Charles Burmeister wrote:
That being said, however, to think that there is no strengthening measures to be found in the art of falling is incomplete as well. Falling and slapping strengthens the body so that one can take the falls outside of the dojo without harm being caused to oneself. It is no different than thrusting your fists into a giant pot of sand or punching water or even punching a thick wooden board wrapped in rope!
This is a basic example of a lack of understanding about what is going on in the body during training. Contrary to what so many martial arts students believe, there is no such thing as "conditioning and strengthening" the body through thrusting fists into pots of sand, punching boards, or falling and slapping the ground.
It is what we call, in Yiddish, a bubbe meise
(old grandmother's tale).
Slapping the ground does...nothing -- except to burst blood vessels and bruise bone. The long-term outcome of that "conditioning" is, at best, to deaden and kill nerves so you no longer feel pain when doing damage to your arms.
Same for punching makiwara (which, by the way, I did for 20 years when I was making an extensive and intensive study of punching and striking). Striking a hard surface does nothing for the hands, but it does do damage TO the hands, by rupturing the tissue around the knuckles and causing painful swelling that in later years can exacerbate arthritis. Punching into pots of sand does that too. Sand punching can callous and thicken the skin, but callous plays little or no role in protecting hands during punches and strikes. Except, maybe, to keep the sand you're punching from scratching the tender skin under the callous.
What DOES help you "condition" yourself, is good technique itself. Form: the angle of the punch or strike, its acceleration, the way you hold and move your body: Those elements are what will determine whether you do or don't injure yourself.
In other words, it is not the hand or the skin that breaks the fall or the board; it's the correct application of technique and good form. Nothing more, nothing less.
Students of all levels mistake the superficial, external practices of striking or slapping hard things -- which is nothing but pseudo-science -- for actual practical method -- due to a misunderstanding of basic physical and physiological principles.
I group slapping the ground with punching bricks and sand. Just another misunderstanding of human physiology and of basic physics.