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Drew Loto
Drew Loto's picture
Striking Pads

How do you implement striking pads and impact training in your various classes?

For most of my time as a traditionalist, my instructors have deemphasized the striking of pads and solid obejects.  Rarely have my instructors insisted that such training is ineffective or not worthwhile--normally they just identify other areas of training as being more important or beneficial and so pad striking is pushed aside and only practiced on occassion. 

During my time abroad, I studied at an MMA gym, where pad striking was approximately 1/3 of what was done in class.  Over the months that I trained in MMA I started to feel as if I were gaining noticeable benefits from spending so much time striking focus mitts.  It improved my striking power and the confidence that I have in my strikes.  It also taught me focus, made my fist tighter, and seemed to improve my wrist strength.  From this experience, I've come to realize that impact training for strikes is very beneficial to the point where I'd want to include it in my karate training regularly (either every session or every other session).  I'd, of course, hope that this training compliments the time I spend practicing kata, bunkai, and kihon. 

My issue is that the most time I spent studying pad striking was with this MMA gym--and I am not an MMA fighter, nor do I want pad striking to feel as if I'm trying to cross train with MMA.  The pad striking practiced in that gym was obviously designed to benefit students in the ring--where as the pad striking I'd want to practice would benefit striking as it is used in self-defense situations--as it is manifest in bunkai.

Has anyone else grappled with a similar dilemma?  How do you impliment pad striking in your training so that it doesn't merely feel like you are training students to box?  How can striking pads as a regular part of training feel more like it aligns with the goals of self-defense oriented karate training?

Thanks for your help everyone!

Quick2Kick's picture

Here is an example from Raskesh Patel 

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi Drew,

coming from a Shukokai background impact training was one of the main training aids, not only to develop power but master the Shukokai's double hip.

The Okinawan and Japenese Masters used and still use the Makiwara and no doubt make use of modern day pads etc. pad training is vital and in my view should be practised each session even if its just for 10 mins.

One does not have to just limit to just punching and kicking, i get my students to explore impact such as Age-Uke, Soto-Uke, Uchi-Uke, Shuto-Uke and Gedan-Barai using the so called blocks as strikes for close quarter combat. we also explore all the other Karate hand techniques and blocks to see how effctive they are when making full impact.

Punching thin air is ok but one must now they have real power behind their techniques otherwise one may come unstuck in a reality situation, also as we cannot hit eachother full contact when training so if one conducts Bunkai drills in their training with a partner, once drilled, try it on the impact pad or focas mitts smiley

The possibilities are endless and this kind of training keeps the passion burningsmiley

Hope this has been of some help

Kind regards,


shoshinkanuk's picture

Some things I do, have done or will do more of in this area-

1. Makiwara- the king tool IMO  2. Heavy bag 3. Small Round Sand Bag- for more specific srikes 4. Focus Mitts 5. Kick Shields 6. The Dojo Wall (be careful with this, no give) 7. Other People- arms, legs, torso conditoning

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Drew Loto wrote:
How do you implement striking pads and impact training in your various classes?

The use of impact equipment is a big part of what we do and we have many drills to develop various attributes. Here are some videos on pad drills that I’ve posted over the years. Some of these are fighting drills, some more self-protection based, others have some cross over between the two. They are far from comprehensive on all we do or all that can be done, but I nevertheless hope they give some food for thought.

All the best,














AllyWhytock's picture


My club is Shotokan based and we use pad work all the time. Over the last two years I've introduced the following into the class and gradings. I'm learning all the time. A mix of focus mitts, shields and punch bag.

1. Waza - basic drills to work on your various tsuki, uchi, uke & keri. Included combinations. Strilking at various levels, angles & gyaku hanmi. If there's a technique either from kihon or from kata then try it. The first time you try a new technique it will feel weak, even though during kata or kihon air striking it will feel strong. The pad gives you immediate feedback. With time your bag technique becomes more powerful and this feeds back into all the other areas of your training.

2. Tabata - As (1) with Interval training (pushing the comfort zone in terms of fitness, striving to maintain power, high impact & continuous effort during the work period).

3. Supine & Kneeling Position - (1) & (2) in those positions.

4. Restricted - (1) & (2) with your back to a wall.

5. Bunkai - I pick various parts of kata and practise drills with a partner (focus pads) or mainly solo against a punch bag.

6. Multiple Opponents - a new one for us. Basically a gauntlet of pad holders and you have to pass through it to reach a safe zone. 

7. Kihon Line Drills - If we're air striking then I'll still go up and down the line with a pad for the student to experience the difference between air and solid.

8. Social Media - I've  made extensive use of Iain's YouTube examples. Plus if you're acquainted with Facebook or Twitter then folks will put up their own examples. I like to try these out and experiment.

9. Junior Ciruits - We've been experimenting with pad work for juniors and employing a ciruit training method. They are enjoying it.

10. Pyramid Punching - Focus mitts. Left & right. Count to 2 & push. Count to 4 & push. Count to 6 & push. Last one is count to 24 & push. Turn around and repeat starting at 2 and working to 24. A great test for the end of a grading. I got this from Jamie Gray (Musashi Karate) who shared it.

What is important is that we feel that padwork is now integral to our training. Most folks are now getting their own kit and setting up in garages, bedrooms or hallways. It's now natural to them.

A great experience. It's been well worth it.



JWT's picture

Great thread!  I really like the drill videos and ideas posted so far.

Padwork plays a core role in my classes and we try to incorporate them into our standard paired drills rather than have impact work as a stand alone element.

Here's a drill we use almost every lesson that I've previously posted here:

John Titchen

Wastelander's picture

We incorporate impact training of some type into our training in just about every class--my sensei feels that it's very important to hit things as part of your training, and I wholeheartedly agree. Usually, it's on bags or kicking shields, though--those of us who are comfortable with it use the makiwara outside of class, and we really don't work with mitts as often as I would like. When we do mittwork, we do a lot of sparring combinations on them, but I have slowly been introducing some more kata-based mittwork drills, some of which are my own and some of which I have picked up from others, including a few of Iain's drills, a variation of the drill Rakesh Patel shows in the first video in this thread, variations of the one JWT was kind enough to share above, and some from Chris Denwood, which can be seen here:

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

In my dojo we practice ''boxing'' type timed rounds, using ''in and out'' footwork. We practice what I call Kata based strikes in the same way, against the clock, but this time you remain close to the pads, no ''in and out''. In these drills we apply all the techniques you might find in your kata.

The other type of Kata based strike drill is a set drill, pretty much along the lines of Chris's drills.These incorporate recieving impact (flinch cover), clearing limbs and delivering a set sequence. Sometimes these follow the kata sequence closely where possible, other drills blend techniques from different parts of a form.

I find Kata based drills an essential element of my approach to Bunkai Oyho.



Katharii's picture

Great stuff! Here are some we've done recently. It's really just raw footage from various classes. They are mainly focused on testing the practitioner psychologically and physically as opposed to technically.












Drew Loto
Drew Loto's picture

I want to thank everyone who has posted in this thread so far.  Watching all of these videos has really helped me to gain an understanding about strategies for incorporating pad work into a pragmatically minded curriculum.  I look forward to bringing quite a few of the above drills to my training group.