Iron Palm Training: The Importance of Both Power Development and Physical Conditioning
By: Josh Walker
Power development is primarily a neuromuscular activity that is correlated with physical change of the brain in an effort to induce optimal muscle recruitment for the task at hand. With time, one's ability to develop power in a strike, walk on stilts like a clown, or text your friend on the world's smallest cellular keyboard, are all tasks that we become unusually excellent at over time. And while muscular strength is very important for all (ok, most) of these tasks, muscle memory is equally, if not more, important. If you were to stop performing these tasks for many years, you could return to these activities and realize that basic proficiency is retained. That is, you may have gotten a bit rusty, slow or clumsy and you may have experienced some muscle atrophy, but the skill is still there in the muscle memory.
But, while muscle memory is retained for the long term, conditioned physical attributes, such as strength, flexibility, and the hardness of bones and tissues, etc., steadily declines over time. Unfortunately, this decline can be quite rapid. A few months off can make a drastic difference in physical conditioning.
All this jabber is to make this point: If your art has drills specific for working on power generation (which I think all do), then some kind of physical conditioning - like Iron Palm -becomes very important for longterm success because as you learn how to build the power, you will need to increase your physical conditioning to keep from injuring yourself.
Last weekend, after taking some time off from Iron Palm conditioning, I broke a couple of blocks and was shocked to find that I developed some minor bruises on my fingers, AND tweaked my wrist. Why did this happen? My capability to produce power is still well intact; and muscle memory for proper execution of the task hasn’t changed, but my neglect of physical conditioning allowed my hands to soften a bit. So, adaptation goes both ways: Train hard and you will forge a hard body; take too many breaks and that hardness will soften.
To continue on this line of thought, I'd like to talk briefly about the wrists and their health and mobility. Wrist issues arise from various aspects of training, not just Iron Palm, and I have had my fair share of wrist sprains and strains, mostly from sparring in the past. It may be because of this, that I tend to have to be careful with my wrists while I'm doing intense Iron Palm training as they tend to get tight and cramped. The joints and tendons seem to become sensitive and when I break a lot of concrete I can sometimes tweak them strangely.
When you are training the hands and arms hard, whether it be wall bag or pad work, iron palm training or something else that stresses the hand, you must focus on keeping those wrists healthy as they are relatively fragile. You can combat wrist problems mainly in these 3 ways:
- Range of Motion/Flexibility: Before and after training, do wrist circles in both directions, do some twisting motions, and other types of movement and stretching that promote range of motion and flexibility in the joints of the wrist. Click HERE for wrist mobility exercises and stretches. Filipino Martial Arts drills to improve shoulder and wrist mobility. Wrist training for Zen Martial Arts/Kung Fu.
- Strength: Having strong wrists will strongly decrease the chances of future injury. Performing flexion and extension of the wrist under resistance will help build and stabilize the muscles on both sides of the forearm. Click HERE for 6 wrist strengthening exercises.
- Massage/Dit Da Jow: Before and after your training regimen, while you are putting on your Jow, take an extra couple minutes to massage an extra bit of liniment specifically into each wrist. Loosen the joint and sinew up while you rub Jow into these areas. Here are three of Plum Dragon's best Iron Palm training Jows:
White Dragon Iron Palm Dit Da Jow
This potent recipe of 26 herbs helps beginner and intermediate Iron Palm practitioners to build a strong Iron Palm foundation. Mildly warming in action, this Dit Da Jow recipe opens and warms circulating channels.
Ku Yu Cheong Iron Palm Dit Da Jow
This is a “must-try” iron palm formula and is the original formula used by iron palm master Ku Yu Cheong. It helps with blood circulation, and removal of stagnation and inflammation. It also helps to heal and strengthen bone and sinew. It is a relatively cooling formula with some very strong herb combinations and is used before and after iron palm training. It is not principally an injury a formula but is useful for sprains and strains, and arthritic complaints. It has an amazing, fragrant and sweet aroma.
Ancestors Advanced Iron Palm Dit Da Jow
Ancestors Advanced Iron Palm dit da jow is intended for advanced training with steel or lead shot, iron ore, or other dense mediums used in various iron palm systems, as well as force impact, advanced coconut break training, and direct hitting methods. This formula contains large doses of the strongest herbs on the planet to strongly open circulation, move energy to the hands, and continue the bone/sinew strengthening process. This formula has also shown popularity by those who do large amounts of qigong and energy circulation in conjunction with Iron Palm.
Best when used solely for Iron Palm training purposes by well-experienced practitioners.