Kung Fu Practice Exercises

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Kung fu is a Chinese martial art. There are many different styles, such as Hung Gar or Wushu, that use their own exercises to train for specific punching or kicking techniques. Many of these styles, however, share some basic practice exercises that differentiate kung fu from other martial arts. While one type of drill covers physical conditioning, a second type of drill helps you to refine the mechanics of kung fu movements.

Kung fu exercises build flexibility, speed, endurance, power and balance.
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The horse stance is the fundamental position in kung fu as well as a classic exercise to build leg strength and endurance. The stance resembles the straddled position of your legs when you ride a horse. Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, feet parallel. While keeping your knees over your feet, squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold your fisted hands at waist-level by your sides. Point your elbows straight back. Hold this position for as long as you can. In the past, students were required to hold the horse stance for hours, according to Paul Eng’s book “Kungfu Basics.” Today, kung fu practitioners will hold the stance for up to 20 minutes at a time.

In kung fu, pushups are used to strengthen not only your arms and core but also your wrists, hands and fingertips. In the classic military press position, perform a set of 20 pushups using your fists. Depending on your kung fu style, you can do a variety of hand positions for a pushup. The next level up from the fist is typically fingertip pushups in which you support your body weight on the tips of all five fingers. As you grow stronger, you can use fewer fingertips. For example, use only your thumbs, index fingers and middle fingers. In a Hung Gar kung fu session, you would do pushups with clawed hands and legs in a side split. At any level or variation of pushup, perform 20 to 50 reps.

Iron hand training consists of exercises to strengthen and toughen your hands for striking and blocking techniques. For example, place a beanbag or small bag of sand on two stacked cement blocks. The blocks should reach the height of your hips. Assume a horse stance in front of the blocks and chop down on the beanbag with your right hand. Keep your hand relaxed until the point of impact. Just before you strike, turn, snap and tense your hand. To develop the backs of your hands and forearms, strike the bag with the back part of your fist. Remove one cement block to deliver forward punches, driving downward with one fist. Turn and snap your wrist just before impact. Let the first two knuckles of your fist absorb the impact of the punch.

In contrast to other martial arts, kung fu movements can mimic the shapes and motions of animals. For example, hand techniques include the tiger claw and eagle claw. To develop finger strength for clawed hands, perform weight lifting drills. For example, assume a horse stance and lift two plastic jars filled with sand. The jars should be of the same dimensions and weights. Wrap your fingers around the rims of both lids and slowly lift them at the same time. Keep your arms straight with elbows slightly bent. Avoid lifting one jar at a time. An unbalanced position can put too much stress on your back.

References

  • Kungfu Basics; Paul Eng
  • Power Training in Kung Fu and Karate; Ron Marchini et al.
  • Masters Manual of Hsing-I Kung Fu; John L. Price
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Resources

  • The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu: The Secrets of Kung Fu for Self-Defense, Health…; Wong Kiew Kit
  • Hung Gar Kung-Fu; Bucksam Kong et al.

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