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Ultimate KUNG FU Practice

The only SECRET of the Ancient Masters

Sun Lu TangThe famous last words of the legendary Sun Lu Tang sum up the only true “Secret” of Chinese kung fu. The story goes that as Master Sun lay on his death bed one of his students asked him the secret of kung fu, at which time Sun wrote a single Chinese character on his hand and then passed away, the word he wrote was “practice”. While the story may be fictitious the advice is true. It is only with the commitment of much time and energy that anything of value will be accomplished.

There is a saying in Chinese martial arts that outlines the three essential skills needed to achieve victory in battle. They are first Speed then Power and last Technique. From this you can see that speed is the most important followed by power and last superior technique. Many students may mistakenly place the emphasis on technique while lacking the speed and power to back up their skill. So it is essential to balance your training between these three areas in order to develop to the best of your ability.

A good training program will include various drills for hand speed, kicking speed and reaction time including blocking and grabbing speed.  One basic but effective striking drill is:

  • Hand Striking “Quan Fa” – This training should be done in three minute intervals with the first interval done at a moderate pace with light power, the next interval is done at a faster speed with more active footwork and defensive hand work (blocking / trapping), the third interval is done for power with very heavy striking. This training can be done with the sandbag, heavy bag, wooden dummy or with a partner holding the pads /mitts / shields.

You must also commit to a diligent force training program in order to have sufficient power behind your techniques.  The heavy kung fu school plano martial artsbag is a very effective tool in the development of powerful strikes and one of the most basic force training drills is the power punch.

  • Striking Power – stand facing the heavy bag and continually strike for one minute while putting your whole body into the strike. The same type of training can be performed on the sandbag or with a candle in an attempt to extinguish the flame or influence the way the flame flickers. Popular striking methods include the palm strike (iron palm, cutting palm, willow leaf palm) and punches (vertical punch, flat punch, drill punch)

In improving your skill in technique there is more than just form or “taolu” practice (commonly known as kata in Japanese). Some other training categories that refine your martial skill include:  fighting forms, joint locks, Throws and Takedowns, Fast Wrestling, bridge hands, sparring or fatigue and stress drills.

  • Fighting forms “Dui Da” – prearranged set of techniques done with a partner to work on speed, application and sense of distance, fighting forms may include kicking, hand strikes, locking, and throwing techniques.
  • QinNa “Seize and Control” – Joint Locking, controlling and anti-grappling techniques that may be practiced in the sparring situation, as well as on the ground. QinNa techniques were designed to use against takedowns and grappling.
  • Shuai Chiao “Chinese Wrestling” – sweeping, throwing and takedown methods, shuai chiao was designed to counter striking.
  • Kuai Chiao “Fast Wrestling”– kuai chiao combines the kicking, striking, throwing and locking techniques to achieve very fast and effective takedowns and controlling methods. Kuai Chiao is trained by the Chinese police and military for its efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Bridge Hands “Qiao Shou”– two person training patterns to build sensitivity, sticking and following ability of the hands and arms as well as conditioning. Similar training methods include Pan Shou “coiling hands”, Dui Lian “matching hands” and Tui Shou “pushing hands”.
  • Sparring “San Da” – Controlled fighting with protective gear so that you may experience the feeling of a resisting opponent may include throwing and locking techniques in addition to kicking and striking.
  • Forms “Taolu”– traditional forms may be practiced with wrist and ankle weights for added difficulty or you may execute the techniques on a target such as the heavy bag. You may also go through the form and apply the techniques on an opponent / training partner to train the usage and a sense of enemy.
  • Fatigue and Stress drills – training done under abnormal conditions such as low light or after a fatigue drill such as sprints or push ups

If you continually push yourself (self-mastery) and adjust your training goals as you progress there is no limit to your growth and skill. Always strive for a balanced training program that includes speed, power and technique. There are no shortcuts or overnight experts, hard work and time are the key to success.  The journey of Chinese martial arts has been traveled by countless students and Masters for millennia and will continue to offer the benefits of Health, Fighting ability and Mental Toughness to those who undergo the training in the traditional manner.

 “Repetition is the Mother of all Skill”

Take this Quick Test to Evaluate your Martial Arts Skill

Take this Quick Test to Evaluate your Martial Arts Skill

People often overestimate their own abilities and underestimate their shortcomings. Studies have shown that an individual’s score on a basic knowledge test declines as their level of confidence in their performance increases. This is often the case in martial arts training as evidenced by the great number of out of shape “black belts” or those who claim to have been training for many years when they are simply counting the years since their first martial arts class without acknowledging their actual weekly training routine or lack of one.

Silvio Azzolini Kung Fu

Taipei Kung Fu Assoc. 1980’s (Body Conditioning)

The best way to test your skill and ability is through benchmark training. If you can establish a starting point then you can check your progress over time and you will know if you are really improving or not. For a martial artist the three essential skills are speed, power and technique. There are many different martial arts related skills that you may use for evaluation. Below are the guidelines for a quick and easy Three minute skill test for martial arts.

This quick test focuses on leg strength, punching speed and balance all three skills can be evaluated quickly and honestly and are easy to revisit as your training progresses.

  1. Horse Stance – begin with feet twice your shoulder width apart and bend the knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor (keep the back straight), now place a staff across the thighs and hold the arms in front of the chest with the palms together. Do not use your belly to hold the staff in place. Hold for 1 minute. If the staff falls off before the minute is up record the time you were able to hold the stance before the staff fell off.
  2. Punching Speed – stand in horse stance and hold the left open hand next to your right shoulder and the right fist close to the right shoulder, when you start the timer you will punch out to full extension and bring the punch all the way back to the shoulder as many times as possible in 30 seconds your goal is more than 90 punches in 30 seconds, repeat on the left side, your score is the number of punches thrown in 30 seconds (you will have two scores, one for each arm).
  3. Balance Drill – lift one leg off the ground so that the thigh is parallel to the ground and the foot is hanging below the knee with the foot flexed set the timer for 1 minute and close your eyes, if you lose your balance by putting your leg down or moving your supporting foot at all the drill is over, your score is the amount of time you were able to hold the stance without moving or losing your balance.

There are many other skills and abilities you may utilize in order to track and evaluate your training. At the Shaolin Wu-Yi Institute we use an 11 category evaluation to test basic skills including speed, power, focus, footwork, flexibility, endurance, agility and balance. Remember to train hard and be honest with your progress. If you are not making the gains you would like then change your training methods or allow more time to practice.  Remember martial arts are 99% practice and 1% theory. Determination and willpower are the keys to successful training, be honest with yourself about your goals and progress and nothing will be left to stand in your way.