Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hojo Undo

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 me.

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 in:
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
Sensei Orlando