Dit Da Jow

I will not claim that it is absolutely necessary to use dit da jow when training. When used as a part of the routines outlined on this site, dit da jow does not play a direct role in the strengthening process. Its purpose is to discourage the development of accumulative, chronic injuries.

Dit da jow is meant to speed the body’s natural healing processes so they can keep pace with the rate of stress applied. I cannot say it is absolutely necessary due to the fact that such herbal treatments are not clinically proven to work at all. Additionally, some people have sufficiently strong bodies so as to not require any aid in recovery time.

Even without dit da jow, a practitioner may develop very strong hands as long as he manages to complete the initial regimen.

Dit da jow translates to ‘iron-hit-wine’ or ‘fall-hit-wine.’ It is the generic name for any alcohol-based, herbal liniment indicated for treatment of injuries resulting from trauma. Particular recipes vary depending on any number of factors, including personal preference, availability of ingredients, the specific injury to be treated, etc.

An ideal training dit da jow works on several levels. It should address both the bones and soft tissues. A balanced formula promotes circulation and treats pain, bruising, swelling, and muscle spasms. Circulation speeds healing and prevents stagnation. This is especially important for the extremities since they have a naturally weaker blood flow than other, more vital areas of the body.

While dit da jow is useful in treating acute injuries after the fact, its most significant application is as a preventive measure throughout the training process. The increased circulation allows the body to heal minor damage as it occurs.

In my personal experience, I find that training with an inadequate dit da jow, or none at all, eventually results in persistent swelling and stiffness of the fingers. There is also a greater callousing and discoloring of the skin. These conditions remain until I either switch to an appropriate dit da jow or cease training entirely.


You must find a dit da jow that works well for you. A certain formula may not produce equal results from person to person. Just as there are individual preferences for over-the-counter medicines, a particular recipe may prove superior, depending on a practitioner’s personal physiology and training habits.

Different herbs and combinations of herbs will produce varying levels of success. It is advisable to experiment with a number of dit da jow formulas in order to find the one most effective for you.

Beyond this, there are several universal indicators for determining the quality of a dit da jow. These have to do with preparation rather than ingredients.

The base wine or liquor should have a very high alcohol content. 80 to 100 proof will suffice, but 120 proof is better. This provides a strong solvent for extracting the essence of the herbs and aids in the penetrating ability of the liniment. Formulas with high alcohol are more flammable, so due care should be taken.

A good dit da jow is often dark in color, indicating high potency, though certain quality formulas contain lighter colored herbs and will never attain a very dark color.

Herbs still present in the bottle proves the recipe has not been overly thinned and such a formula will continue to strengthen until the herbs are completely sapped. It is possible to have a potent dit da jow where the already exhausted herbs have been removed for convenience, but such a jow will not increase in strength.

Dit da jow should not be exposed to light or heat for extended periods, so ones stored in clear bottles are suspect. It should be stored in glass or some other inert container because other materials, such as plastics, may counteract the ingredients.

Also, consider that potency is only beneficial to a degree. There can be such a thing as over medicating, even with an herbal tincture. A jow employed in routine training need not be as strong as one applied to a severe injury. Certain formulas contain toxins and steroidal alkaloids that can be harmful in extreme doses. Exactly what constitutes an extreme dose depends on the particular ingredients.

Dit da jow, by definition, is alcohol based. This is superior to water or oil based ointments for training. Alcohol is excellent for extracting the useful elements of the herbs. It penetrates well and evaporates quickly to prevent dampness in the hands. In addition, alcohol has sterilizing properties to prevent growth of bacteria and mold. An oil-based ointment may have similar healing properties, but its greasy nature makes it inconvenient for training.

A sure method of quality control is to make your own dit da jow by soaking a pre-prepared herbal formula. Quality herb shops should be able to provide such packages upon request. This is a considerably more cost effective choice for extending training.


Ideally, you would actually submerge and soak your hands for ten to fifteen minutes both before and after training. This is impractical since it requires a large quantity of dit da jow. Also, this method may contaminate the unused portion, reducing its efficacy.

