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Should the hardening of Karateka be part of the training?


Hardening of Karateka: Brick CaseThe hardening of Karateka:

The hardening of Karateka is it necessarily useful for combat effectiveness? How to make hardening without risking serious injury? You've probably seen a broken brick demonstration or even a tougher surface. The monks of Shaolin Temple are famous for their astonishing performances that seem to push back every time the limits of the human body. Beyond the impressive and spectacular aspect that can take this kind of demonstration, there is above all a purely martial utility in the hardening which requires a specific training.

Many martial arts incorporate in their method the work of reinforcement on the zones of strikes, that it is about Muay-thai, Karate, Kung-Fu or even Taekwondo. The case is even a component of the competition in Kyokushinkai Karate: if the judges decree a draw at the end of the 2 rounds, the fighters are decided by a scrap break on ice bread. Let's not lose in mind thatOriginally, the hardening of the body was an integral part of the Shotokan Karate, but it was gradually abandoned after its sports boom and competitive. There are pictures of Gichin Funakoshi training on a makiwara (These small pillars surrounded by rope and intended to strengthen the kentos or even the toes).

It is important to understand what is hardening and what is really meant by hardening. What is the physical phenomenon that characterizes it? Is it only an absence of sensitivity and pain? In addition, one must also question the utility and the reason for such a test of the body. Why harden? What use? Indeed, the risks are not unknown and injuries can leave long-term sequels. Finally, is there an adequate reinforcement method to avoid the risk of injury? How to harden? These different questions will allow us to have a general overview on this important subject that is hardening in the martial arts.

Let's say it from the beginning: hardening does not turn the human body into an indestructible machine, it's not about getting resistance to all shocks. However, it turns out that this method, which may seem a bit brutal and traumatic for the human body, is bearing fruit and still allowsto be more "solid" or at leastbe able to withstand more violent impacts, without hurting yourself or feeling the pain. So what happens when you impose your body on a hardening session?

First of all, it is necessary to distinguish absence of pain and hardening. Although bone hardening is usually followed by an absence (partial or complete) of pain, the fact of not suffering does not imply a better resistance of the body.

Moreover, this represents a danger that it is advisable to avoid if one does not wish to seriously injure oneself.

Then you have to know to differentiate the hardening of the bones and that of the muscles.

Indeed, when one reinforces his kentos, the exposed part is essentially composed of bone and cartilage and not of muscles. On the other hand, when one carries out a session of hardening of the thighs, in karate with a partner for example, the proven area consists of muscles first. What is the difference between these two areas of hardening?

When you use your kentos or your shins, it's the os who will have to ensure the strengthening process. This process consists of the creation of microcracks : the bone so put to the test will get the calcium necessary in the blood in order to repair yourself and the quality of their reinforce. Little by little, this phenomenon will increase and make it harder, stronger and more compact. From the moment the bone part is stressed or feels weak, the body machine will implement the necessary means to remedy this problem: it is therefore a question of body adaptation, An evolution to be at the height of the phenomena of which it is victim.

This is a purely physical phenomenon that can be observed in many situations: by dint of training in the cross-country running, the body develops better abilities (muscular, respiratory ...) so as not to feel any more suffering or difficulties. This strengthening is accompanied by a gradual disappearance of the pain: the nerves become less sensitive and a conditioning effect is observed; little by little, the brain will no longer process the alert message. In addition, a thick layer of dry and hard skin appears on the area subjected to treatments: the horn. This will provide additional protection.



Hardening muscles also consists of this phenomenon of conditioning to pain. However, it is the muscles that will have to draw more blood to repair the micro lesions created by the impacts. Gradually, the traumatized muscle becomes denser and becomes harder, more toned. The fibers become more resistant. However, a muscle will always be less hard than a bone: it will serve more to cash a shot, to absorb an impact, while the bone part will be for attacks, percussion.

There is also a spectacular phenomenon: the use of qi (or vital energy) to harden a specific area and make it very resistant. This technique requires a great mastery of the internal force and requires a lot of learning time. Being able to control his qi requires a rigorous and precise training. This does not fall into the category of hardening per se, but provides a glimpse of an effective method for reinforcing an area on an ad hoc basis.

