The Art of Hojo Undo by Michael Clarke

Hojo UndoDespite modern karate’s obsession with the three K’s of kihon, kata and kumite, the original karate of Okinawa was—the author asserts—based on the four pillars of prepatory exercises, strength training, kata and bunkai.

Anyone who has studied the history of karate will know this assertion is difficult to argue with, or ignore. The use of the makiwara (striking post) by the old masters is well documented, though nowadays it is rarely used, while other Hojo Undo training practises have been all but forgotten in most dojos and styles.

This is a loss, because even in their own writings, the old masters did not attribute their power solely to technique. The recurring themes of these texts such as punching power and grip-strength show the importance placed on strength training in the developers of the art. Modern weight training can go some way towards this, but there are several key exercises and pieces of equipment that develop specific strength for the karateka.

Michael Clarke brings years of personal experience (including training in Okinawa) to bear in this exploration of this little-known subject of Hojo Undo. With clear explanations and good photos and diagrams, he shows how to build and use a wide variety equipment, from the famous makiwara to the lesser known nigiri game (gripping jars), tetsu geta (Iron Sandals) and impact tools such as the tou (bamboo bundle).

The author’s ability and enthusiasm for this forgotten subject shines through. The Art of Hojo Undo is an important text, both as a link to the past and a means for today’s karateka to take his or her power to new heights.