Conditioning to pain: an introductory exercise

Why condition our body to resist pain

One of the most basic things that a true martial artist should learn to manage / reduce is pain. We cannot panic or remain powerless at the slightest contact:

  • Caused voluntarily (eg. a punch) or involuntarily (eg. the impact with a wall)
  • Caused by an active (an aggressor) or a passive (eg. a rock) element of the scenario

Pain is not such a terrible thing, it’s just a matter of getting (gradually) used to it. Pain is a signal that the body gives us to make us understand that our safety is at risk; if we interpret it as such and if we have a good knowledge of ourselves, in many cases we can decide to ignore its occurrence.

A note by Master Kongling – The Greek philosopher Epicuro was used to say that pain should not be feared because if it is too big, it does not last long and if it is not so intense then it is bearable; on the factual truthfulness of this thought (in everyday life) it is possible to discuss but as far as fighting is concerned (in self-defense), this way of looking at things can make the difference between life and death.

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu we work on pain in 3 ways:

  • Accepting it – A life too far from the state of nature has made us fear beyond what is really dangerous, even those sensations completely irrelevant and without consequences (read Acceptance and prevention of pain)
  • Reducing it – As Shaolin monks teach us, the human body cannot be made invincible but can be widely fortified (read Conditioning check for the impact)
  • Evaluating it – No one seeks pain but by learning to understand its significance, we can instinctively choose whether it must be forcibly avoided or if it is not so serious

A note by Master Kongling – As in chess, there are damages that besides being bearable, can represent a useful sacrifice to achieve the final victory.

Said this, the first approach with the conditioning to physical pain must be:

  • Very gentle – We must not do anything that harms us
  • Totally safe – We must not leave on our body any kind of bad sign / feeling

Strengthen the body: the body slapping exercise

A good introductory practice is to simply slap our body:

  • We have to slap our body from toe to head
  • We can start with open and relaxed hands
  • We have to cover the entire body surface (we must do not forget any area)
  • Let’s hit with rhythmic cadence at half-second intervals
  • Let’s perform the exercise for 10 minutes

Precautions and tips:

  • If we have never done anything like this we must learn to dose the force as much as we can
  • Let’s go gentle, haste is a very bad habit when we talk about conditioning for impacts
  • The first few times we should not hit 2 times in a row the same point (graduality is the key to success)
  • Depending on the point that we strike we should exercise more or less power
  • Let’s pay attention to sensitive parts like ears (let’s skip them for now), neck, eyes, breast (for women) and genitals
  • If we find any kind of unusual sensation we have to immediately stop
  • Let’s never forget that it is constancy the first conditioning factor

The slapping conditioning path

Evolution:

  • Phase 1 (low speed and power) – We start by striking the skin to reactivate the superficial blood circulation; at this stage, the more our skin / structure is delicate, the more it is possible (in addition to the natural redness) to cause small bruises (it is absolutely normal)
  • Phase 2 (intermediate speed and power) – In a second phase we work on the muscles (striking slightly deeper); in this phase, if we are constant, from here on we should not suffer any more bruises (only redness)
  • Phase 3 (high speed and power) – In the third phase we work on the bones (advanced level) and on the internal organs; at this point, our strokes create a vibration that goes a lot in depth (normally a beginner is not able to make such powerful shots with a slap loop)

Given that the conditioning exercises should never be made 2 days in a row, we can gradually give greater emphasis to the strength after 5-6 sessions. Let’s never forget, however, that this exercise must be performed:

  • Gradually, patiently and with intelligence
  • With an increase in intensity only after learning to preserve the delicate areas of our body
  • With the idea of strengthening our body and never damage it
  • With the idea of being able to deal with a confrontation just after

A note by Master Kongling – Again: we have to be patient. When we start we shall not release any power, the first phase is not real conditioning to resistance to pain, it is more an exploration of our body.

What are the secondary benefits of this practice?

This kind of exercise helps us to know and improve:

  • Our strength and what kind of control we have over it
  • The power that we are able to express in unfavorable positions
  • The weak and strong areas of our body (and therefore the opponent’s ones)
  • A good part of the areas where we will identify the first pressure / pain points (more about this later)
  • Our speed (the more we become better the more the exercise turns into a vibration, read Speed: the vibration’s exercise)
  • Blood circulation and the vitality of our body (like a high-quality massage)

All the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s conditioning exercises are not mandatory but they are important if we truly want to learn to fight in a real situation (in a self-defense physical confrontation, we will never end completely unscathed).

In the next article of this series, we will see a second type of conditioning, a bit ‘more intense (read Conditioning to pain: hitting our body).

In-depth articles

In-depth courses and guides

Questions

Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Can you correctly dose the conditioning strength?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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