Don't forget to punch.

Sometimes you just really need to hit something. There are just no two ways around it. No matter how beautiful, complex, fluid, circular, internal, or external your martial art may be, it is hard to develop workable, applicable skills unless you know what striking “stuff” feels like. This may seem self-evident but, for those of us who train alone, it sometimes gets overlooked. Without training partners around us, there are no obvious moving targets to hit. And often we are training alone because we are not near a school and therefore training equipment is also lacking (see video at the end).

Without something or someone to hit, we tend to throw ourselves into the exercises and kata done in the air, in an open area. If we are not careful, our focus can turn exclusively towards one or more of three things: meditation, performance, or overly complex technique. None of these are wrong, and all can serve the goal of self-improvement, but it never hurts to ground yourself in some good, solid basics.

I don’t need to write at length on this subject. Think of this as a reminder not to become too analytical or conceptual with your martial arts training. The next time you train, find some time to tap into your inner beast and just hit something. You can work on correct alignment, or weight shifts, or combinations but don’t be afraid to get sloppy, sweaty, and tired. Adrenalin shoots up tremendously in real-life confrontations and it can tire you out much faster than you would imagine in normal practice. Practicing at that level of exhaustion can be useful.

“But,” you say, “I don’t have anything to hit?” Improvise. Stand the couch up on end; take some pillows and blankets and strap them to a small tree; mount an old tire on the wall. Youtube, as usual, is full of ideas. The video below is both entertaining and a fairly novel approach to making a portable makiwara. I especially like the fact that it works well without having to be permanently mounted to the floor, wall, or ceiling. In the end, whatever you build should not just be for target practice; it needs to take some abuse. And, just like your techniques, should you ever need them, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work.

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