Makiwara Exercises for Skills and Variety

The makiwara, or machiwara in Uchinaguchi (lit. “Okinawa mouth,” the native language of Okinawa), is a popularly referenced, albeit often misunderstood, traditional karate training tool. It has fallen out of favor with many karateka, either because they feel it is antiquated and less-useful than modern equipment, or simply because it is uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes boring to work with. As […]

motobu makiwara ipponken


Is Karate a Grappling Art?

Lately, my friends over at Karate Culture have been posting videos, like the one above, that connect kata to techniques found in mixed martial arts, and various grappling arts–something I have also done, although on a smaller scale. This has brought with it some argument as to the nature of karate. As with most such arguments, this one is not […]

Using the Elbow Defensively

When people think of elbows in martial arts, they usually think of them being used as strikes, or being the target of joint locks. Those are certainly the two most common uses for the elbows, apart from their natural uses as a component of moving the arm. Personally, I love elbow strikes and joint locks, but I also use elbows […]

figure 8 elbow grayscale


Turning a Punch into an Elbow Strike

Motobu Choki (left) and Kano Jigoro (right) Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, once met with Motobu Choki to discuss martial arts. We don’t know a great deal about that conversation, except what Motobu told to his students. According to Motobu, they talked about many things, but “…about karate, he [Kano] asked me what I would do if my punch […]

Naihanchi Shodan Oyo Bunkai – Haishu-Uchi

Motobu Choki (right) teaching women’s self defense I recently wrote about the importance (or lack thereof) of hand formations in kata and, in that article, I specifically mentioned the use of haishu (backhand) versus haito (ridgehand) in Naihanchi Shodan. Now, for the sake of clarity, I wanted to illustrate the points I made in that article a little bit more […]



Hand Formation in Kata

Ryuuken (Dragon Fist), or Nakadaka-Ipponken (Convex Single Point Fist) Most kata use the closed fist more than any other hand formation, but even those kata will typically use at least one other hand formation, at some point. When you change hand formation in kata, the kata is usually telling you that you are striking in a certain way, or to […]

Landing the Spinning Backfist

Ota Eihachi Sensei demonstrating Pinan Sandan The spinning backfist, or hammerfist, can be used in both self defense situations and sport fighting, if it’s used correctly. These are usually seen in kata as hammerfists (which I actually prefer to the backfist), and the kata tells you precisely when to use them in self defense. This brief article is going to […]



Is it Worth the Time and Effort? 4

Kiyohide Shinjo Sensei breaking two 1″ boards with a small surface strike Martial artists–usually of the competition-driven variety–often like to point out that certain techniques don’t work, are impractical, or simply too difficult to make work. There are certainly bad techniques out there, that simply do not work in reality, but I will often see perfectly sound techniques being lumped […]