Toughening and protective skills in kung fu

Grandmaster Lam Sai Wing, a well-known master of Hung Gar kung fu in recent times, demonstrating "Separate Gold Fists" in the Iron Wire set. He looks quite fit and healthy, not at all banged up from his training. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Lam Sai Wing, a well-known master of Hung Gar kung fu in recent times, demonstrating “Separate Gold Fists” in the Iron Wire set. He looks quite fit and healthy, not at all banged up from his training. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

In June 2013, someone on the G+ Martial Artist forum noted that he was doing “tree toughening” exercises and asked for our opinions on the exercise. Here was my response:

Are you swinging your arms, legs into the tree and striking your body against a tree? Provided you follow the correct method and gradual progression, you’ll eventually develop what kung fu people call Iron Arm, Iron Leg, Iron Vest, Iron Head, and so forth, depending on the conditioning you do.

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The External Training of Shaolin Kung Fu

Some of the most visually spectacular arts of kung fu involve people breaking things that seem pretty sturdy like bricks or poles. “Surely there’s some secret magical training involved!” I used to think, before I learnt better. The training principles are actually quite easy, it’s a matter of dedicating oneself to the correct training for years under a competent¬†master (yes, I said years, and yes, I said you needed a competent master).

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