The Tan, or Okinawan Karate Barbell, is a traditional strength training tool for that ancient martial art. The Tan is part of the Hojo Undo arsenal of supplemental training tools. Hojo Undo can be thought of as all the other stuff the traditional Okinawan style karate practitioner would train at, that’s not the actual fighting.
The Tan shown in the photo above was made by Atomic Athletic customer Richard Rogers with a custom wooden “bar” that we made for him, with an exotic Brazilian wood that is highly water resistant. While it is a very strong hardwood, it also has multiple laminations to improve the strength. The finish is a traditional bee’s wax and mineral oil combination. Richard then took a pair of 25 pound Olympic plates and permanently secured them with epoxy, thus using the best of the ancient and modern worlds to make this beautiful training tool.
Training with the tan can be done like modern western world bodybuilding, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The advanced movements are much more like the barbell juggling that Sig Klein used to do, which have been resurrected in live shows by the likes of Andrew Durniat and Dan Cenidoza. The added bar thickness is not just for improving grip strength, but for the conditioning movements built on the style of Zercher squats.
If you are interested in further study on this subject, I suggest the book The Art of Hojo Undo and watching Andrew Durniat’s performance at the 2009 Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic. While the book does an excellent job of describing many of these movements and how to perform them, your understanding will certainly accelerate if you can see some of them done at speed, in real time.
All the best,
“Today is a good day to lift.”