Kung Fu Training: You Always Hurt the One You Love

Over my years of teaching martial arts, I’ve had quite a good time explaining some of the more obscure switches of Kung Fu’s winding pathway: the splits, front and side; gyrating and rolling children, long past their bedtimes; and the fine art of setting things on small altar stacks, then crushing them. And that is not even considering my favorite: the technique of slamming your own body with your own limbs. Seeing this for the first time may bring the reaction; “Boy, my teacher is so powerful he can hit himself and scare attackers off.”

The art of striking yourself is called “auto-impact” and is generally introduced after students are particularly skilled. The principle is to use your own body to augment its own power; it can also greatly enhance speed. To show how it works, let me take examples from the classical forms.

Slapping your own forearm. You strike downward with your right forearm while brushing up with your left hand acting as a parry. The palm of your rising left should slap past the downward action of the right. One of the best applications of this move is the use of two hands creating two different effects at the same time—your downward strike is the major weapon and the brushing left is a parry executed at the same moment.

 

Passing Your Thigh. A similar explanation occurs when focusing on a different region of the body. In this case, you perform a snap-kick about stomach-high, with either foot. Simultaneously, you slap past your upper thigh (inside or outside) with a downward brush parry. This reciprocal action is meant to both attack (kick) and deflect (slap) your opponent’s incoming kick. The effectiveness of these up-down, in-out actions is based on the concept that simultaneous movements don’t allow enough space or time for your opponent to enter, or for him to capitalize on your rhythm.

 

Elbow Cross Power. In some cases, we just want to create more power. You can do this by proper training, but you can also augment power by emphasizing the soft, or receiving, component. So, if I swing a right inward forearm smash, the power of the blow can by multiply increased by slapping the right forearm with the left open palm (imagine your opponent’s body sandwiched between the two). Not only does this just plain hurt, but it prevents rolling with the punch. Watch out practicing this one, it can be severe.

 

Symmetrical Double Slap. The act of slapping two palms together is rarely what it seems, unless you are in the audience of Hamilton. The application of the double-handed movement is, surprisingly, NOT symmetrical. In fact, Kung Fu generally avoids symmetry. The usage, itself, makes them asymmetrical. For instance, my opponent attacks and I step to the side, using one hand to slice his ribs and the other to drag across his face. Two different movements combine into a simultaneous double strike, diffusing focus for your opponent to attend.

 

Are there more of these self-augmented movements? You’ve got to be kidding. But I want you to find and interpret from your own observation. This is the way to own a form. Here is one to get you started:

Use your right hand to bounce off your body mass to increase power. What will your left hand do? How will it reciprocate? Is there something you can pull from your form that utilizes this action? Let us know!

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