I punch and kick trees as part of my practice. Before you start thinking that I have acquired some strange animosity towards trees (I haven't) let me explain. This part of my practice was something I did before I knew it even had a name. Hojo undo is translated as "supplementary exercises ", these are exercises that are used to condition the body and specific body parts in the training of martial arts. These are used to build functional symmetry in physical strength, stamina, coordination, stances, techniques and velocity. The tools themselves are made from stone, wood, steel, sand or any other material
that can simulate these.
The origin of this training goes back to Okinawa which is the birthplace of
Karate, and subsequently China which influenced the development of the martial
arts in the Ryukyu Island nation. The most common of these tools is the makiwara
which can be seen in most schools (although it is becoming harder to find in
practice halls) and is used as a striking post. Contrary to the belief of many,
it is not for the development of large knuckles, but rather to create powerful
strikes. The large knuckles are just a side effect and only mean that you
have hit something often enough to create calluses.
Why subject myself to this kind of training? I recall a conversation with a
sempai I once had. It was after a particularly brutal sparring session of which
I was the recipient of most of the brutality. I asked him how he was so strong
and more importantly, why? His answer made quite an impression (as did his
fists and kicks). He told me that there were others who were more naturally
talented, faster with better reflexes and techniques. He couldn't control that.
The one thing he could control was his conditioning, he was going to make sure
that he was never out conditioned. To this day I thank Sempai George, because of
this short albeit very painful lesson that he would repeatedly impart to
So in essence, Hojo undo is designed to strip away everything else until you
reach your core. There are no excuses or reasons when you arrive there. It's
just you and the tool (or tree). It shows your level of training or lack thereof
and becomes a reliable mirror into where you are. The tools used are quite
numerous although you would be hard-pressed to find many of them in most martial
arts schools these days. If you are serious about your practice and wish to seek
another level of training to further your conditioning you will gravitate to
some form of them, like I did with the tree.
I seriously consider hojo undo one of the most important parts of training in
any martial art. If you only become proficient at striking air, the day you make
impact you will experience a rude awakening, and quite possibly broken bones. If
you are serious about pursuing hojo undo in your training you should invest
The Art of Hojo Undo by Michael Clarke. It is the only book I have been
able to find that not only discusses this supplementary training but also gives
instructions on how to build the tools.
Dive deeper into your practice and try hojo undo, it brings you face to face
with yourself. We may not want to face ourselves, but on this path we must.
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
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