All this leads us to a question: why harden? What purpose ?

Indeed, for what purpose is this extreme training for the body? As we pointed out previously, it is the bone parts that will generally be used for offensive impacts. The martial arts are in a perpetual search for combat effectiveness and manage to use every member of the human body as a potential weapon. Without an outside weapon, the practitioner makes his body a natural weapon that must be able to withstand a violent impact. It is obvious that the hardening keeps a not insignificant utility in the real combat.

Even in a rules-based competition characterized by the use of protections, it is better to have experienced violence beforehand so as not to be too surprised the first time. Indeed, a mawashi geri well dosed may discourage an opponent from continuing the fight longer. Hardening is therefore inherent to the art of combateven within martial arts such as Judo or Jujitsu who put less emphasis on percussion and more on seizures. Here too it is necessary to harden the areas that are often crushed, compressed by the weight of the opponent.

Moreover, beyond the purely martial aspect (direct efficiency), we can add that the work of hardening is a good mental exercise.

Indeed, the conditioning work not only allows no longer feel the pain, But also control his natural reflexes. This is how one can be able, by force of training, to keep calm in the presence of an attack and to be more lucid. If the brain considers that a blow is too dangerous for him, he will order the body to recoil constantly, but he can also learn to have an adequate and effective reaction: a blockage of the forearm (ude-uke), for example, which implies contact and training.

Similarly for the attack: the fighter will be less afraid to hurt himself by hitting and can perform a flexible and natural movement, unhindered, if he trusts his fist. Hardening thus makes it possible to break the psychological barrier and to obtain a better knowledge of one's body, its reactions, its limits. The scrapping training is not only intended to impress the gallery, it allows to work the concentration to overcome the blockages that the brain has thought good to erect to protect itself (and it is not wrong in the beginning). This type of realization requires a lot of concentration, since it does not consist only in a determined and confident act, but also requires a precision essential to not hurt (angle, distance, coordination of the body ...).

The case test (tameshiwari) thus presents a much deeper use than the exposure to the general public of its capacities: it allows first of all to realize its capacities. It is a physical and mental hardening.

Hardening seems to be an essential element in the progression of the martial arts practitioner. Essential, but not essential ...



Although this practice seems to have many benefits, it is important to remember the risks associated with such training. First, not all martial arts incorporate reinforcement into their method. Many internal styles such as Tai-chi or Qi-gong refuse to subject the body to as much violence and yet remain formidable (there are still many Qi-gong schools that develop hardening techniques like for example, Tu Jin Sheng master's style).

Repeated blows can damage the joints, which reverberate over time. Thus, there is more eventuality that a practitioner who has undergone this kind of training is subject toOsteoarthritis. The famous master Mas Oyama, founder of karate Kyokushinkai, was known for his impressive demonstrations of breakage (including on bull horns). Nevertheless, according to his own children, he suffered in the joints. Hardening is not breaking all the bones and self-destructing. In addition, this can significantly deteriorate the sensitivity of the worked limbs. This can be dangerous for the fingers, for example. Unbridled hardening of fingers to improve the efficiency of shots in peaks (ippon-nukite) removes all sensitivity, which is very disadvantageous, because the fingers are used to perform many manipulations, many taken, many movements. It is inadvisable for a physiotherapist or an acupuncturist to lose any sensitivity if he wishes to practice his profession. In addition, the risk of injury lurks anyone who is hardened, even with experience, it is a delicate operation that should not be done lightly. Hardening can also lead to stiffening of the body, which is not the goal: you have to keep a certain flexibility of the joints. Otherwise the risk of injury is much more common. "The reed bends, but does not break," this proverb must remain in the mind of one who decides to strengthen himself. The risks related to hardening are very real, that's why it is necessary to know how to train properly.

