Health Benefits of Kung Fu
Kung fu master supporting his body with two fingers.
The Health Benefits Of Kung Fu
Often, when people hear the phrase “kung fu,” they think about acrobatic feats or high kicks; however, that is only one part of what Kung Fu actually is. Many Kung Fu styles, like Tai Chi Chuan, are low impact; other are internal styles such as Bagua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan. Kung fu has many health benefits which include improved personal energy and flexibility, enhanced strength, and conditioning of the body as a whole as well as benefiting the mental and emotional states of those who practice it regularly.
All forms of kung fu are centered on the principle of harnessing personal energy or “qi.” Unlike many other sports, in which people tend to lose energy as they age, kung fu enables the practitioner to learn how to renew their stores of energy so that even if you reach middle age or are even older, you still retain the energy of a much younger person.
Kung fu is also a way to relieve stress. Tai chi and qigong have both been approved by the conventional medical community as methods of finding stress relief. People who practice this learn to draw energy into their bodies through visualization, breath work, and flowing movement. In addition, basic techniques of kung fu help you learn how to restrict the “fight or flight” response of the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and helps reduce symptoms related to stress.
This may include strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure, and enhancing sleep quality. The results are not purely physical - practitioners may find it helps alleviate depression and anxiety and improves the mood.
Increased endurance and muscle strength are other obvious benefits of practicing kung fu. Through this exercise, you will tone muscles that are important in fighting stances and forms in the arms, legs, and core. For example, the basic horse stance helps strengthen quadriceps. Even the warm ups done in kung fu help to make the abdominals and arm muscles stronger for the repeated punches and strikes needed in different forms.
Unlike many workouts which focus on either strength or flexibility, kung fu helps develop both. The repeated kicks, punches, and pivots of the hips stretch the entire body and develop flexibility while increasing strength at the same time. Many kung fu workouts practices also involve special stretching techniques to increase flexibility in various muscle groups in the body.
The meditation and breath work done in some forms of kung fu can help improve mental focus and result in a more relaxed mental and physical state. Breath training can provide health benefits such as increased lung capacity, an improved ability to absorb oxygen, and a stronger flow of qi (chi), which helps to increase energy and improve the overall condition of the body.