The Poor Man’s Guide to Hojo Undo Equipment

Hojo Undo loosely translates to “supplemental exercises” and requires some very unique, often handmade equipment. However, that doesn’t mean it has to cost a fortune. Here are a few training apparatuses that can be constructed very inexpensively with purchased or scavenged materials, quite literally giving you more bang for your buck.

Chi ishi

Chi ishi are weighted levers, and sometimes called stone mallets. These are used for exercises that strengthen the hands, arms, shoulders, and chest. Rooting exercises and squatting exercises can also be done in conjunction to work the legs. When implementing these exercises, proper breathing is an important consideration. Typically, chi ishi are made of a circular concrete slab (thickness can vary) with a 1-1.5 inch diameter wooden dowel for a handle that extends roughly 24 to 30 inches. Chi ishi purchased online can cost upwards of 60 dollars and weigh anywhere from 5-15 pounds each. Keep the weight in mind if you decide to order online, as that will effect shipping costs.

Now to make these the traditional way will require concrete mix, a small round container (for molding the concrete), a few screws, and the dowel. These supplies, depending on what you may or may not already have, can cost close to 30 dollars from the hardware store. The chi ishi I made cost me a robust 0 dollars since my supplies were things I had lying about.

Materials needed:

(1) - “Antique” closet rod. My home was built in the 50s and the closets had very solid oak rods that measured 1.25 inches in diameter and roughly 48 inches long. They were no longer being used so I repurposed them. Note that you will need to drill pilot holes in one end of each piece of wood for the purpose of mounting the weight.

(2) - Ten pound standard weights purchased from the Walmart sporting goods section several years ago. Again, these were just laying around.

(1) - Old large brass cabinet hinge from leftover from a carpentry project. This took about 5 minutes of work to cut in half and already had predrilled holes for the mounting screws.

(2) - Large 1-inch construction grade mounting screws. I found these in that scrap box that every guy has in his shop. You know the one that catches all the “left over” hard ware from other projects.


The makiwara, or wooden striking post, is a flexible wooden target that provides resistance and is also used for hand conditioning. Generally, it is a hardwood post with a tapered cut to allow it to flex. The striking end is then wrapped with rope, leather, or cloth to prevent breaking the skin of the knuckles (although it does happen). Feel free to experiment with different materials as padding.  This particular build is not the traditional version of the makiwara, but it works just the same.

Materials needed:

(1) - Poplar plank from the hardware store. These can be bought in measurements of 1X6X72 for roughly 3 dollars.

Padding material- traditionally rope, leather, or cloth. In this case, I used a folded magazine. It provides a sturdy surface and enough padding to protect the knuckles. Plus it was in the trash can…….recycle!!

My process was not a scientific one. I simply cut the longest piece to the desired length (roughly 4.5 feet), the next piece slightly shorter, and what was left of the plank is merely for spacing. The cut planks were the then mounted to a stud in the wall of my shop. A carpenter could have made a much more visually pleasing finished product but this is about function. This design also takes up less space and allows me to use it indoors in case of inclement weather. The resistance of the makiwara can also be adjusted by moving the front board up and down slightly with this set up.

Nigiri game

Nigiri game, or gripping jars, are traditionally ceramic with a wide-lipped opening. Most often they are filled with sand or water and can weigh anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds each. A karateka would grab the lip of the opening and perform static holds, stances, or movement drills. The goal being to strengthen the hands, arms, shoulders, and back. Gripping jars are incredibly easy and inexpensive (rummage time!!) to make. For these, any medium sized to large plastic cylindrical container with a lid will do. Bulk condiment containers and protein shake jugs with screw on lids are popular alternatives for the original ceramic design. Shy away from glass if at all possible to avoid breakage in case you drop your jar while exercising. One important consideration is opening or lid size. You want to be able to get a good grip but you also want it to be a challenge. A recycle bin is often a good resource to run down a large jug especially those behind vitamin and supplement stores. Some restaurant chains may be willing to save a large condiment jug for you if you ask politely. As for filling the jug, sand, water, or small stones, will work fine and are all easily accessible. I chose to use sand in my jars which gives me a very hefty challenge at almost 12 pounds.

Other considerations

The intent of this article is to convey a few ideas on ways to quickly and rather cheaply construct your own hojo undo equipment. While these are my favorite, there are other apparatuses you could create as your skill level and training dictates. As with any karate training, be sure you are performing the exercises properly. Form, structure, and breathing are very important aspects of all types of physical activity, but especially in karate. The goal of hojo undo is to push the body to its physical limits to achieve a higher level of conditioning, focus, and strength.  Be safe, be creative, have fun, but most of all…..stay true to your art.

This article was written by Jeremy McLean, an enthusiastic karateka with rankings in both American Karate and Shotokan.  His willingness to be our first guest author at exemplifies the open mindset that karate needs to thrive.