Tempering the body is an important part of strengthening the body. In karate, half of the injuries that occur could be avoided if the person had worked on making their body tougher through training and tempering. The makiwara is an excellent tool for making the hand and foot stronger. All too often an attack is met with the defense of the elbows which can be quite painful to the hand or foot of the untempered karateka. In addition, blocking a kick with forearms that have not been properly tempered will bruise or break easily rendering the limb useless after blocking a strong attack. By tempering the body, injuries that often occur in the normal course of tournament fighting can be avoided or greatly reduced.
The key to body tempering is graduality. Slowly over a period of several months or years, increasing the intensity and repetitions of strikes to a makiwara. Repetition will over time strengthen the bones, muscles, and ligaments. If a partner is available, strengthening the forearms by blocking against one another with strengthen one's defensive ability. Working with a partner also enables one to easily strengthen body areas such as the ribs, thighs, and shins through repeated strikes to those areas.
Over time as the tempering process takes place, the seasoned karateka is able to perform what I call an offensive defense. This means that if a kick is blocked with the tempered forearm, the shin or foot of the attacker is immobilized by the force of their own attack by attacking a surface harder and stronger than their own.
Handling Training Injuries
Injury and pain is a large part of the training in karate. How the karateka deals with these injuries is key to the progress one makes. Over time the karateka becomes intimately knowledgeable of their body and know when an injury needs time and rest to heal or when training can continue without doing additional damage. All too often an injury that should be given time to rest and heal is immediately put back on the same level on training. This often times leads to injuries that can inflict permanent damage on the body. An example of this is a knee injury. Without proper lay off time from hard training, the knee in an injured weakened state can easily sustain a far more damaging injury that can make surgery and a long rehabilitative process the only way to make it better.
By the same token, not training on injuries that do not need the layoff take away valuable training time from the karateka. If this is training time in the days before a competition, the layoff may be crucial in the performance of the competitor. Different tolerance for pain will determine part of this. The other part is the will and strength of spirit of the karateka. Knowing the difference between an injury that requires a layoff and one that does not comes with experience. Typically a strain or sprain will heal on it's own within a week whereas a serious injury may take weeks to several months to fully heal. As the karateka trains and gets injured, they become more and more familiar with their bodies and the degree of injury. Strains and sprains may be very uncomfortable to train with but often times the training is therapeutic and speeds the healing process by increasing circulation to the damaged area. Hard training builds a toughness, which allows the seasoned veteran of karate to work through injuries. This same toughness also allows the karateka to faster rehabilitate him or herself from a serious injury or surgery. Rehabilitation from any injury or surgery is painful and proper physical therapy, whether assisted, or self-directed is crucial to a rapid and full recovery.