try running concrete through my washing machine. It gave Nathan a laugh though, who was quick to comment, “Haha, Daddy messed up…” He’s such a GREAT helper!
Now that I had it mixed at least to some level of consistency I felt would work, I had Nathan hold the post wile I poured the cement mixture all around the post into the hole. It was rough going and didn’t pour nicely since it was so thick. I had to scoop it out with a small dowel and pat it down to ensure that it filled all the cracks and crevices within the hole. It also didn’t help that Nathan’s idea of holding the post steady included allowing it to slip at an angle every few moments. Kids…
Once I managed to get the concrete poured properly, the hole was filled almost to the top, which would be topped off with yellow clay at a later time once the concrete cured completely. Within about five minutes, the concrete had set and hardened enough that the post could stand on its own without being held. Despite having made a mess with the water and splashing myself with concrete, I had managed to repair the makiwara and it would only require some quick finishing touches once the concrete finished setting the following day.
As of yesterday, the makiwara seemed to be firmly in place, with the concrete doing its job and holding it strongly. I added the bracing to the rear and replaced the yellow clay over top the concrete. Although I have my eye injections today and didn’t have time to test it out, I can’t wait to reef on this bad boy and see how strong it’s become. At just $12, it was a much cheaper alternative than finding a different means of striking a stable surface. Only time will tell how long the repair, or the makiwara, will last. ☯