How to Make a Makiwara

If you’ve ever wondered how to make a makiwara, watch my video below where I take you step by step from beginning to end. This was my 5th time making a makiwara and I have learned each time. Pay attention to the details and you’ll avoid the pitfalls. You’ll be up and punching in no time!

Well, actually it’s going to take you a few hours… and some considerable effort.

However when you’re done you’ll have a traditional makiwara and the satisfaction building it yourself. Enjoy!

Materials required:

  • One 4″ x 4″x 8′ pressure treated piece of lumber (for the post)
  • One 2″ x 4″ x 8′ pressure treated piece of lumber (for the cross braces/supports)
  • Rope or grass cord
  • Straw or similar material for the “cushion”
  • Waterproof sealer or paint
  • Rocks
  • Stones
  • Sand

Equipment needed:

  • Electric skill saw
  • Impact driver / drill
  • Decking screws – 3 inch
  • Paint brush
  • Safety glasses
  • Clamps (to hold the lumber in place while you cut it)
  • A shovel
  • A wheelbarrow is helpful
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Painter’s tape

Skills required:

  • A little DIY knowledge. It’s a fairly simple process but you have to know how to cut a piece of wood and operate power tools.
  • Patience. (You’re going to make mistakes even with my awesome tutorial. Lol.)
  • 3rd grade mathematics.
  • Common sense. =)

Disclaimer! If you cut off your own fingers or do something else to cause yourself injury while attempting to build your own makiwara, it’s going to be much more difficult to use it when you’re done. Please be careful. You are responsible for your own actions. If you’re not comfortable and competent with power tools it’s probably best you purchase one online instead.

And if you have any questions, comments or suggestions I’d love to hear from you. Please use the comments section below and let me know what you think!

As always, stay safe and train hard.

how to build a makiwara

Develop Your Weak Side

How many karate-ka does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one. But he’ll do it 10,000 times with his right hand, then 10,000 times with his left.

(This is the part where you laugh.)

In all seriousness as much as we karate-ka like to think we are equally proficient on both sides of our body, the reality is we’re not.

The fact is most of us are right-side dominant, and not as coordinated as our left-handed brothers, since “lefties” have to adapt to our right-handed world.

Side note: Unless you’re left handed you probably don’t realize how much of a challenge it can be with daily tasks in a right hand world. Think about writing, scissors, tools, measuring cups, etc. For lefties, check out – You’re welcome. =)

Anyhow, let’s get back to the original point.

Typically, by nature we are a one-side dominant species. Approximately 85% of people are right-handed according to Scientific American.

But why?

Well it’s to do with the left brain controlling the right side of the body. The left brain is also what controls speech, and when the written word came to be, it was therefore natural to write with the right side.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

This explains why other primates (who can’t speak or write) don’t tend to favor their right side, yet us wacky humans do.

However one of the requisites of karate is that we train both sides equally. But how many of us seriously do that in every aspect?

ZERO would be a good guess.

Here’s why:

It would be a fair assumption most traditional karate dojo practice either Pinan or Heian kata, wouldn’t you agree?

If we look further at kata it’s apparent they were developed for defense with right side attacks first in mind. Think about the first move in any pinan/heian kata… you turn/move away from a right-handed attacker.

(A savvy reader might argue these right-handed attacks develop a strong left side defense. And I would agree… which is followed by a dominant right hand counter.)

In addition many of the finishing techniques/kiai points are made on the right side of the body. This holds true for almost every kata. This evidence reinforces karate is a right side dominant fighting system. 

Still need more convincing?

Try doing Pinan/Heian Godan as the mirror image of what you regularly practice. You’ll probably get through it, but not smoothly. There are certain techniques that you almost only ever apply with the right side of the body. And when you attempt the lefty version of these you’re bound to feel like a beginner all over.

Consider the kosa dachi/uraken kiai point in Pinan/Heian Godan, or the first move in Bassai Dai for example. How often do you practice these moves on the left side during kihon (basics) or bunkai (application) practice? I’m guessing not very often if at all.

The left photo shows the first kiai point in Pinan Godan. The right picture is a reverse image of the same technique.

With all of this in mind, it becomes apparent why lefties tend to do quite well at karate since they already have the left side dominance as a natural ability. They learn through repetition to be proficient with their right. Often times they can hit just as hard with either side of the body, or perform difficult techniques on either side without much thought.

