Makiwara has more than one challenge. Thanks to it, not only the strength and accuracy of the blow is developed, but also the striking surfaces of the hands and feet of the holding person are hardened. With systematic training on makiwara, such a degree of skill is achieved that the athlete manages to break, for example, boards or tiles.
Makiwara is a self-made device that is called in Japan a “san”. The makiwara has a wooden plank of about 30 cm by 15 cm by 5 cm, and is screwed to the ground. It is more usually set up by a coach. The length of the plank is a good indicator of the “waza” (technique) which the athlete will work on.
Often, the basic technique may only be two or three moves long. Makiwara are popular with the Japanese, as well as for sparring and practice by children and amateur coaches.
The key to learning and mastering a technique is its effect on the body and senses of the fighter. It has a direct relationship to the force of the blow. The force of the blow varies according to the size, strength and distance of the target.
A powerful blow is likely to be of a big size, and will cause the opponent to fall to the ground. The heavier the blow, the higher the kick will travel. However, the lightest blow will be of a short duration, and will thus be affected by the speed of the opponent’s reaction.
The opponent’s body will react to the strength of the blow, and the speed of the blow will affect the force of the blow. Therefore, a good technique involves both the force and the speed of the blow. The makiwara allows the athlete to work on both of these factors.
A skilled opponent is trained to move quickly in relation to a heavier force. In addition, the opponent must be able to stop quickly with quick reflexes. All the movements in a makiwara exercise the fighter’s ability to control their body and their senses. Such training is called “uchi mata”, the exercise of the senses.
An athlete trains to master the timing of their technique, the strength of their physical performance, and the instincts of their body, together with their reflexes.
Estimating how long it takes the practitioner to go from “caught” to “free” is made more difficult by the speed with which the body moves in the environment. But it is not essential for the student to learn all of the basic techniques before beginning to learn the techniques they will use in a match.
After several weeks of training on the makiwara, it is now possible to begin to recognise and judge the “quality” of a technique.
The pupil’s sense of timing and space is developed on the makiwara, and he quickly gets a feel for the pattern of different movements, of blocks and strikes. This is the main reason why makiwara is used for the initial period of training, and is not then used again in a training period.
Makiwara training must be carefully supervised by a competent instructor who knows how to assess a student’s performance and deal with mistakes. The instructor must control the way in which the pupils attack, so that the combination of speed and technique is always at its best.
It is also essential that there is sufficient time for a pupil to work out the details of a technique. However, the makiwara is never used in a training session unless the teacher has agreed to allow it. In this way, the student’s technique is developed.
It is customary for a student to complete several hundred repetitions of the basic techniques each day. It is also important to build up the strength of the student’s body. The student’s instructor may place weights on the legs and hands of the student when he is tired.
Teachers of the basic techniques of aikido may vary in their level of ability. In the case of private or individual instruction, the teacher has to consider the different levels of ability of the student.
It is essential that the teacher can demonstrate how a technique should be taught, and how the student should use the technique to defend himself against an attack. If the instructor cannot demonstrate and demonstrate well enough to ensure that the student can understand the “rules of engagement”, the teacher should not be allowed to teach.
The success of aikido at the highest level of competition lies in the ability to control the speed, the force and the distance of the technique.