Training With a Ring to It
From Shaolin to Hung Gar, Weighted Rings Toughen the Body
by David Jamieson
Using weights for the arms and legs has been a part of traditional kungfu practice for quite some time. It is difficult to find written instruction on the practice. This is likely due to the tradition of teacher to student transmission of martial arts over the centuries. Master to student transmission is what has kept many aspects of many martial arts secret from the general public and just as notably, competing schools.
However, there is evidence that the use of the rings as weighted training tools were used in Shaolin training methodologies. Leg and body weights were also used by the Shaolin to increase strength and mobility. If we look to the pages of the book by the late Master Lam Sai Wing of the Hung Gar system, we see he makes use of weighted rings in his demonstration of the set Fu Hok. This set, known in English as ?Tiger and Crane? is considered one of the jewels of the Hung Gar system and is widely practiced by all lineages of Hung Gar today as a ?pillar? set of the system. It is not the only set where the rings can be worn though.
It is in the Hung styles and village Hung Styles where we see these rings used by intermediate to advanced students as part of their regimen. Not only the Hung style and its variants have this training. There are several other styles that contain this training. The rings were worn and the practitioner would work on his linked techniques or sets/forms. The weights could also be used for supplemental exercises to augment and increase upper body strength, balance and mobility. The use of the rings and the fact that they banged against the arms and wrists of the practitioner would contribute to the hardness of the forearms and therefore increase the practitioner?s bridge arm (Kiu Sao) abilities. The muscles, bones and tendons would benefit from this practice and strength would improve greatly over time with the use of the rings.
Dit Da Jow
The use of Dit Da Jow is paramount in importance to any conditioning exercise that can bruise the appendages or body of the student involved with Chinese martial arts in particular where the use of medicines is part and parcel to training.
Dit Da Jow is applied following the exercises to the areas of the arms and wrists that have been affected by the slamming of the rings into them. Also note, that it is better to start with a little weight and progress upwards to more weight. So, wear only one ring on each arm first and slowly increase the amount of rings as time passes and ability to handle the weight increases. The inside diameter of the rings is important also. You don?t want to have the rings fly off when you strike and you don?t want them riding up your arm and over your elbow. The rings should fit you as a person to meet this requirement.
Training with the rings you will really feel the reaction of your body to them immediately. You can isolate different muscles much the same ways as you would in regular weight lifting exercises. As an example, the shoulder muscles, the flexor muscles and the stretching muscles of the upper arm are developed strength wise, while the deep forearm muscles and superficial forearm muscles are developed for strength and conditioned for striking and blocking. The weight of the rings will also effect your upper body overall in how it is able to move with the added weight. If you couple the exercises with stances and the gross movements of sets, the benefits increase exponentially.
The weight of the rings affects the shoulders, arms, pectoral muscles and muscles of the upper back, but any weight you bear is also going to affect the entirety of your body to some degree by the nature of its separateness from the whole self. As well, the joints of the arm are stressed and affected by the added weight and its motion. When the rings slam into the wrist from the execution of a striking motion, force is moved into the terminus of the plane the rings are moving on, i.e. the wrist joint. As the arms move with rapidity and then stop suddenly, the weight of the rings carries their motion through and they (the ring(s)) slam into the arm.
Some may wish to wear earplugs or put some cotton in their ears to deal with the noise of the rings that is produced while exercising with them. They emit a very sharp and piercing sound when they hit against each other. If your hearing is very sensitive, it is recommended that you wear earplugs of some fashion. The sounds of the rings striking against each other can help you understand where you are not physically generating the right kind of striking power or where you shouldn?t be generating that type of power. For instance, if a strike such as a spear hand is launched while training with the rings and the rings emit a low sound or not much sound at all, it is likely that you are performing the strike incorrectly.
Force from a strike should propel outward from the striker. This will be evident with the rings? movement along the plane of your arm and when they stop at the wrist. Be mindful in your practice. Breath should be in tandem with motion. Out when striking, in when drawing in or ?chambering? strikes. Also of importance is correct body alignment. Without correct alignment you can injure yourself in any practice where external weight is used as a training tool.
The rings also double as armor of a sort and can serve as a weapon also. As such they are definitely in the realm of ?classical? technology. However, it is interesting to discover their application in the area of armor and as a weapon.
It is important to have Dit Da Jow on hand when training sets with the rings as they will bruise you from striking motions while wearing them. You can buy Dit Da Jow from many different Chinese apothecaries (pharmacy/herbalists). There are a few varieties of Dit Da Jow that can be had. Explain to the apothecary what you want to use it for and they will help you pick the right type for the exercises. Generally you want a liniment that treats bruising specifically and not so much the types of dit da jow that are for sore muscles from exercise. Be clear in what you ask the apothecary for.
About David Jamieson:
The author is a Kung Fu practitioner located in Toronto Canada, you can reach him through his website at http://members.rogers.com/kunglek