Makes sense, yes?

And if you’re a right-handed karate-ka, guess what? Your right will almost always be stronger and more coordinated no matter how much you practice both sides equally. It has the natural advantage already. So equal numbers of reps will keep it ahead of your left, less dominant side.

So what’s the solution?

In order to feel more coordinated on your weak side, a simple exercise would be to make a list of movements from kata for which you only practice the right side of the body. Take those movements and incorporate those directly into your kihon (basics) section of class and you’ll see a marked improvement in your students’ skill sets.

For example, from yoi dachi have your students step in (on your count) to kosa dachi and make uraken per the picture above. On the next count have them return to yoi dachi. On the next count they step in with the other side of the body. Repeat.

What other techniques can you think of to practice in this manner?

Post away!



You’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market…

This year to date I’ve enrolled 20 students… roughly 6 per month.

Guess how much I’ve spent on marketing during that time?


I’ve been lazy.

(Actually I’ve been extremely busy with another business. I just have fallen behind in marketing my dojo this year.)

The funny thing is that even though I’ve done nothing in terms of dojo marketing, it’s nice to know that my school is at a point where it just ticks over like clockwork bringing in new students without lifting a finger.

And I am extremely grateful for that.

However it wasn’t always that easy.

You see when I first started I was working my tail off, promoting left and right. I was doing events, posting ads, doing demonstrations, joint ventures, mailings, and doing loads of internal marketing.

I was doing exactly what a mentor of mine says, “You’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market <take a breath> and market and market and market and market and market and market and market and market.”

martial arts marketing

But with so many different people telling you different things on what works and what doesn’t, how do you ever know what’s true?

Here are a list of things I’ve done over the last 12 years in terms of martial arts marketing:

  • Flyers
  • Door hangers
  • Direct Mail
  • Demonstrations
  • Joint Ventures
  • Signs
  • Bring a friend day
  • Karate parties
  • Cold calling door to door
  • Vendor booths
  • Hand out business cards
  • Web site
  • Coupon books
  • Online ads
  • Newspaper articles and ads
  • more

And you know what? Guess how many of those things I do now?


That’s 3 out of 15.

Or 20% of the things on that list.

Funny how the 80/20 rule works.

80% of your students will come from 20% of your marketing!

And I estimate the other 20% takes 80% more effort, more money and more time to acquire.

Seems like a good idea to focus on what works best, right?

But how do you know?


Test it.

What works in my community might not work for you in yours. So test what works and what doesn’t. When you find the things that work best for you, invest your time, energy and marketing budget into the things that bring you best results.

However, before you start marketing drinks for sale in 100° F weather, you might want to consider if it’s hot cocoa or ice-cold lemonade you’re going to sell.

Same holds true for martial arts. You’re not going to have a hugely successful kids program in a 55+ community. (In fact you’re not going to have much of a martial arts program at all in a 55+ community, but you understand my point!)

When I first started teaching here in the US, I didn’t want to teach kids… but because of the location where many adults commute and get home late, getting them into class has always been a challenge. However, getting kids has been easier than shooting fish in a barrel. My dojo demographic is about 20% adults (16 years and up), 80% teens and kids.

Yet back in Australia, friends of mine run dojos where their adult / kid ratio is about 50:50.

It just depends on your market, and how well you position yourself in that market.

“But I just want to teach karate… enough of all this marketing stuff!”

Yep, I hear you. But that’s why your dojo hasn’t grown in 4 years….

Truth is, if you want to grow your school or have a full time club, you’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market <take a breath> and market and market and market and market and market and market and market and market.

Until you get to a point where your dojo is self-sustaining through passive marketing methods.

It took me 3 about years. Then a funny thing happened. I reached a stable 100 student strong base. And now it just seems to take care of itself with minimal effort. My active student count is around 125 right now and it goes up to as high as 140 and drops back down with seasonal changes.

And it’s been like that for the last 9 years.

Could I grow it bigger?

Of course.

Do I want to?

Not particularly. There’s a point where you need more infrastructure and employees… and it takes a lot more effort to take it to the next level. I would rather serve 125 students to the best of my ability and maintain high skill standards, than have an overcrowded dojo with massive classes and poor skills.

But if I did want to grow bigger… can you guess what I’d have to do?

I’d have to market and market and market and market and market and market…