Kung Fu: Body Conditioning

Shaolin Monks demonstrating palm training using a traditional method of large pots of water.

Kung Fu: Body Conditioning

Chinese martial arts, popularly known as kung fu, have been around since China was an ancient civilization that believed there was a need all across China for self-defense. The idea of kung fu falls a little deeper into history, with some tracing it’s origins to the Xia dynasty, a dynasty that is said to have inhabited China over 4,000 years ago. The infamous emperor at the time, Yellow Emperor Huangdi, used martial arts to teach his military strong defense in order to combat his main opponents creation of jiao di, otherwise known as Chinese wrestling.

Traces of kung fu have been dated all the way back to 5 BCE, when tablets with hand to hand combat theories were found.

Although kung fu dates back to an ancient time where self-defense and military combat theories were were of high importance, in today’s day and age kung fu is used for a number of reasons. Some of the of those who practice kung fu use it to honor their ancestors that helped to build the foundation principles of kung fu, and some practice kung fu for the health benefits and to condition their bodies. Among the best kung fu techniques in order to tone and condition your body are shin rolling, palm training and conditioning your core through punches and kicks.

Shin Rolling

Shin rolling is a popular tool used in martial arts and kung fu in order to; combat serious injuries such as shin splints, strengthen the shin to absorb attacks and to deaden the nerves in order to lessen physical pain. Evidence of this technique can be traced back to ancient China. In kung fu often a Bo Staff is used for shin rolling however there are also purpose made tools on the market today such as a foam roller. Foam rollers are available to purchase for around $20. The shins can also be gently hit with a plank of wood or other blunt object to achieve a similar effect.

A metal barbell bar being used for shin rolling.

We will be publishing an article specifically about shin rolling soon. You can see the video below for a ‘how to do it’ explanation using a simple piece of wood to gently hit the shin for conditioning:

Palm Training

Palm training is one of the best ways to condition your body in order to train your hands or palms to deliver serious blows without injuring your hands at all, palm training forms an important part of Shaolin monk training for this reason. This process allows your body to prepare to fight instead of forcing it into instances where it’s not ready and physically prepared. One technique that can be used to train the palms is to use a tree and to gently push the palms of the hand into the trunk. The lower part of the palm should make the most contact and the exercise should be repeated multiple times.

The main article photo showing a traditional Shaolin method of palm training.

You can start off gently at first with only a small amount of repetitions and as your palms become stronger and better conditioned you can add more force and more repetitions. There are also many other palm training methods used in kung fu such as the Shaolin water palm training (see photo above right).

Core Body Conditioning

Core impact conditioning is basically conditioning your core body to absorb impacts. As your body becomes more conditioned you will be able to absorb the attacks of your opponent whist receiving less physical damage. This type of conditioning can be applied across much of the body, be it the; abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, thighs etc. One simple but effective method for core impact body conditioning is to hold a training pad over the body area you would like to condition e.g. Abdomen, and have a friend or training partner (or both!) strike the pad with kicks and punches.

Shaolin body conditioning focusing on conditioning the head.

For beginners start off receiving relatively light strikes to the body and as you feel more confidant you can build up the power of the strikes you receive. After repeated practice over time you should be ready to remove the pad altogether and have your training partner strike your body directly.

All types of Chinese martial arts, or kung fu, are centered on the idea of finding or harnessing your personal energy and using it the best way you can, which is probably why there are an endless amount of health benefits. If you want to relieve stress and condition your body, for whatever reason, kung fu can be extremely beneficial.

If you train hard and condition your body well you could be kicking down trees like John Claude Van Damme in no time!

The famous scene from the Kickboxer movie where after dedicated training, Jean Claude Van Damme kicks through a palm tree.

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