Two of the primary reasons to train in martial arts is to develop martial ability and supreme physical health. As you can imagine, the development of kung fu skill and personal fitness go hand in hand. The more you train, the fitter, faster, stronger, more supple and enduring your body becomes. Although there are many factors that come into play with everyday health and wellness (genetics, stress, environment, etc.), there are three major factors to health and continuing development of kung fu: Sleep, Nutrition, and Training.
Sleep may seem like an obvious addition to the Health Trinity, but one out of five people in the country get less than six hours of sleep at night. Most people (not all) need seven to eight hours every night. It is particularly important when you train in martial arts as your body requires deep sleep to recover from the wear and tear of hard training. Muscles need to repair themselves. The occasional sprains and bruises associated with training need to heal. This is accomplished most rapidly when a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep is had. Should eight hours not be in the cards or simply not enough to feel rested, take a nap and catch up – it’s absolutely crucial to stay on track for both optimal health and progress in your kung fu skills. You will learn the hard way by lingering injuries and lackluster performance if you don’t.
Nutrition is also a very important factor for developing optimum health and martial skill. You might have adequate sleep and train consistently, but if you’re skipping meals routinely or eating meals that are nutritionally barren you will eventually find yourself sick, injured, or exhausted – likely a combination of them. Think to yourself, “My body is my temple” and feed it appropriately. Nutritionally dense foods like vegetables, fruit, meat, and nuts/seeds should be the staple of your diet. Hard training will likely make you more hungry than normal. Listen to your body and feed it what it needs, but again, try to minimize the foods and beverages that have no or low nutritional value. You should know what these are, but if you don’t do some research on the internet or pick up a few books.
Training is the third of the Health Trinity. Kung fu training offers its practitioners a variety of benefits including the development of full body physical strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, release of tension and stress, among others. With adequate sleep and excellent nutrition, students can make the most out of the time they spend training and eventually increase the number of hours they spend training each week. The more you train, the better your kung fu will get and the healthier you will become. After some time training, you will become extremely attune to your body. Listen to it. Push as hard as you can for as long as you can. Train multiple hours a day, if possible. It’s not meant to be easy. However, listen to what your body is telling you and take a break when needed to recover.
Lacking any one of the three components of the Health Trinity negatively impacts the other two so do your best to stay on course with proper sleep, nutrition, and training. Staying on track with each of the three will accelerate both your expanding fitness and martial ability.