Some of the old Okinawan karate masters believe that straw has chemical properties in it to help heal wounds that will invariably happen. Although there is no proof of this, striking a straw makiwara is less brutal and it offers a resistance more similar to hitting a body then does a simple leather pad. Hemp rope is also used as a striking surface. The only problem in using a straw pad or wound hemp rope in the dojang is the problem of passing along blood borne diseases. Nowadays, the straw is usually replaced with a cotton pad and is normally placed on a flexible post.
A common misconception is that the forging post should be stiff. Actually, it should be flexible so that force is transmitted forward when it is struck, and not back into the shoulder, which could result in an injury. Sometimes, instead of placing the pad on a post, it is attached to a spring mechanism mounted directly on a wall. Traditionalists realize the value of using a forging post, while modern practitioners opt for a heavy bag instead. Regardless of what is being hit, having feedback from these devices may be of great value in helping you determine how powerful your punch really is and what it feels like to make contact with something.
There are several types of makiwara, the most common types being the tachi-makiwara (or standing makiwara), and the age-makiwara, which is hung from the ceiling and then kicked. There are two kinds of tachi-makiwara, a post in the ground with a pad at the top that is hit from the front, and a round pole in the ground with the top surface cut at an angle so knife hands may be practiced on this part of the post. Rope straw may also be wrapped around the top foot or so of the post and beaten with a piece of wood to make it smooth. Since the tachi-makiwara with the pad is the most commonly used makiwara and it is easily constructed, it is the one this topic will deal with.