Kung Fu Martial Arts Conditioning: 
The Forearms of Steel

Regarding kung fu conditioning, martial arts practitioners throughout the centuries have heard many stories of great Chinese martial arts masters with the ability to withstand powerful blows and generate superior strength in their attacks.

James in Iron Ring training Kung Fu conditioning Golden Lion Academy

One such legend was master Leung Kwan (1813-1886) earned the nickname Tiet Kiu Sam “Iron Bridge Number Three” for his strong Kiu Sao and his one-thousand-pound sinking horse stance.

Leung Kwan was also remembered for being one of the untouchable Kwang Sup Fu (Ten Tigers from Canton) during the Ching Dynasty. During battle he would defeat his opponent by crushing his forearm into various pressure points.

What made Leung Kwan so powerful?

Kwan spent countless hours in training to develop his Kiu Sao and breathing form such as the "Iron Wire Routine". The level of skill and power he attained can only be achieved through extensive forearm conditioning over a long-term period.

Kiu Sao in Kung Fu

Kiu Sao is also referred to as “bridge arm”. The bridge arm is located from the elbow to the tip of the fingers. To those confronted by the sheer strength and power in these strikes and blocks, it felt as through their opponent had forearms of iron. This feature quickly became the trademark of the style. The Kiu Sao is an integral part of all bare hands forms practiced at Golden Lion.

Conditioning the forearms in kung fu

Training of the forearms consists of various hardening drills and breathing forms, the purpose of which is to help you develop hard bone, power and resilience to pain. This article explores three most common training exercises to strengthen your forearms:

1. Taming the tiger push ups

One effective training method to develop forearms of iron, which is also useful for overall body conditioning, is “taming the tiger push-ups”. This exercise can be used not only to strengthen the arms and fingers, but also to teach you to use your whole body to produce power.

This type of training not only forces great weight upon the fingers and toes but also teaches you to shift your strength along your body. By practising this movement of strength, you gain a sense of the connectedness between the parts of the body, in this case between your hands and your feet.

To practice this exercise:

- Stretch your body backwards while raising yourself on fingers and toes

- Crouch downward slowly until you almost touch the floor.

2. Three star blocks

The second common training exercise is the “Three star blocks”. This blocking drill involves two partners striking each other with the forearm while performing three different blocking techniques. This drill will strengthen your bone and tissue, as well as physical and mental toughness.

To practice this exercise:

  • Face your partner in a standing position.
  • Lean into a left dragon stance and apply a right hand gate block.
  • Sit back on a horse stance and apply a right hand outside block.
  • Maintain your horse stance and apply a right lower block.
  • To strengthen the left hand, do 1-4 repeats on the opposite side.

When performing this exercise:

  • During transition keep your forearm relax and breathe in.
  • On contact with your partner’s forearm, tense your arm and breathe out.
  • On completion of this drill you must apply kung fu herbal liniment to reduce bruising. and blood stagnation. Specially prepared Herbal liniments such as Dit Da Jiao to toughen bones, ligaments and muscles and Bruise Gone to clear bruises quickly and the Pain Relief Liniment all help in the healing process and prevent further injuries. These liniments are available at your Golden Lion training centres.

3. Four Sided Bridge Arm

This is another technique that teaches you to focus your strength directly at the forearm.

In this exercise both partners start by facing each other in a horse stance with bridge arm crossed. As your partner begins to push forward to your right shoulder with pressure, resist enough to create some tension. You then move his bridge arm in anti clockwise motion across your chest and push forward to his right shoulder.

Each partner takes turn testing the other's Kiu Sao using isometric pushing motions coupled with breathing. Through this training you will learn to develop your Chi and to manipulate and move your opponents strength as well as your own.

Kung Fu Chi Internal Power

Correct breathing is necessary to develop internal strength. When performing these three exercises, breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly to increase the flow of Chi in the body.

Practice Properly

It is said that the impact from a Hung Kuen stylist’s block is to be feared, let alone the impact from one of his strikes. Training designed to build forearms of iron not only creates a destructive weapon but also provides you with a high level of protection and increases for your fighting tools - hence the term “iron forearm”

The kung fu conditioning exercises introduced here are only some of the different methods that can assist you to develop the famous iron forearm and are more complex than they appear. Forearms like iron can only be achieved through long-term training under the proper supervision of your teacher.

Good Luck!

And if you would like to attend regular classes, please call us on our central telephone number 9796-1066 for class times and fees or email us through our contact-us form.

P.S: If you find this website useful, feel free to recommend it to a friend.

More Conditioning Articles

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