View this post on Hive: Iron Shirt Neigong, the Fascia Fitness from the Martial Arts world.
As much as I dislike the thought of me getting old, it’s the bloody reality. Sleeping an hour later than the regular time and I will feel like crap the next morning and it will take me couple of days to recover. My body feels weaker than before and tummy fat is increasing due to being less active (almost 4 hours a day sitting in trains and about 8 hours sitting at work).
The good thing is I still have activities on my free time: kayak fishing, gardening, worm farming and martial arts.
I joined Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu over a year ago in order to keep myself active and it’s been great. Wu Xing Dao is not a style on its own, it’s more of a philosophy/concept and we are learning four different internal martial art styles: Mian Quan, Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Meihuaquan.
Iron Shirt Neigong
This year, in the intermediate classes, we have been given the chance to take the 100-day Iron Shirt Neigong (a subset of Qigong / Chi Kung) training. The 100 days are split into three levels: 30 days for level 1, 30 days for level 2 and 40 days for level 3. Each exercises are either:
- static stances that you need to hold for 3 minutes each or
- active movements you repeat 72 times
It takes from 24-26 minutes to complete the 8 exercises from each set. All of the exercises are very demanding and physically tiring or painful or both. The “Buffalo goes to the sea” static stance is one of the most feared stance from the level 1 set. It requires a squatting position with your back parallel to the ground, head up and eyes looking forward. This stance is a combination of the “Golden Turtle” stance and a variation of the “Water Buffalo” stance.
Right: Golden Turtle position, Left: Water Buffalo position. By TaoHealth
From level 2, the hardest (arguably the hardest of all 3 levels) is called “Leopard Paws”. It’s an active movement to be repeated continuously while contracting every muscles of your upper body. No need for dumbbells or doing crunching after this.
It’s very intense
Even though there are a lot of static posture and the active ones are not very fast, they are very demanding because of the positioning of your body and limbs and the fact that you are always twisting or resisting yourself when doing movements. At the end of the first level set, I’m already sweating.
Why do it if it is so painful?
“No pain no gain” they say! With all kind of exercise where you expect great results, there will always be some pain. Going to the gym for the first time is very painful and as you build muscle it becomes much easier. With Iron Shirt, however, the pain is still there even after 40 days. I heard that from 75 days onwards, it gets a lot better, we will see. The good thing is the pain encountered during the exercises is gone away few seconds after you end the session.
But anyway, I started doing the training because I heard of Iron Shirt since I was a teen and I wanted to see how it is, how hard it is what change can it bring to my body. It’s also quite rare to be able to find a good school that teaches it.
The reason I keep doing it despite the seemingly never-ending pain is that after only two weeks, I’ve already seen some very positive changes on my body. I feel more energetic and less tired every day despite my usually short nights due to the many activities I’m doing. Even on days when I have only 5 hours of sleep, I do feel sleepy but my body does not feel drained like it usually does.
So I went and search for more information about Iron Shirt and found out several articles and videos about the topic and Science found out that Iron Shirt is a Fascia Fitness training and as such it has a lot of health benefits for the non-martial artists students. Here are some of them:
- Here is a short one describing the health benefits. “The secret of fascia in the martial arts.” by Sol Petersen, in book: Fascia in Sport and Movement, Edition: first, Chapter: the secret of fascia in the martial arts, Publisher: Handspring, Editors: Robert Schleip, Amanda Baker, pp.153-160.
- Here is a longer one by Mantak Chia, Iron Shirt section starts at page 152: “Awaken healing energy through the Tao”
And if you have 1h45m to burn, here is a video about Iron Shirt Chi Kung by Mantak Chia:
Mantak Chia also has a book about Iron Shirt Chi Kung that you can buy online.
If you are looking to train with Iron Shirt, then I highly recommend you to find and join a school that teaches it because it can potentially be harmful if you do it improperly.
Previously on my blog:
- The image at the top has been generated with the Canva app using my own photo.
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