Hardening of the forearms

Hardening is not self-destructing ... All the quality of hardening lies in a adapted and adequate training. When a person starts, his bones are not accustomed to shocks and have not developed the necessary resistance. Starting violently and suddenly will only weaken your body: you will get the opposite effect of what you want and you will have to wait while the injury is healed to continue the training. The goal is to create micro-fractures and not to inflict a pain triggered by a broken bone. It is therefore imperative to start gradually, gradually and to move forward with patience. We do not harden our bones or muscles overnight, it's a slow and long process. It takes about three years to get real results. It is therefore necessary to start the reinforcement with softness (and not pain!) And not to focus only on it. The hardening occurs naturally and without this being the primary objective: when you work with a partner on attack / blocking techniques, the contact with the arms and legs will familiarize your bones and muscles with shocks. Regular training without being intensive is the key to progress without injury. It is necessary to start by training on surfaces rather soft and able to absorb your blows. If you start by hitting a steel bar, you will only feel pain and you will not be able to train properly. The makiwara is very practical and easy to design. It can exist in the form of a padded cushion that can be placed on a table or hang vertically, or in the most common form that is a board with a thick rope. This support is very practical, because it allows not only to harden (by giving controlled shots), but also to work technical movements like on tsuki and others. Perform pumps on fists or fingers also helps to strengthen, while muscling. The punching bag also remains a very practical support: it allows to practice to give different kicks and punches while hardening. You can also work from blocking techniques with a partnerit is a fun method that pays off. All these methods have the advantage of working technique and physics (hitting on a bag requires endurance, flexibility and strength) at the same time as strengthening. It is a way to progress quickly without tiring. Do not look for the feeling of pain, try to work a technique. Moreover, it is imperative to knowing how to correctly move before you want to harden: a badly done blow can cause an injury (wrist sprain, for example). However, this is still a good way to know if the technique is correct, because you put it to the test on a hard and concrete surface (working in a vacuum does not always make you aware of mistakes). In any case, it is important to start gently and gradually, even on these media. There are many other hardening techniques. Okinawa Karate (Goju-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu ...) offers multiple exercises and its method remains a reference in the martial world. Sensei Seiko Toyama (10st Dan de Uechi-Ryu) argues that "curing well dosed, progressive and under supervision is not dangerous".

It should also be noted that traditionally, a hardening session was followed by treatment to accelerate the healing of trauma and recreate the fibers. In massaging a solicited area or applying herbal cataplasmsit was possible to limit the risk of injury.

To conclude, it is important to remember that hardening must be done in good conditions and in a very gentle way. You have to be cautious because it can leave you with sequelae or cause pain in the long term. Admittedly, martial utility is recognized: the human body is a weapon. However, as we have seen, strengthening is far from essential. It is necessary to be able to experience the contact and the impacts in order to work in real conditions, but it is not necessary at all to start in a training only dedicated to hardening. The formula of working the technique by including reinforcement is still a good method and it is also what one works most often without realizing that it is a hardening.

And you ? Have you incorporated hardening into your workouts? Do you do specific exercises? Of the break?
Leave me a comment below to tell us about your experience on hardening! Thank you

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  1. Hi friends,
    I discovered boxing and practice Brazilian jiu jitsu. For my strengthening of the fists, I do the pumps on the fists which allows me in the long term to be able to hit on the walls (not 100% obviously, one will say 30 even 40% of the force max) and now on tubes of steels.
    I do not strengthen my shins, at least not yet, because not practicing sport requiring their use.
    For the bricks, I do not think one day to try to break, my goal is more to have a minimum of reinforcement in terms of fists for self-defense. In case of a fall, use jiujitsu to finish.
    Good day the artists


  2. Hello Bruno San

    I totally agree with you and the people who are against are those who do not practice this often. I have 60 and after a year of progressive kotekitae, there are 20 years, I feel only a slight gene, very bearable, tiny in the blocking of people who do double.
    In fact, it's odd if I hit this part, on a stair bar, I control the pain, it stays in the area.
    For the makiwara the problem is that in municipal gymnasiums there are none (makiwara) and I do not see the youth ministry and sport promoting this practice. Maybe if many practice this the FD will admit it, which explains the saying "hit and we will open you"

    We only "come back" from my own
    The problem is that we are victims of a history a little maso. Indeed, Master Funakoshi hits a makiwara while standing almost on GETAS (high-heeled wooden socks).
    So weak support and search for moment of contration after the phase of relaxation, speed, whip, in my opinion.
    His son on sandals very flat body very low to push from the ground, smash.

