Indoor Makiwara

Introduction: Indoor Makiwara

About: Karate and Kobudo equipment, hojo undo tools, etc.

There are a few wonderful instructables for makiwaras, the striking post used by Okinawan karate practitioners to train their punching strength and technique. However, most of the plans that I've found involve planting the post outside, either buried into the earth or held by a concrete-mounted post bracket. There are several plans for indoor makiwaras, but I couldn't find a fully written out plan for anyone's indoor builds. Hopefully, this project will be able to combine some of the best and simplest ideas for indoor makiwaras into an easily replicable build. Hope you enjoy!

Great resources to check out:

The outdoor makiwara plans that I made.

I used the composite method both for my outside one and the design for the indoor one. This is where I took the bulk of my inspiration.

Moveable indoor makiwara inspiration.

This plan helped me decide on dimensions for the base.

Instructable 1

A great build if you can sink a post into concrete indoors, mine has to be movable though

Instructable 2

The other big inspiration for the base and mounting procedures in this version.

Closet Makiwara (Youtube)

Inspiration for how to weight down the platform.

Goals for the Build

Here are my underlying goals for this build, so that you can modify dimensions/materials to fit your availability while keeping a useful idea of why you're making changes.

  • Able to be used indoors without scratching floors (since my home is wood-floored)
  • Able to be disassembled/folded down for easier storage
  • Board is weighted down by the users weight (I currently weigh ~180lbs)
  • Striking surface can be adjusted to three heights (head, shoulder and sternum)
  • Easy to assemble without many power tools
  • Uses only supplies available at hardware stores and fabric stores (e.g.: Home Depot and Joann's)

Supplies

Base Platform

  • 1 piece of 1/2" sanded plywood, cut to 30"x48"
  • 2 30" cuts of 2x4
  • 2 41" cuts of 2x4
  • 1 41" cut of 1x2
  • 2 10 3/4" cuts of 1x2
  • Several 1 1/2" wood screws, for mounting the plywood to the frame
  • 12 1" corner braces
  • 2 3" mending strips
  • Carpet to mount underneath (optional)
  • Wood glue (optional)

Post and Mount

  • Simpson StrongTie free standing 4x4 post base (or a similar post base)
  • Bolts to mount post base and fix makiwara post into base (I went with 1/2" diameter bolts, 2" to mount and 4" to affix the post)
  • Red Oak (or other hardwood) 1x4s cut to the following lengths: (64", 42", 21", 12", 9") [the smallest boards are spacers, so you can replace them with non hardwoods, or a single 2x4 piece]
  • Wood glue

Striking Pad

  • Closed cell foam (I used EVA foam) cut to 3 1/2" x 9"
  • Leather, pleather, or cloth covering (at least 8 1/2" x 11")
  • Shoelace or leather string for closing the pad and making drawstrings

Step 1: Building the Base

To start off with, let's build the base/platform that you will stand on when you strike the makiwara. This part consists of the main frame, the reinforcements, and the platform.

Main Frame

The main frame will be constructed out of 2x4s, which are the easiest type of wood to get and work with. Try and select 2x4s that are straight and relatively smooth. Avoid wood that looks extremely warped when you look down the length, or that has large sections ripped out from knots. You want the wide edge to have at least one side that is relatively smooth, to avoid damaging your floors. The four lengths you need can be cut from two 8 foot 2x4s, and you can usually ask your hardware store employees to make the cuts for you. I chose to make the cuts on my own with a miter box and hand saw, since I was working with scrap 2x4s laying around the house.

If you choose to make the cuts yourself, make sure to use a miter box, or a power tool such as a table saw that can ensure a relatively vertical cut. You should end up with two 30" lengths and two 41" lengths, which will be your short and long ends respectively.

2x4 lumber is usually actually cut to about 1 1/2" x 3 1/2", so when you place the two short pieces outside of the 41" pieces on their side, the total length should be 48". Since plywood usually comes in 48" x 96" sheets, this means one less cut to worry about messing up.

Lay the 2x4s in a rectangle on the floor or workbench. This shape will be the shape of your base platform. At this point, I recommend marking the 30" boards where the ends of the 41" boards overlap on both sides, since this will help with your drilling. We're going to be connecting each corner with corner braces, which are not particularly strong. I had initially intended to use 4" wood screws to connect the 2x4s, but attempting to drive them overheated my drill and snapped 5 of the 8 screws off inside my 2x4s.

The 1 1/2" corner braces may or may not come with 3/4" #6 wood screws, but if they're not included, purchase at least 16 of these, 4 for each corner. This won't make a particularly strong connection, but these corners aren't load bearing and will be reinforced with the plywood on top, so it's fine. You can also add mending plates on the outside if you're worried about the strength of the connection. Screw in the corner braces on your 41" pieces first, since you can square them with the edges of the cut. In my pictures, you can see that I laid out my cuts on the plywood before connecting them.

