As mentioned before there is “no fat” in your kung fu training. Everything has a purpose and the primary purpose is to develop your martial skills to the highest level possible given the amount of time and effort you devote to training. Something that can really benefit your training from very early on to higher levels is visualizing an imaginary opponent or “shadowboxing”. It can and should be something you do in every training session.
A wide variety of kicks are performed in each class – tens, hundreds, even a thousand-plus kicks can be counted out. At times these kicks can become “lifeless” if you’re not trying hard or having an off day. To avoid this waste of time, make the mental effort to imagine a potential threat in front of you and use that to motivate yourself to block an imaginary attack or arm out of the way and kick this imaginary opponent with as much speed, power and height as possible. This mental imagery will not only bring “life” back into your kicks, but will also help you develop better kicking ability for forms, san shou and, most importantly, sparring.
The same mental exercise should be used for single step movements. As you are stepping to do a forward bow punch, imagine you are blocking an imaginary attack or arm out of the way with the retreating hand and strike the imaginary opponent with as much speed and force as you can muster. You will realize that you move smoother and can execute the technique with more power against your imaginary opponent with low stances. Again, your san shou and sparring will greatly benefit from this visualization practice.
Lastly, visualization can really come alive when it comes to forms. In the beginning, it may be difficult to understand what techniques the forms are teaching and how an opponent would attack. However, you will be taught the purpose of many of the form’s movements (there are usually a number of uses for each individual movement in a form) and you need to think and ingrain how the technique would work against your imaginary sparring partner. This is especially helpful when doing the form on count as movements are broken down into pieces (although visualization can and should also be done with forms at full speed eventually). Practicing forms at home while visualizing an imaginary opponent is an excellent self-study practice.