“A day of missed training can never be recovered.” This thought has been echoed by Kung Fu masters for generations.
There is no question that the more time you spend intently practicing your art the faster you will advance and the more skill you will acquire. That said, when you can’t attend class for whatever reason try to spend some time training on your own. Many have found solitary practice indispensable for overcoming weak areas, practicing new movements and conditioning their body.
There are three kinds of home practice. The first is focused on creating a class-like workout at home, which would typically include kicking, single-step movements, forms, stances, exercises, etc. Ideally, this workout is based on a self-examination of your kung fu skills and a focused effort on overcoming your imperfections (e.g. stances, kicks, saltongs, upper body strength, etc.) or further development of movements and techniques that you want to perfect. If you are lucky enough to have a housemate or family member to train with you can even work on chin na, san shou and potentially sparring, although sparring must be done cautiously (just be careful not to get injured.) This should be your primary training when not at the kung fu school. At the very least, practice the latest forms you’ve learned or work on perfecting the eight stances and holding them until your legs begin to shake (and then a little more).
The second kind of training, some call it “cross-training”, can also be of value by way of physical conditioning. This training seeks to develop speed, strength, and endurance. Swimming is an excellent exercise that both strengthens and stretches your body while giving your joints a break from gravity. Jogging, lifting weights, yoga, and playing various sports will all benefit your kung fu training as long as you are careful not to overdo it and avoid injury. Another good idea is to combine some of the above exercises with traditional kung fu training. For example, jog a lap around the block, do a few forms, followed by push ups and stances, and repeat. An excellent work out.
The third kind of training involves resting your body and using your mind. Simply put, there are times when you must rest like when you are sick, injured, or just plain exhausted to the point where you become irritable and achey. Resting your body and brain allows it to recharge and regenerate, which is necessary for growth. Many studies have supported the benefits of getting eight hours of sleep and how it significantly improves both physical and mental performance. Daytime naps have also been shown to be healthy.
While your body is resting, kung fu training can continue in your mind through self-imagery. Imagine yourself in various sparring scenarios successfully utilizing counters to your opponents attacks. Go further and think of your opponents response to your counter and what you would do. Or, you can think about chin na techniques you know and visualize exactly how they are to be performed. The same can be said for san shou. You can even think about your forms and what fighting techniques can be derived from various movements in the form. This self-imagery training is very valuable and many professional athletes swear by it. One of the all-time great golfers, Jack Nicklaus said, “I never hit a shot even in practice without having a sharp in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie. First, I “see” the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I “see” the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behaviour on landing. Then there’s a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality and only at the end of this short private Hollywood spectacular do I select a club and step up to the ball.”
At times life can get hectic and unfortunately take precedence over coming to the school for class. However, you can and should find a way to practice on your own – if even for a short time – and you may very well find your skills move to the next level because of it. Sample home workouts will come in future posts. Keep training…