Internal Frame

I wanted to reinforce the interior of the platform, so I used 1x2s to reinforce the plywood. You'll need one 41" length and two 10 3/4" lengths, or a 23" and two 19 3/4" lengths if you prefer to reinforce the horizontal direction. My cuts, pictured, are the first set. In terms of connectors, you need 8 corner braces and one 3" mending strip. For wood screws, make sure to use 1/2" #6 screws for screwing into the 1x2s, to prevent them from splitting the board or running into each other. You can use 3/4" screws for the connections to the 2x4s.

The first connection to make is the long piece (41"). Attach 2 corner braces to each side to create a capital "i" shape. Measure the halfway point of your 2x4s and mark them with a pencil. Use this to align your reinforcement piece. You can also place your shorter pieces on either side to center the long piece. The 1x2 should be level with the 2x4s, so it helped me to have the outer frame upside down on top of my plywood while driving these screws.

Next, attach your shorter reinforcement pieces. Attach two corner braces to one side of each shorter piece for a "T" shape, and measure halfway on your 2x4s and your newly installed 1x2 to align these pieces. Attach these pieces to the 2x4s first, and check the alignment of the center-facing ends with each other. They might not perfectly line up, which is fine, and will be fixed by the mending strip.

To connect the shorter reinforcements with the longer reinforcement, place your mending strip across the three pieces, parallel with the shorter ones. Each short piece should have one hole, and the long piece should have two holes over it. Screw the mending strip onto these, paying attention to the alignment as you do so. The pieces should pull slightly closer to each other depending on how you center your screws, but as long as you have a relatively solid connection, it's okay if it's not perfect.

Marking the Post Base Connection

Before attaching the plywood of the platform to the frame, I recommend drilling the bolt hole that will serve as the attachment for the post base. As a bit of explanation, although the post base calls for a 5/8" bolt for connecting to the ground, I chose to go with a 1/2" bolt, since it needed to be 2" long, and 5/8" diameter bolts usually come in larger sizes. I also got washers to prevent the bolt from slipping through.

Align the base with the frame, and trace out an outline of the 2x4s onto the surface of the plywood. We'll be using this to align our base so that we don't accidentally drill through the 2x4s for our bolts. The corner braces of the 1x2s will help us center our post base, and the whole outline will help in the next step to attach the plywood to the frame.

Rest the plywood on top of the frame, and place the post base so that one end is aligned with the outline, centering it by using the outlines of the corner braces. Remove the metal cover that protects the connection of the post base, and trace the outline of the bolt hole on the plywood. Use this outline to find the center of the post base and mark it.

Attach a 1/2" spade bit to your drill, and offset your plywood slightly. Drill a 1/2" diameter hole at your mark, inside of the outline of the bolt hole. Since the spade bit will have a sharp point for centering the hole, you want to be not aligned with the 1x2 that you'll be drilling into, so that you can more accurately mark that hole and ensure a straighter drill.

Recenter your plywood and use the hole that you've just drilled, along with the point of your spade bit, to mark the 1x2 for drilling. Remove the plywood and drill through the 1x2. When you replace the plywood, the two holes should line up. Use a bolt to check this alignment.

Attaching the Plywood

The final step is to attach the plywood to the frame. You can use wood glue to assist, but I recommend using 1 1/4" #6 wood screws, or both screws and glue. When the plywood is aligned, the outline you drew will help you make sure you're screwing into the 2x4s. I used 12 screws for mine: 4 at the corners, 4 around the connections with the reinforcements, and 4 placed halfway between the corners and centers on the long side (48" side).

Congrats, you have a base platform! Consider putting felt pads underneath the corners in order to prevent scuffing. Now onto the post.

Step 2: Building the Post

The post of the makiwara is probably the most important part, since it's this that determines the progressive resistance when you strike the striking surface. I decided to make mine after the composite makiwara plans from Full Potential Martial Arts, adjusting the height slightly since I am around 6'2" tall (74"). The height of the makiwara should be about your chin height, usually about 10" shorter than your standing height. Measure this yourself by holding your arm out at the height you would use for a head punch and using a measuring tape, or by marking the height on a wall. There is a large amount of margin for error, so don't worry about exact heights.

Recommended Makiwara Heights (based on your height)

6'4"+: ~65-66"

6' - 6' 4": 62-64"

5' 8" - 6': ~60"

5'4" - 5'8": ~56"

5' - 5'4": ~52"

Choosing the Lengths

The longest board will determine your makiwara's height, but the next two are essential for the progressive resistance, since they add a springiness to the board that causes it to push back harder as it's deflected further. The lengths of the second and third boards should be about 2/3 and 1/3 the length of the main board. My post is 64" long, so the two other lengths were 42" and 21", rounded down to err on the side of flexibility.

