Many skills that we acquire in life, we condition for it and train so that when it is time to use these skills, they come naturally. In Wing Chun, we learn the open hand forms to get our bodies conditioned to automatically respond to certain attacks. We must also train our bodies to get used to feeling the force behind an attack such as when we Tan Sau a punch or Chain Punch someone.
This is a two part series focused on exercises that can improve our Wing Chun training. Part one will focus primarily on the upper body.
*Note: These are exercises that I do that I’ve learned from class as well as from personal experience. If you plan on doing these exercises and have never done them before, please consult with a fitness expert or physician to see if you should be doing them. Also, be sure to take a break in between days to give your muscles rest.
There are three exercises I focus on when I work out for Wing Chun that involves my upper body, they are: knuckle pushups, two-handed dumbbell curls, and neck resistance training.
1. Knuckle Pushups: These are straightforward and are done like pushups except they are done on the knuckles. Here’s a video on how to properly do a Knuckle Pushup.
I start off by doing three sets of knuckle pushups of 8 repetitions each. I do them between each open hand Wing Chun form. Here’s my routine:
Sil Lim Tau -> 8x Knuckle Pushups -> Chum Kiu -> 8x Knuckle Pushups -> Biu Tze -> 8x Knuckle Pushups.
The purpose of doing pushups on the knuckles is because it strengthens the knuckles as well as the wrists and at the same time, it works on your punching power. Be sure to do each pushup correctly and with good form. Good form is when you keep your core (stomach area) tight and your body straight. Proper pushups are when you go all the way down and pushup with only the strength of your arms.
These are difficult. If you have to, you should break up the repetitions to 4x each and break for 30 seconds, then finish the 4x to total the complete 8x repetition.
If you’re already familiar with Knuckle Pushups, I suggest giving the Modified Knuckle Pushups a try. This is a great exercise to increase power in short distance punching (think one inch punch). Here’s how they’re done.
2. Two-Handed Dumbbell Curls: The purpose of the Two-Handed Dumbbell Curl is to imitate the six and a half point long pole training without having the long pole. Here’s a video of the training (just the first part):
I usually do this exercise in two sets at 10 repetitions each and I change hand position after my first set. I do these after the Knuckle Pushups and open hand forms. Actually, before I do these, I do the Wing Chun dummy form open hand (without a dummy) just so I can work on my visualization of the form and not get rusty even if I don’t practice on the dummy.
Normally this exercise is done with a long pole by using the hands to hold one end of the long pole while keeping the other end from hitting the ground. To emulate this, I use my adjustable dumbbell and leave 10lbs on one side. Here’s a quick video I made to show you how it’s done.
Of course, more weight can be added but 10lbs is a good starting point. This is great training for the long pole form as it builds up the strength in the entire arm: wrists, forearms, biceps, and shoulders.
3. Neck Resistance Training: If you practice Wing Chun, you should know that we have many attacks targeting the neck and the reason is because our neck is one of the most vulnerable parts of our body. One way to strengthen our necks is through Neck Resistance Training. Here is a video detailing how you can train your neck to make it stronger.
As you’re strengthening your neck, you have to remember that your neck is still vulnerable and you should continue to protect your neck by keeping your chin down to defend it against attacks.
The last thing I want to cover is not much a physical exercise but more of a mental drilling to remain relaxed. Staying relaxed is one of the hardest things to accomplish in Wing Chun. During intense Chi Sao sessions, my shoulders always stiffen and I become very predictable when I strike and I am always told to relax my shoulders. Usually when I do, I also start relaxing my entire body. So one thing that I recommend doing if you have trouble relaxing is to drop your shoulders. Do this everywhere, not just in Wing Chun class but when you’re walking, sitting, eating, and whenever you feel your body tensing up. By doing this, you’re training yourself to drop your shoulders whenever you tense up and once you relax your shoulders, the rest of the body follows.
This is the end of part one of body conditioning for Wing Chun. Part two covers the lower body.