Iron Shirt Neigong, the Fascia Fitness from the Martial Arts world.

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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:

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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Comments 20


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28.08.2019 22:23

Congratulations @quochuy, you have received a 55% upvote. I'm the Vietnamese Community bot developed by witness @quochuy and powered by community SP delegations

28.08.2019 22:35


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28.08.2019 22:46

You’ve been visited by @porters on behalf of Natural Medicine!

I hear you about getting old! It's hard to admit to but it is a fact! Great that you have those other activities to balance out your more sedentary work hours! And good on you to challenge yourself to go for the Iron Shirt Neigong! I had never heard of any of those martial arts except Qigong but looking forward to what you have to say once you complete it. Go @quochu Go!

This fortnight, we're having a Herb Challenge, sponsored by Curie! You can win over 40 Steem in prizes. Check out the details by clicking here!

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29.08.2019 01:21

Will definitely keep you guys up to date, thanks @porters

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29.08.2019 07:07

Iron Shirt: very very cool!!!

Slightly different to what I learned... but that's usually the case in Qìgōng LOL.

29.08.2019 01:24

Virtually every style has several variations (branches).

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29.08.2019 07:08

We did iron palm at our last school, or rather my partner did and I started but when the sifu of that school told us it involved killing nerves in your hands or something to that effect I noped right out because I need to feel what I'm doing to draw XD That iron shirt stuff looks pretty hardcore O_O yeh getting old might be unavoidable but looks like you're going to be one of those terrifying little old people who look demure on the outside til you completely kick arse XD

29.08.2019 04:38

We do have what we call steel hand/arm here. But the philosophy of our school is to go the soft way and let the body build up progressively, so we don’t do those hardcore bone-breaking, nerves-killing stuffs.

Indeed, getting old is not the problem, the problem is getting old healthy.

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29.08.2019 07:10

It's funny I was just explaining this post to somebody today or a variation of it if you like. I was saying how much I love it because it feels really good on my back but I also know I am strengthening my legs. It is very similar to some poses we do in yoga and I am always struck buy the parallels between these two arts.

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29.08.2019 05:48

Yes, Yoga and QiGong/Neigong have some very similar stuffs. I’m pretty sure they have same roots. My back is happy too since I’m doing this, if I do a wrong posture I will feel it quick and will have to focus on straightening and relaxing.

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29.08.2019 07:12

铁布衫 tie bu shan?

From Chinese video games and fantasy fiction, the iron shirt form is a Shaolin defensive form that hardens your body like iron and can usually be upgraded 金钟罩 jin zhong zhao, the Golden Bell.

That's how they're usually depicted in pop culture haha. Never knew it was a real technique that required doing the viet squat a lot of times to master.

You write some good stuff Quoc and I heard you contribute to some dev work. Now that the economic incentives have changed and it isn't stupidly expensive to vote for others, I can finally support you.

I'm from Aus too, catch you around.

29.08.2019 09:48

Nice to see another Aussie on here. Thanks for commenting, I didn't know about 铁布衫, I googled it and found this old movie:

There are many versions of Iron Shirt QiGong technique, some of which you can see on Youtube:

The first video is similar concept to what my master teaches in for the first 100 days of training. We build strength in our fascia tissue and muscles. The next 100 days involved bamboo and then steel brush which you use to hit your body to toughen it. It's not pleasant exercises but I think it is worth it if you can handle it.

Thanks for your support :-), if you still have some witness votes left, I'd appreciate if you consider casting a vote for my witness.

29.08.2019 10:45

Great post!! Wanna hear something funny? Mantak Chia lives about 20 mins from my home in Chiang Mai here and is a client of mine - his Tao Garden resort buys my insect repellent product for their guests. :) Small word, hey??

I shared this post to our Natural Medicne on Steem facebook page. Please come and support us there bu INVITING YOUR FRIENDS to like the page. Onboarding new steemians starts there. :)

29.08.2019 14:24

No way?! Say hi to him for all of us here and thanks him for all the info he is sharing.

I didn’t realise we had a FB page.

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29.08.2019 20:57

This sounds very interesting, I have never hear about the "Iron Shirt Neigong" here in South Africa, I will have to research it further.

How will this wrk for a person with back problems?

29.08.2019 17:01

If you have back problem then Iron Shirt might give you some back discomfort if you don’t know how to adjust your posture to straighten and relax the back. Difficult to explain like this but what I usually do is focus to try to get my weight down to the legs, tilt the pelvic forward to remove that curve at the bottom of the back, relax my shoulders while bringing them slightly backwards and bring my chin inward and imagine someone pulling a string attached to the top of your head straightening the spine up. I then try to sense my back and shoulder blade muscles and allow them to relax. This should allow the spine to expand and you should feel as if you are getting taller.

29.08.2019 21:40

Thank you for the reply!!

31.08.2019 15:45

Some yoga schools might teach very similar exercises. Ask them about fascia fitness.

29.08.2019 21:50