The usual method is to apply a small amount of jow to the palm and then rub the hands together (like washing your hands) to ensure thorough coverage. Continue this action until the jow evaporates, at which point, you may opt to repeat the procedure a few more times. Two or three such applications are sufficient for most circumstances. As little as one application may be enough for light training, and several may be needed to cope with significant stress or injury. A very stubborn injury benefits most from an actual soak.

Heating a dit da jow can adversely affect some of the ingredients, so this should be avoided unless the particular formula calls for it. Storing it at a cool temperature is the best when aging a liniment, but it should not be cold when you actually use it. Coldness counteracts the circulation-enhancing properties of the liniment. Training with excessively cold hands is both unpleasant and potentially injurious.

The jow should be allowed to remain on the hands for an hour, or longer, following training. Though some will remain absorbed in the skin, washing the hands shortly after training will reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. Additionally, you may consider applying dit da jow before going to sleep at night. This allows you to leave the liniment to work for many hours more than would be convenient during the day.

Be sure to thoroughly wash the hands before handling any food, since many dit da jow formulas contain toxic ingredients.

Common Injuries

Damage can be loosely categorized as short-term and long-term.

Common short-term damage includes bruises, abrasions, sprains, and any other injuries that heal with no lingering effects beyond superficial scarring. You will inevitably incur some of these injuries in the process of training.

Possible long-term damage includes bone breaks, severe rupturing of connective tissue, and chronic joint stiffness and swelling. These can result both from extended over training or a single injurious event. Bone breaks are especially damaging and, though they mend in a matter of months, long-term effects are likely.

Conditioning for tameshiwari is actually a simple process, but, as with any other physical activity, it must be approached knowledgeable and patiently. Proper training minimizes the chance of negative side effects.

In my opinion, the risks associated with conditioning and tameshiwari are not disproportionate with the risks of martial arts training in general. You must decide, for yourself, whether the risks are acceptable.

Avoiding Injuries

Acute, short-term injury occurs with overly forceful training or premature attempts at breaking. An example would be a bruise incurred immediately after striking a target. These can be avoided with a little common sense and will heal in a short period of time. Only the most serious injuries in this category leave long-term effects. For this reason, they are not the primary concern.

Chronic, long-term, injuries are truly problematic, so special care must be taken to avoid these. Aside from actual bone breaks, chronic conditions are not attributed to a single, ruinous event. They develop over time while the training process is apparently going well. Micro-injuries accumulate over an extended period. This continues until the eventual development of a nagging condition which recurs regularly or is otherwise resistant to healing. An example of this would be a stiff joint that progressively worsens. Once the healing rate of such an injury stagnates or ceases entirely, it qualifies as precisely the type of long term, permanent damage which should be avoided.

Due to the gradual onset of a chronic injury, by the time it is too severe to be easily ignored, it may require a very long time to fully heal. It is tempting to resume conditioning as soon as the injury has recovered to a tolerable state. You must not rush back to training at this point or you will only cause the injury to flare up again. This increases the likelihood that it will become a permanent situation.

You should carefully evaluate your training routine to determine exactly what is proving too stressful. Heed the warnings of the body and do not stubbornly continue to aggravate the injury.

Do not rush your conditioning even if you do not feel negative effects immediately. Take a pause from training at the first sign of such an injury. If it reoccurs when you resume, alter the routine as necessary to reduce stress to the area. Everyone is subtly different, so stressing the body will reveal various weaknesses particular to the individual. Do not be hesitant to make adjustments accordingly.

A final precaution is the use of a dit da jow.

Weighing the Risks

There is little doubt that conditioning the hands can result in both short and long-term damage. All physical training puts a certain amount of stress on the body. We should consider the risks of proper conditioning in this context.

It would be inaccurate and irresponsible to claim that even moderate conditioning eliminates all risk of injury. Any training method capable of producing significant positive results also brings with it the potential for negative side effects. Anyone involved in long-term, strenuous, physical activity is familiar with associated injuries. Like other forms of exercise, injuries from conditioning are most often a result of over-training. When trained over zealously, even things as benign as jumping rope or jogging commonly causes problems such as shin splints.

