Sunday, September 19, 2010

Body Conditioning- The Hands (Part 1)

This is going to be the start of a small side project on body conditioning. The point to body conditioning is to hardened the skin, muscle, and bone-- conditioning them to take damage. There's not much point for any of you to undertake such training if the martial arts are just a hobby or a passing interest. However, any serious martial artist must at least consider body conditioning. The process is long and often painful at times, but can be useful in increasing the hardness of striking surfaces (such as knuckles, feet, or shins) and your ability to take a strike without being injured. Like anything else worth having, attaining a high-level of body conditioning will take a long time, but is worth it in order to reduced the risk of broken bones and injuries in the long run.

The first body part we are going to consider will be the hands. Not just the knuckles, but the entire hand. So, whether it's slapping, punching, knife-handing, or spear-handing, the hand should be ready to use those techniques. Performing a technique with a weapon that is not forged for the purpose of performing that technique can be dangerous. Sure, a punch from an unconditioned hand can hurt and may even knock someone out if it lands in the right spot, but there is more of a possibility that the person who threw the punch will injure himself if his hands are not conditioned.

So, how do we condition our hands? Truthfully, it is an open subject. Your hands become conditioned punching a heavy bag, but also when punching a tree. The difference is the quality of the punch and the hardness of the material. You are going to be putting more force into the punch on the heavy bag, so there will be more compression of the bones and joints in the hand and wrist. However, you won't be able to hit as hard on the tree, because you will break your hand. Therefore, you hit as hard as is comfortable and slowly build as the bones strengthen. I'm not here to argue that one is better than the other... on the contrary, I think hitting varying materials builds a higher quality conditioned hand.

There is some hand conditioning in Real Anime Training, as it is, but it's not enough if you want to build your conditioning level effectively. There is heavy bagwork, Iron Palm Training, knuckle push-ups, punching trees, hitting stones, fingertip push-ups, Diamond Finger Training, and sparring. (What? Punching people doesn't count?)  To build effective conditioning, something needs to be done every day. If there is already hand conditioning in the Real Anime Training workout you have scheduled for a day, that's great! However, if there isn't any hand conditioning in it and you are training in the martial arts for sport or self-defense, I think you need to have a supplement hand-training regimen. Below, I've made a list of some hand conditioning exercises and routines that can be done in addition to a Real Anime Training workout that doesn't have any hand conditioning. They are not particularly strenuous, so you don't have to worry about your muscles being worn out or being super tired and they are specifically for conditioning your hands.

Supplemental Hand Conditioning

1. Iron Palm Training- 120 Strikes (Each Side)
         >10 Slaps
         >10 Back Slaps
         >10 Knife Hands
         >10 Palm Heel Strikes (Strike with open hand, bottom of hand, near where palm meets wrist.)
         >10 Hammerfists (Hand in fist, strike with bottom of fist)
         >10 Backfists
         >10 "Knocking" Fists (Hand in fist, thumb on side of fist, strike with palm side on fingers)
         >10 Leopard Fists (Fingers pull in tight, fist clenched to second joint, strike with second joints)
         >10 Punches
         >10 Finger Strikes (All 5 Fingers)
         >10 Sunfists/Forefists/Wing Chun Punches
         >10 Ridgehands (Pretty much a Knife Hand, but the other side of the hand)

Notes on Iron Palm Training:
  • The first level is sand. Fill a canvas bag tight with sand (you can find Iron Palm bags online) and use it as your Level 1 training. You can stay on Level 1 as long as you like. You may find that you bruise at first, but it goes away. I also recommend purchasing some Dit Da Jow, because it helps you heal a little faster, but it's not required. With this and your workouts, you will probably be ready to move on in a month.
  • On Level 2, you can put some very small gravel in your bag. Alternatively, you can just follow the levels of bag on whichever you purchase your bag. Level 3, you can put in some larger gravel. Level 4, you can do larger rock or steel shot, or alternate the two. Levels 2 and 3 should be about a month a piece and then Level 4 is where you stay after that.
  • You may stand in a horse stance and do these, if you like, striking downward for all of them. You may also have one down and one on a wall, so you can do some of the strikes like the punches out in front of you.
  • Be easy and do not rush yourself. You don't want to injure your hands, because then you can't train at all!
I know there are probably people out there who're going to say hand conditioning is stupid, but it's done some good things for my hands. Also, it's not like I'm standing on a soap box saying that hitting a heavy bag is dumb and doesn't make your hands tough... sure it does! Your knuckles can be very hard, but if your wrist folds when you hit something because it isn't trained to take the power of your punch, it's not going to be very effective.

I try to keep an open mind as far as my own training and I encourage that in you, as well. That's all for today. Until next time, good luck and train hard!

P.S.- A lot of anime characters do hand conditioning... not sure if that helped or hurt my case. I guess it depends on who's reading it. :)
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