    Two aspects of karate, which seem to come from 2 Chinese styles, long shaolin in strength based on muscular, whitish crane based on speed and bone biomechanics.
    MAtre Funakoshi speaks himself about 2 merged styles.

    I made a diagram and a free book from Wikipedia:

    After the ensuing turbulent period, some who were training as kamikazes, the mentality was not to "take care of his body", "drink volvic", develop harmonious buttocks abs on a music of Shakira, etc ... "
    After the war, people trained very hard on the makiwara, scurrying well to make manly saying "ouss" all 5 minutes in a deep and hoarse voice. Normal, There were no women in the clubs which made the locker room a little sad.
    Perhaps a passionate sensei of osteo-articular rupture exhibiting damaged phalanges wrote that it is very bad for the joints.
    Later, I took an Oikanawaian class and he practiced makiwara by hitting a wooden board with just a layer of leather, then smeared himself before a mysterious brown liquid in the toilet, discreetly, but that made some spots are ..
    A makiwara like on the first video:
    Another time, at a taekwono class, a teacher who goes to Korea very often and practices a TKD, less focused competition, explained that before breaks, the participants hit the surface of shock moderately on parquet for example. It's rather tapping than banging, but I do not know enough.
    Personally I do pumps on the fingers and on the kentos on a hard surface. The advantage of the pumps on the kentos is to memorize the position of the wrist. If you look in profile some punches it will surprise me that it can hit in a bag. The top of the hand should be lowered so that the kentos, the wrist, the arm are aligned. The impression one has of the positions of one's body does not always correspond to objective reality.
    The last point or fist that teaches me is that some Okinawians did not close their fists like us.×550.jpg
    You tell me who's right? close your fist like Funakoshi and ask someone to bend your wrist, it's completely different from the usual closed fist. Make the experience you will be very surprised ......

  3. I would like to know if you know a safe reinforcement technique of the hand for the breakage. I broke recently in shuto and I got hurt.

    I practice kyokushin karate and I am black belt since 2013.
    I find your articles very relevant.


    Harold Tremblay

    • The injury can first come from a poor positioning, even minimal, the hand during impact, or an instinctive slowing down of the strike.
      For reinforcement of the hand: nigirigam (Okinawa vases weighted with sand or stones), strikes (tsuki, uraken shuto tetsui etc ...) on the makiwara (with leather cap), push the makiwara with the fingers or the fist , shishi (Okinawa bodybuilding equipment that strengthens the tendons, and more modern, spring musclets used by mountaineers to strengthen the hand or failing a tennis ball (tighten the ball between his hands, tighten the ball with one hand, try to pierce with the fingers etc ...).
      Good training !

  4. Hoot! I intend to learn karateka very soon. My question may seem stupid. But if I ever decide to get into hardening, do you think I'm going to hurt first?

  5. Hello,
    I am practicing the karate style Uechi Ryu and I was a student of sensei Takemi TAKAYASU for 12 years. Sensei Takayasu actually insisted on the need for a very gradual hardening and adapted to each student, by "controlling oneself".

    Hardening is an integral part of karate if one considers that karate is not just a sport of competition sun dome (= without touching the opponent), but especially a method of self defense.
    In the Uechi Ryu style, it is worked on every training and targets not only the muscles and bones (arms, legs, chest, abdominals, back ...) but also the tendons. However, it is important to say that it is only part of the training.

    The hardening is carried out mainly by: the diligent practice of the Sanchin kata, the work of hardening with partner, the work with the instruments of Okinawa: chishi of different weights, nigiri game, makiwara (board or beam, with a sleeve in leather and not a rope) etc ... (see the DVD Hardening of Okinawa by Sensei Takayasu). The breakage, active or passive (on the body), being only one of the results of this hardening.
    Well-conducted hardening, therefore under the control of a teacher, does not go against flexibility: Sensei Kiyohide SHINJO (who has been in demonstration and internship this year in France) certainly practice spectacular breaks ... for the show .. (this is not essential for him) but is also able, 63 years, to realize the cold gap.