The spacer pieces are less important to measure precisely, since they function mostly to fit the assembly into the post base. I went with 12" and 9" as my two lengths, which should work regardless of your height.

Cutting the Boards

These lengths will be cut out of your 1x4 hardwood boards. Mine are red oak, which I got from Home Depot which sells it by the foot. You can ask your hardware store to cut it for you, or you can cut it yourself. I had my 64" cut made at Home Depot to fit the board into my car, but made the rest myself using a crosscut saw and a miter box. When cutting your boards, make sure to use a miter box or a saw that's designed to make a square cut. The boards will have to lay flat against the post base, so this is important.

The factory cuts (the edges that were cut before you bought the wood) will probably be square, so I recommend using these as much as possible. Table saws and miter saws will also make relatively straight cuts if they're in good condition. It might help to mark which end of your boards is the bottom.

Drilling the Holes

It's possible to drill the holes for bolting the post into the base either before or after gluing the boards together, but since drills often slip over longer holes, I recommend drilling beforehand unless you own a drill press. First, measure 3/4" in from either side of your board to find the center line. Then, line up the center line with the holes in your post base and use a pencil to mark out the holes. You only need to do this on one side, but if you do it on both, you can get a better sense if your holes are straight. Once you've done this for all your boards (including the spacers) it's time to drill the holes.

The Simpson StrongTie takes 1/2" bolts whose centers are 1 1/2" and 3 1/2" from the bottom. Still, I'd recommend marking the centers individually, in case there are small defects.

Once you've marked the centers, it's time to drill. I have an attachment that helps stabilize my drill, but you can do find without it if you have a steady hand. Pre-drill alignment holes at 1/8" if you can, to get as much accuracy as possible, then use a spade bit to drill out your holes. A 1/2" bit is appropriate, but you can always use a 5/8" bit if you want more of a margin for error. Make sure to put a piece of scrap wood underneath your boards so you don't drill through the bench.

You can test the alignment of your holes by inserting your 1/2" bolts through them. They should be slightly loose when you insert 1, and when both bolts are inserted, they should be relatively firm.

Routing Out the Spacer

Your 1x4 boards have an actual thickness of about 3/4", and the 4x4 that your post base was designed for is actually 3 1/2" thick. With three main boards and two spacers, you'll have 3 3/4" worth of wood in your post, which is too thick! If you want to avoid this, you can make your last spacer out of 1/2" plywood, for only a slight trade-off in weather resistance, which shouldn't matter if your makiwara stays inside. However, I made mine with hardwood spacers as well, so I had to remove about 1/4". The best tool for the job is a router, but you can apparently do it with an adjustable circular saw, and you could probably do it with chisels if you're insane.

To start off, mark the outside of the post brace's bracket with a pencil on your smallest spacer. I used my bolts to hold it in place so that it was exactly where it would line up when installed. Once marked, clamp the spacer to your work bench and get your router set up. Alternatively, you can use a router table if you have one. Take away 1/4" from the area marked, erring on taking away outside of the markings. Once you've done this, you can test the fit and take away more as needed. Wear your eye and ear protection.

Gluing the Board

All that's left now is to glue your boards together. This step is technically optional, but without it, the boards can deviate, and will make a sharp thwacking sound when hit that will annoy your housemates, neighbors, HOAs, and everyone else. The gluing process is simple. Use wood glue to attach each board to the one larger than it, squaring off the bottom edges each time. You can insert a bolt through the holes to make sure they line up, but be careful not to glue your bolt in. Once you've applied the glue and aligned the boards, clamp them together in many different places (at least the top end of each board and the bottom of the whole assembly) and leave to dry. If you notice any glue seeping out, you can use a plastic card or metal scraper or anything similar to scrape it off.

The wood glue will take a while to dry, and bonds best under pressure. Leave the board in clamps as long as your glue says it takes to dry. This wait time might be good to take a break, or to assemble the rest of the build. Ideally, wait at least 48 hours to install the board, so that the glue will reach its full strength. However, if you want to install it ASAP, it can be installed as soon as the glue is dry, but try and hold off on striking it until at least the next day.

Installing the Post in the Post Base

Once your glue has set, you can install your post into the post base. Insert the post into the post base and line the holes in the base with those you drilled. I recommend screwing in your 4" long 1/2" diameter bolts to check the fit even more rigorously. When you assemble all the pieces together, you'll have to take the post out of the base to bolt the base to the platform, though.

Step 3: Making the Target(s)

There are several methods for making a makiwara target. The "traditional" method is to use a pad of straw, and the name "makiwara" literally means "wrapped straw". Unless you have a barn on your property, the best way to emulate this is to use hemp rope. My first makiwara used this method, but I felt like it yielded too hard a striking surface, which can result in knuckle bruising that prevents you from training for a while. The Full Potential Martial Arts build included an idea for using a rice filled bag that could be helpful if you're looking for a firmer surface. However, for this build I decided to use another one of the recommendations from that source: closed cell foam.