IMPORTANT- Hand conditioning should not be done by any individuals who may still be growing. As a general rule, this includes anyone under 16 years of age. Some people may have already achieved full size by this age while others may continue to grow for several more years. It is very important to wait until the skeletal system has fully matured before undertaking bone conditioning. The growth points are commonly located at the joints and these points do not fully harden until a certain age. Once they solidify, they do not grow. For this reason, it is extremely unwise to deliberately promote bone hardening and calcification until this process is complete.

Types of Conditioning

There are basically three categories of conditioning: skin, soft tissue, and bone.

Skin Conditioning

Skin conditioning involves the toughening of the skin through desensitizing and callousing. Working directly on rough training materials will eventually cause the skin to thicken, making it more resistant to abrasions, cuts, and shock. This is useful, to a degree, to avoid splitting a knuckle upon impact or to prevent a severe stinging sensation when using a palm slap. Applied specifically to breaking, it reduces the need for a towel or other padding over a target. Extensive skin conditioning will allow you to perform advanced breaks without any sort of towel padding. When applied to an opponent, one who breaks with no towel will not necessarily be able to strike with more force, so its benefit is limited.
Soft Tissue Conditioning

This includes the enhancement of muscle and connective tissues. All soft tissues are strengthened in the process of general impact conditioning. Repeatedly striking an object results in a tightening and thickening of these structures. This can cause a conditioned hand to be very slightly larger.

These structures may also be enhanced through resistance strength training, such as with weights and isometrics. Soft tissues increase the integrity of the body, absorb shock, and help to support the bones. This is especially crucial in strikes that do not rely on direct hard bone contact, such iron palm, knife hand, and hammer fist.
Bone Conditioning

This level of conditioning is more involved because it requires an extended period of time to significantly alter the actual bone structure. This is required for hard contact strikes such as fist strikes and certain forms of knife hand and palm heel. As the bones themselves become stronger, they are less susceptible to being broken.

This type of training may be mostly (physically) internal, with the bones becoming very dense, but not outwardly noticeable. It may also be external, as seen when the knuckles become visibly enlarged.

Such visible enlarging of the knuckles may also result from breaking the bone at the joint region, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Breaking the bone can cause the knuckle to appear very large, but it results in a compromised structure which is not as strong as one which has been gradually conditioned. Also, an actual break of a bone is clearly injurious and brings with it a much greater likelihood of negative consequences.

Effects of Conditioning

Conditioning is a process through which you strengthen a part of your body. This does include the desensitizing of the nerves to dampen the pain response, but the most important result is in the actual reinforcing of the physical structure.

I do not consider the desensitizing aspect to be a priority because pain, alone, can be mentally blocked. Really, with the rush of physical exertion, pain is not a concern.

Pain is a concern in that it is an indication of injury. Injury is something to be avoided. If you are performing breaks, but breaking yourself in the process, you are not keeping in line with the purpose of tameshiwari. Breaking is a method of increasing power and strengthening the body, not weakening it. It should not be a demonstration of masochism. The proper reason for not experiencing pain while conditioning and breaking is not in mentally blocking it out, but in increasing the durability of the body so as to avoid sustaining injury. There is no pain because there is no injury. This is accomplished through a consistent and progressive training process.

The body naturally responds to stress by reinforcing itself. We know that weightlifting results in increased muscle mass and bone density. Conditioning takes advantage of the same mechanism by applying gradual impact stress to an area of the body. This causes the body to respond by increasing the soft tissue strength and bone density.

As with weightlifting, this stress must be applied gradually and consistently. This way, the body has ample opportunity to respond so it will continue to strengthen over an extended period of time. Training all at once, but only once in a while, will result in stressing the body to the point of injury and does not encourage it to build properly.

Secret to Breaking

People sometimes ask me for the secret to breaking. Such questions as, ‘Is it all in your mind?’ or, ‘Have you broken your hand a lot?’ are common. The secret to real breaking is the combination of conditioning and technique. Both are important, but one may pass with inferior technique if the conditioning is excellent. The reverse does not work quite as well.