    • I took some lessons with Takemi Sensei (one year), then I changed jobs, etc ... It's an interesting karate oriented self-defense and progressive kotekitae, pumps on the fingers, etc ... It shares many things in common with okinawa karate. I will stop because you have all summarized. The problem is that okinawaian karate court is poorly suited to long and high competition, without speaking open hand percussion, etc ... I think there is a misunderstanding between sport and Okinawan martial arts, our social frameworks there poorly. Maybe it will be UPLOID transaction outside usual frames.

    • 2eme comments. I go to the karate shotokan and I hear that at the martial arts night, they saw Okinawans banging each other and breaking things on the body. People say they will later have problems, they get damaged, etc ... Impossible to dissuade them in the short time of the locker room.

      Paradoxically I think that "normal" karate has demolished more with its non-anatomic positions than okinawa karate.

      I think we should not base our communication on sensational because in the end it dessert the subject.
      What would serve the subject, would be articles showing that Okinaean karate is a polite or family atmosphere, that hardness is a function of the will of the practitioners, It is curious but I find that the spectacular demonstrations completely distort the perception. The need is for the amateur of spectacle and those who play their games ..

  6. Hello Master Bruno,
    Your blog about Karate is really unique and gives me the zeal to progress to practice for life.
    I appreciate your humor and your ability, it's great, in front of your videos, I think myself at the club.
    Frankly, bravo, thanks to you and your videos, I can finally review at home and my teacher is very stunned.
    My goal is to get a black belt one day and I'm looking forward to learning even more
    Thank you for everything you do for us,
    Hermann, 37 years, Brown belt, red devil ..

  7. Hello Bruno.
    I have a makiwara instead of the rope I have a coconut mat. All that you have told us is understandable.
    For the moment I am working on the precision of the gesture and harden the skin. To then knock on a wall and give me a little calcium cure. Thank you for this article.

  8. your subject on hardening is well chosen it is very useful for us to know the content which has been well presented and it would be better to add the illustrations of the simple examples of hardening to allow us to avoid technical errors

    Congratulations and thank you


  9. I started there. I built my makiwara on the model presented by Nodan.
    5 principles are to be respected; you have them on Youtube: Nodan Karate. It is necessary to work in a progressive way, emphasizing the technique and not the power; it will come little by little.

    • Ha ... I came across Nodan too, and it's curious, because it's similar to Okinawa's karate practices (on the links page of the site) and it's convincing. I had an Okinawan sensei for a year and he used makiwara with a piece of leather. He struck with the fists and the tiptoes (moderately). I had knowledge of karate in the 70 years who practiced as certain japanese to explode the joints with the calls that make "destroy". This has been criticized but this is not the traditional work. And finally, I had a kungfu teacher, Alan Lee's student who used ointments, result he had the skin as a taxidermist, dry, dry ... The Okinawaien seinsei also put products.

  10. We often practice hardening especially in order to withstand strikes
    Our teacher was a case specialist but he spares us this to avoid his students the injuries he has suffered

  11. Hello, I think that a training without putting protection makes it possible to harden
    without having to break bricks or planks. , the reinforcement is done by the mind and the habit in combat. Combat which in a first time will be flexible and which will become harder during the training of the fighter
    This is my sole responsibility and I do not in any way hold a truth, but it is my humble opinion.

  12. Christophe Potelle at

    In my old karate club we had broken a fir board during the passage of different thickness grade depending on the color of the belt, I remember having broken 6 centimeters of fir for my brown belt.

  13. When I was 25 years old I had broken tiles, bricks. One day, one of my uncles saw me do it and laughed in a flash ... He was taken a stack of tile higher than mine and broke them without any problem and screwed up my mouth terribly .... Then I had this vision that the bricks or tiles did not give back, Etpuis I stopped right now! My ex-sensei Miura from Italy told me one day come with me and here he gives me a bigger than me stronger and I type his returns. This brick is turning you over, so I laughed again how stupid I was to break bricks. Oss.

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