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Cutting Off Calluses

Some Karate students have thick calluses on their knuckles. This may be from punching makiwara, rough punching bags, trees, rocks, or other items. This is nothing new. Karate students have long done this and developed such calluses.

But some instructors required that their students avoid the practice or even sand off the calluses. When Sensei Pat Nakata began training with Choshin Chibana in 1962, he already had thick calluses on this knuckles from Wado-Ryu training. He told me that Chibana Sensei required him to remove them.

Sensei Paul Yamaguchi also told me about two Okinawan immigrants he trained with here in Hawaii in the early 1960s. He said that one of them had thick calluses on his knuckles while living in Okinawan. He had to cut them off before he could immigrate to Hawaii. Otherwise, the immigration inspectors might see them and think that he was a fighter or troublemaker. This could be grounds for denying entry to Hawaii and for return to Okinawa.

I wonder if this is what happened when Choki Motobu arrived in Hawaii in 1927? He was detained at the Immigration Station for one month and returned to Okinawa. After a near riot broke out in Hilo in 1925 after a match between Henry Seishiro Okazaki and a western boxer ("Kid" Morris), Japanese officials were especially cautious.

There are ways to avoid the development of calluses. A makiwara can be covered with leather rather than abrassive rope. A student of Chotoku Kyan told me that Kyan Sensei taught him to wash his hands in salt water after striking the makiwara. As Kyan Sensei lived near the mouth of the Hija River, salt water was nearby.

I am an attorney. In the business context, it would not be presentable for me to have grotesque knuckles. It would also give away the fact that I practice Karate (or some other martial art). It is for this reason that I agree with the saying that knuckles should be hard on the inside (the bones) but the skin on the outside should be natural.


Charles C. Goodin