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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Your favorite martial arts exercise?

My sitaigung (grand-grandmaster) Ho Fatt Nam practicing One Finger Shooting Zen, the force training exercise that he emphasized above all others. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

My sitaigung (great-grandmaster) Ho Fatt Nam practicing One Finger Shooting Zen, the force training exercise that he emphasized above all others. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

I posed the following question to the G+ Martial Artists forum: What is your favorite exercise or genre of exercise in your art(s)? 

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A typical training session?

Hey folks,

Since I live pretty far away from my master (Illinois versus Florida), I can’t exactly pack my bags and take regular classes from him, so I learn what I can at regional or intensive seminars and take it back home to practice. My master’s regular classes oscillate between the two major structures I’ve seen in the martial arts schools I’ve attended:

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The most important lessons

Even though I haven’t lived my “real life” for very long yet (I graduated last week, woo), I’ve come to realize something: the most important lessons I have ever had transmitted to me by my amazing teachers have been the first and the last one. This has held true in virtually every facet of my life: school, research, martial arts, cooking, and my various jobs.

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