Training of the hand

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The hands of an Iron Palm master. Yikes! Image taken from

Ever heard the phrase “Iron Palm” or “Cinnabar Palm” in kung fu? Curious what kung fu people do to train their hands? This post’ll give you a brief introduction to a collection of training methods known as “training of the hand.”

Egad. Another practitioner of Iron Palm and Red Sand Palm (aka Cinnabar Palm or Cosmos Palm). Iron Palm is more well known for smashing an opponent’s skin, muscle, and bones while Red Sand Palm is more well known for dealing injury to an opponent’s internal organs. Masters of both can accomplish these feats with a seemingly gentle tap.

Masters of Cinnabar Palm (called Cosmos Palm in Shaolin Wahnam) generally don’t have large or swollen palms, though their palms are often quite pink or red because of greater circulation. Iron Palm practitioners tend to have enlarged palms due to their conditioning; Red Sand Palm doesn’t always involve hard conditioning (in fact, my grandmaster’s master stopped my grandmaster’s Iron Palm training to instead teach him Cinnabar Palm, which he called Cosmos Palm, so as to “not spoil [my grandmaster’s] lady-like hands”).

There are many “variants” of Iron Palm and Cosmos Palm, respectively the archetypal “external” and “internal” palm-based arts. One infamous art is called Black Sand Palm; practitioners systematically strike their palms on concrete, rather than a sandbag, eventually resulting in palms that are black with soot and dust. A rather fanciful art some times seen in kung fu novels is the Palm of Five Poisons, whereby the practitioner prepares a paste made from the tissue and venom glands of five venemous animals, puts it into a bag, and strikes their palms on the bag. Supposedly, practitioners are able to “summon poisonous essence” to poison someone with a touch; no one I know has met someone with the skill. Some arts such as Diamond Palm are a “hybrid” of Iron Palm and Cosmos Palm, combining internal and external methods (my grandmaster’s son is trained in the art, though it’s not a part of the school’s standard syllabus).

Sheesh, there are a lot of hand training arts out there, aren’t there?

I’ve seen bricks smashed quite handily before (har har =P ), but I really like the fine control the master shows by breaking the small walnut-like things on the table’s surface.

As an aside, I have absolutely no plans whatsoever to train Iron Palm. Just saying!


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