Besides the fact that kung fu teaches you some pretty sweet self-defence moves, not all the movements are geared towards fighting. Martial arts is not like any other sport. It’s a rounded form of exercise that balances your health in all areas.
1. Internal Health
Kung fu emphasises the closeness between breathing and action. The breathing techniques learned in kung fu will help regulate the circulation of blood and oxygen flow throughout the body to make sure all internal organs are receiving the optimum amount of nutrients. The rigorous exercises are what encourage more blood circulation which in turn helps with your cardiovascular system. Kung fu helps burn extra cholesterol and strengthens many of the internal organs such as the heart muscles, nervous system and kidneys. On top of that, practising kung fu will give you a better metabolism and help regulate blood pressure.
Practising kung fu will lower energy consumption. Martial arts requires the whole body to work together in harmony, including the internal organs. Frequent practitioners of kung fu will find that over time their bodies will have more vascular elasticity and lung capacity which increases the blood and oxygen supply within the whole body.
2. External Health
I can bet that pretty much everyone has seen those training videos of Shaolin monks using tree posts and other hard objects to condition their muscles. Personally, every time I see those videos I cringe. I’m working my way up from hitting soft pads to moderately padded posts, and I can honestly say that it leaves your arms sore and bruised for days. It hurts!
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that this type of conditioning is beneficial to hardening the bones and muscles in your body. Having toned muscles are important for many fighting stances and forms. It helps increase the strength and speed of your punches and kicks.
Besides the obvious benefit of weight loss, kung fu will also increase your durability and I don’t just mean of your muscles. Your skin also goes through some changes when training in martial arts. It becomes firmer and is able to withstand more force without breaking or becoming bruised. In a fight, you will be able to endure more pain.
3. Increased Flexibility
Flexibility is the full range of motion the joints are able to experience. when people think of flexibility, they often come up with the image of someone doing the splits. Read how to improve your flexibility here.
The reason why flexibility is important is because it maximises your range of motion and reduces the risk of injury. In other words, you would be able to kick an opponent straight up in the jaw without pulling a hamstring.
Having a good amount of flexibility is important to your performance. It allows you to increase your reach while punching, kicking, bending, or with whatever movement you are doing so you will be able to achieve maximum extension or flexing of the body without causing any strain.
4. Increased Mobility
Mobility is often mistaken as the same thing as flexibility. However, where flexibility is the range of motion in a joint, mobility is the area where two bones meet and are able to move before being restricted by tendons and muscles.
People need a certain amount of mobility to perform movements without being restricted. Mobility is affected by muscle tension and tissue quality.
Mobility plays a big part in your ability to move from side to side, back and forth, swivel around, do shoulder rolls, or even jump extra high.
To sum it up, mobility is the ability to produce force in a range of motion. With mobility, you are better able to perform complex movements while maintaining control over your body. Developing mobility can be considered a form of conditioning for many martial arts styles as it requires your muscles to produce power through motions.
5. Mental Awareness
It’s one thing to talk about how you’ll react to difficult situations and another thing to actually act. I like to imagine that I would stay calm in a situation where I am faced with an opponent. For example, if I were to come across a bear while camping in the wood, I’d like to think that I would remain calm and keep a clear head so that my actions won’t reflect the fear and insecurities I might have inside. However, it is easier to talk about being brave than actually showing it. Part of kung fu training is about meditation and being mentally aware of what is happening around you.
My kung fu training has helped me to prepare to face difficult encounters. It has taught me about knowing what to do on instinct. It’s about being able to remain calm and think quickly in order to stay in control against an opponent.
I actually have encountered a bear before while at a friend’s cabin. The baby bear was between me and my cabin and I was between the baby bear and mama bear. The situation may have turned out differently had I been on my own, but I was actually with two friends. I chalk it up to my kung fu training and years of living near a forested area that helped me to remain calm and guide my friends slowly around the mama bear. In this situation I was able to keep my presence of mind and get around the situation without disturbing nature.
I would love to hear if anyone else has encountered a difficult situation that they had to navigate around. Let me know in the comments below a time when you had to keep your head to get out of a sticky situation.