Training tips

October 28, 2008

Beginner’s tip: there is an old saying in Chinese:


“First is bravery, second is strength, and third is kung fu.” What it means varies between people, and in fact, differes between level of understanding. On an abstract level though, it means that the most important thing in a fight is a determined mind, the next most important thing is a strong body, and the final thing is skill. If the mind is unprepared, no amount of strength or skill will suffice. And skill alone will not be effective without strength behind it.

Strength training (功) and skill honing (拳) are both essential to good kung fu. Both must be built up hand-in-hand, slowly, over time. Each style has its own focus, and thus has its own methods of training strength and skill. But at the end of the day, any school that lacks methods for one or the other will not be able to produce well-rounded students.

It is for this exact reason that tai chi is only an exercise when taught to the elderly. Without a strength base, a practitioner simply cannot use it as a martial art. Those who have reached the highest levels of tai chi no longer need their hard power. But in order for the soft internal to manifest its full potential, it must be built on top of the external, just as an arch must be built with the supports below it before the placement of the keystone. To continue with the arch analogy, once the keystone gets placed, the supports can be removed, and finally begins the difficult process of removing both ends, until all that’s left is a circle floating in the air. It’s impossible, but then again, the perfection that a circle represents is impossible as well.

Anyhow, a good training regiment will train both power and skill. After learning the ways and methods, developing a routine that would balance the two is the most important thing for a beginner to establish. And establishing a good routine is as essential as establishing a good base.