EVA Foam

I used EVA foam for my target because it is the easiest closed cell foam to acquire (Joann's Fabrics sells it). This is because EVA foam is also sometimes used for cosplay armor, meaning you're more likely to find it in consumer retail stores. I also saw a review from someone who used it for archery targets. Since mainland Japanese martial artists used the makiwara as an archery target (the construction was different, but the target was still straw), I figured that archery target material was suitable for this purpose.

To ensure enough padding, I used about 10mm thickness of EVA foam doubled up to 20mm total, and had it cut to 3 1/2" x 9", to create a 9" tall target for my makiwara. You can cut EVA foam with a boxcutter or x-acto knife, but make sure to mark your cuts with a Sharpie marker first. If you want, you can glue these together, but the container should hold the foam together well. Alternatively, you can use less foam for less padding.

Leather/Pleather Exterior

For mounting purposes, and to make the makiwara look good, I wrapped the foam in leather. You can purchase leather in 8 1/2" by 11" sheets from Joann's Fabrics, and I think other craft stores like Michaels will have some as well. I found that the short side wrapped around my target fairly well, but had to be stretched in the sewing process to cover the whole pad. Since I am not particularly knowledgeable about how to use leather, I won't give recommendations on how to sew it together, but I recommend investing in a leather hole punch if you can, since you'll likely need to pre-punch the holes and awls make rips that can weaken the leather. I used leather string to lace my pad up like a shoe. You can use a shoelace. You can also use leathercraft cement to attach a second piece of leather to the backside of the pad to make it harder for it to slip out.

Adjustment Strings

I wanted to have an adjustment method to switch the height of my makiwara, so I made the pad separate and tied drawstrings through the top and bottom. Punch holes in the leather that hangs over the top of the pad to string the drawstring through. The easiest method will be to use leather string as well, but if you want to use twine, paracord, or shoelaces, those are all options. If you chose twine or paracord, make sure your hole is large enough. Use a spare 1x4 or your post to check that the length is enough.

Modifying the Post to Adjust

If you want to have an adjustable height makiwara, you might find it useful to modify your post to have markings for each height. In the Ryukyu Martial Arts blogspot post that I used as inspiration for the base plate, the author mentioned three heights: head, shoulder and solar plexus. For me, this translated to heights of 63", 57" and 53" on the board. I marked these with a square and used a miter box to saw a small groove into the top of the post, and then used a file to widen and deepen the grooves. I also had to make second grooves that were 10" lower than each, so that both drawstrings had a place to sink. The most important part is to take out V-shaped grooves in the sides of the post.

Additional Targets

You can add targets lower for kicking if you want. Follow the same method, but make the target taller (around 12") of possible.

Step 4: Assembly, Storage, and Use

Once you've made all parts of your makiwara, it's time to connect them.

Putting the Post Base into the Base

Remove the metal cover from the bottom of the post base to expose the bolt hole. Insert your 2" bolt into this hole, then through the hole you drilled in the base, until you can see the threaded end underneath. I recommend using a washer before putting the nut on this, since 1x2s are often made out of fairly weak wood, and your nut may sink in slightly. Tighten this incredibly firmly, then replace the metal covering so that you can insert the post into the base.

Inserting the Post

Insert the post into the post base so that the longest board is facing the area you'll be standing. You'll be bolting this in with two long 1/2" bolts, that have to be at least 4" long. I recommend facing the side where you'll screw the nuts on away from you, which should make it easier to not hit the bolts with your toes during practice. Tighten these as much as possible to keep the board firmly mounted. You may find, as I did, that the base itself moves when you strike the end of the makiwara, due to the leverage your post exerts.

Attaching the Pad

If you marked grooves, simply tie your drawstrings into those grooves. Otherwise, tie your drawstrings very tightly around the post. Try to make sure that both sides line up with the side of the post so that you don't cut your hand on the corner if you miss a strike.

Storage

To store the makiwara, all that is necessary is to un-bolt the post from the base and remove it. You can then store the base on its side, and the post can be laid along it. Alternatively, you can disassemble the post base assembly from the base platform, if you need to make repairs or reinforce where the post base attaches (If you do this, I recommend using a scrap piece of hardwood 1x4.

Use

There are many ways to strike the makiwara. Do not attempt makiwara training without consulting with a coach or sensei. I've embedded a few videos that may help spark ideas, but the easiest way is to simply strike it with the foreknuckles several times. You can also rotate this makiwara to practice knife hand strikes, or hook punches, by loosening the base and turning it to the desired angle.

Happy training!

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