Iron Palm conditioning (for beginners)

The Iron Palm skill

What Iron Palm is

A note by Master Kongling – Iron Palm is included in the original 72 arts of Shaolin temple. Even if many martial arts have similar practices (Karate, etc.), only in Kung Fu it reaches the highest levels of effectiveness (through a painstaking path).

In Kung Fu terms, we call Iron Palm skill that kind of advanced impact conditioning (read Conditioning check for the impact) that allows a practitioner to hit with the palm of the hand (without protections):

  • Every kind of (not sharpen) object or surface without damage
  • Any part of the human body in any position without damage
  • Always using the minimum necessary energy
  • Transfering, trough the entire body, even a big amount of power

What Iron Palm is not (and is not for)

Iron Palm is a martial skill, it is not:

  • A natural capability
  • A hand-only related skill
  • Made for circus / juggling exhibitions
  • Made for things like the Guinness World Record
  • Made for breaking the highest number of bricks
  • Only covering the hands with some calluses (this is what happens to anyone who does heavy manual work, such as masons, peasants, etc.)

How does it work?

Important premises

Before continuing, it is important to stress that:

  • Most of the explanations that we have found on the web are wrong or incomplete (a lot of people written to us asking what to do after damaging their hands)
  • In 6 Dragons Kung Fu Iron Palm is not a mandatory capability (since it provides a very hard and constant training)
  • In our version of the Iron Palm, we do not use herbs / medicines to help the body (like the Dit Da Jow, etc.)
  • Outside what we show in this article, it is strongly discouraged to practice this type of conditioning without the right notions (the full development is not a beginners level practice)
  • This practice is for adults only, children cannot perform the involved exercises
  • At the first feeling of unexpected pain, let’s stop immediately; it is extremely easy to cause us big damages (all the compositive elements of the hand are thin and delicate)

The levels of conditioning

There is no limit to improvement but:

  • Iron Palm does not mean indestructible hand, it means extremely resistant and powerful (nothing more nothing less)
  • As any other conditioning, there are various levels of effectiveness, the higher of which requires an entire life of training and a big deformation of the hand’s structure
  • At the basic level, the external physiognomy of our hands do not change (and it is more than enough for combat purposes)
  • Outside the idea of always doing better, the only “practical” application of everything comes after the basic level is for breaking exhibitions
  • Once the base level has been reached, to continue, makes us gradually and dangerously close to the partial loss of sensitivity and partial loss of mobility of the hand (that in combat terms is absolutely counterproductive)

How to develop the Iron Palm

There are various ways to develop the Iron Palm, in our school, we prefer to follow a gradual but controlled path that includes the hitting of soft surfaces only at the very beginning.

From a technical point of view, in the basic level of Iron Palm:

  • The core practice is to hit a target with the palm of the hand (but it doesn’t all come down to this, there are various collateral exercises)
  • We aim to cause us a small physical “damage”, a reaction (blood vessels, muscles, etc.) to force our body to strengthen that part

The stages:

  1. At the first stage, we simply focus on getting used to psychologically endure the unusual pain of the impact (read also Acceptance and prevention of pain)
  2. At a second stage, the external part of the hand becomes less easily damageable (fewer bruises, etc.)
  3. In the third stage, the internal part of the hand gradually becomes less and less easily damageable (bones, muscles, tendons, etc. become stronger)
  4. Beyond this, both the internal and external parts begin to visibly harden and thicken (calcifying, producing corns, etc.)

In our method, the development of this capability is strictly related to:

Before starting to work on this skill, we must gain, at least, a minimum practice with these techniques / principles.

The first part of the conditioning

Let’s see 2 introductive exercises:

Exercise 1

  • Let’s take a solid fabric bag filled with rice (from 2 to 25 Kg is good, let’s avoid vacuum rice inside plastic)
  • Let’s position it on a hard solid surface in front of us
  • From standing (better if in Ma Bu stance, read The correct position of the rider (ma bu)), the bag should be at the height of our belly button
  • Let’s simply hit with the open palm the center of the bag
  • Let’s start with a gentle, soft caress to gradually increase the intensity
  • Let’s hit softly, bending all the joints and involving the entire body in the movement

Exercise 2

Final notes

To conclude it is important to say that:

  • The described exercises are naturally not enough to develop the Iron Palm at its basic level nor to learn how to use it (they are good to reach the second stage we have mentioned, that in most cases are more than enough)
  • In 6 Dragons Kung Fu, when we say “basic”, we never refer to something at a low level but instead to something “fundamental”
  • In combat terms, the Iron Palm, without all the other basic fighting skills, is totally useless
  • We are thinking to create a course about Iron Palm, write us if you are interested ([email protected])

In the next article of this series, we will see the second stage (read Iron palm conditioning).

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Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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