Dedication is the secret to most skills. You must adhere to correct training principles, but once these are understood, the deciding factor is in the dedication to consistent training. Consistency is the single most important consideration to this method of conditioning.

Focus, skill and technique are all necessary, but the main requirement for advanced breaking is the physical hardening of the anatomical weapons.

Many beginners are very concerned over the consequences of losing focus and failing a break. They fear the resulting injury. This is indicative of over extending your ability. There are always exceptions, but one should be able to strike a target with breaking force and suffer no injury even when the break fails. This is due to conditioning. It also allows one to put forth full effort without fear of injury.

At early stages, new breaks can be intimidating. The anatomical weapons are not yet fully hardened and the practitioners are not yet comfortable judging the limits of their ability. There is the fear of exerting too much force and breaking the hand. This is definitely a possibility. Unfortunately, this is often a cause for hesitation which can, itself, result in injury.

Doubting yourself and holding back leads to problems. A technique executed halfheartedly almost always results in failure, increasing the chance of injury. What is worse, each failure is another discouragement to your confidence and progress. This is very psychologically damaging in the early attempts at breaking. Then again, you should not just blindly swing with all your might and hope that the break is within your capability.

If your strike is more powerful than your hand is able to withstand, a failed attempt will certainly damage you. Breaking a bone will delay your progress for months. The bone may never be as good as new and even if it heals well, you may have to start your training from the beginning. If this happens, have faith in training and take things slower the second time around.

Benefit of Breaking

The practice of tameshiwari is a very effective method of increasing striking power. Without the ability to deliver maximum damage in an attack, much of the usefulness of a striking system is lost. Those who underrate the importance of power find themselves extremely susceptible to being tackled. Imagine yourself firing a gun at a charging attacker, only to realize that the clip is empty. At this point it is too late to rework your game plan. If you have never questioned or tested the effectiveness of your strikes, you probably do not have any backup because you never thought you would need an alternative.

Striking is the first range of combat, so it is a shame to waste it by skipping directly to grappling. It is also more than simply a method of distraction before the fight goes to the ground. In order to finish a fight on the feet, your strikes must be executed with maximum effect. That means you need damaging force. In order to use force without sustaining injury to yourself, you must have conditioning.

Strike to Incapacitate

With powerful striking, you always have ‘a puncher’s chance.’ You are never more than one strike away from victory at any time. I often tell people, ‘don’t hit to hit, hit to break.’ By keeping this in mind, one will generate full force strikes. While sniping skillfully at targets has its benefits, it is extremely useful to also have the option of smashing through an opponent’s defenses even when he thinks he is completely covered.

Another thing you must consider are the distinct differences between causing pain, causing injury, and actually incapacitating an opponent. The three can go hand in hand, but do not always. It is bad strategy to rely solely on the manipulation of pain inducing nerve points. In combat, determination and adrenaline are powerful forces. Pain tolerance is tremendously increased. Likewise, inflicting injury alone may not stop an opponent. One may brush off punches to the body in the heat of combat, only to find later, massive bruising or broken ribs. People can even sustain knife and gunshot wounds without realizing it for several moments.

The ultimate goal in a physical conflict is to incapacitate the opponent. This may or may not bring injury with it. A killing blow will incapacitate and opponent, as will a harmless blood choke. The degree of injury inflicted will vary according to the situation, but incapacitation is the name of the game. Striking is usually the quickest method of accomplishing this, and a knockout strike to the head is a reliable technique.

Mostly everything from the neck up, other than the top of the skull, is very vulnerable. It does not necessarily require a powerful strike to this area for the desired results, and this provides support for those who argue that breaking power is unnecessary. If you have seen many fights though, you probably realize what little effect a strike to the head can actually have. The effectiveness of an already mediocre strike can be tremendously reduced by the movement of an opponent. A very quick, relatively weak strike can seem impressive in a demonstration, but in real application, the other guy is not just standing there like a tackling dummy. If he flinches and moves, the power of the strike will probably be reduced and you may achieve only a glancing blow.

It is amazing what someone can withstand in the heat of combat. If you tap yourself in the head with a knuckle, it already hurts a little. This might lead you to the false conclusion that only a bit more power is needed to inflict serious damage. Something instructors will do to impress students is add a little extra force in their demonstration. They purposely rough you up while showing a technique. By playing it off as light contact, they intimidate you into thinking that if they were really trying, the move would be devastating. This builds false confidence.

Remember, lots of stuff can hurt in a demonstration, when you are not in fight or flight mode. This does not necessarily translate to a lethal technique. Even worse, attempting a full force application of the demonstrated technique may result in injury to yourself if your anatomical weapons are not conditioned.

Once again, hurting and incapacitating are different things. Sure, an opponent will not enjoy getting hit in a fight, but it may not stop him. If you land your best shot on the attacker and he does not go down, you are left in a very disadvantageous position. You have already wasted your best opportunity to end the fight and you may well have injured your hand in the process.

By developing true breaking power, you maximize the potential for your strike to stop an attacker.

Size and Skill

Physical size is a significant factor in combative ability. A larger individual possesses greater weight and, often, greater strength. Obviously, someone who cannot efficiently handle his own weight is hampered by his size, but so far as size increases power, it is certainly advantageous.

If there were a martial arts conditioning method that could make you physically taller and larger, you can bet it would be a popular system. Nothing can make you taller, but training can make you larger in terms of muscular development.

Muscular strength is an asset as long as it does not restrict movement. If you are muscle bound, you will be too slow and stiff to reach the opponent.

This also applies to people who are too tall. There is a point where height is going to be disproportionate to the strength one can develop. A stocky individual will be stronger than a lanky one of the same weight because the lanky person’s muscular power is diffused by poor leverage in the limbs. Tall people also tend to have some joint instability, resulting from rapid growth, so some explosive movements can be problematic.

Aside from these considerations, the larger individual’s greatest weakness is often inferior training. This is partly due to the fact that larger people feel less compelled to develop a high level of skill. Such a person relies mostly on his size to manhandle opponents and, in neglecting technique, does not make full use of his natural advantage. A large practitioner who trains diligently to develop true technique is very formidable. Yes, larger practitioners may find it more difficult to perform flips and acrobatics, but these things are not necessary in a fight.

You must also not allow your pursuit of skill to lead you into neglecting the obvious advantages of size and strength. There is a tendency to completely reject strength in an attempt to focus solely on technique.

Strength and technique must work synergistically. Technique is not the rejection of muscle power, but rather the most efficient means of applying that power. Technique channels power. They are to be used in conjunction. Do not develop the mentality that the use of strength and external power is sloppy and constitutes forcing a technique. You risk the unfortunate development where a supposedly highly trained person is overwhelmed and overpowered by an untrained opponent.

Pure stylists become so devoted to preserving the integrity of a technique that they abandon the common sense of instinctive fighters by denying the strength aspect. This can be seen when someone practices a hundred and one different types of blocks, but then falls victim to a simple looping haymaker. They forget how to cope with more brutish attacks.

Do not become so engrossed with the minutiae of what you are doing, that you fail to see the big picture. If you can force a technique and finish a fight, then do it. Things do not always work out beautifully in a live fight. If there is one ugly technique that works every time, there is no shame in using it. When it stops working, that is the time to employ more sophisticated tactics. Reach for the simplest tool first.


The body learns through repetition. When you attempt to apply a new technique, it is likely you will fumble as you consciously walk through the steps. Once the body has repeated it enough times, the movement becomes natural and fluid.

The idea behind performing kata is to train the body to move in specific ways. If the kata is appropriate to the system, the actual combative techniques are based on the habitual movements you develop.

This is why certain systems clash and should not be trained simultaneously. For example, if an attacker throws a punch at your head, you must either block with a karate technique or a boxing technique. The two are significantly different. Trying to decide which to use at the last moment will result in no block at all.

When you are already familiar with a particular style of fighting, it can be very difficult to make a transition to another. This is most true when the two styles are drastically different. Much like learning a second language, there is a tendency to retain an “accent” of the original style even after years of studying the new one. If you decide to always use a western boxing style cover or parry, then stick to shadow boxing and forget the kata. It will only serve to confuse your body.