There are a lot of myths about Kung Fu out there – for starters, it’s a very broad term that covers a wide range of Chinese martial arts that can be incredibly different from one another – and you generally find people who think that practicing it can give you near superhuman powers, and on the opposite end of the spectrum those who believe it to be impractical and a waste of time.
However, the problem is with overly commercialized schools that are oriented more towards business than martial arts, where people are taught sloppy technique and promoted to high ranks with virtually no practical sparring and technique application skills.
Generally speaking the smaller the class, the better off you will be – ideally, you’d find a master who has a day job and offers classes as a way to supplement his or her income, as this type of master believes in what he or she teaches and expects a high level of competence. Whatever path you choose to follow though, as long as you study under a good master when you start practicing Kung Fu, you’ll see a number of positive changes.
1. You’ll feel more energetic and focused
It’s a well-known fact that engaging in about an hour of moderate intensity physical activities on a daily basis can improve concentration, and improving your cardiovascular health will allow you to stay fresh and energized. Kung Fu, much like any martial art requires a great deal of endurance, isometric strength and explosive power, and by developing all of these things you eventually turn your body into a much more energy-efficient machine that just keeps chugging along no matter what challenge you throw at it.
Hours of doing the same moves over and over again until you attain perfection will develop a lot of patience and incredible focus, which carry over to any other physical and intellectual task.
2. You’ll shed several pounds of fat
The best thing about having a training session every day, or almost every day, is that it takes a lot more calories for your body to maintain its current weight, let alone add more of it. This means that you can eat a decent amount of food and still lose weight. However, I’d always work up an appetite after all that exercise, so I had be more careful than usual about what I put on my plate.
Luckily, there plenty of diet-friendly options to choose from, even on your lunch break at work – you can make pasta a healthy alternative as long as you go with mushrooms and chicken and salads are your friend, as long as you stay away from high-calorie dressings. If you go a little overboard, just add another 20 minutes of form practice to your next workout.
3. You’ll become more balanced and fluid in your movements
You don’t really think about your training being good for much more than overall health and developing some fighting skills, until you find yourself in a situation where you’d normally slip and fall, break a glass or pump into a street sign, only this time you manage to Kung Fu your way out of the problem. My first big eureka moment happened while I was riding a bus.
It slowed down suddenly and all the people were thrown a step or two forward, whereas I had just grounded myself, tensed up my legs and managed to stay balanced. I also started catching falling objects in midair, slipping through crowded streets with ease and stopped bumping my feet and elbows into random objects. Kung Fu gives you cat-like agility if you train consistently day in and day out.
4. You’ll be as healthy as an ox
Not only do you start to improve your posture and energy levels as your Kung Fu training builds up some muscle and endurance, but you’ll also feel healthier in general. The combined hard training like punching and the meditative serenity you get form practicing forms really help balance out your body’s chemistry and keep it strong.
Your body even starts craving healthy food when you deplete it through regular training, and there’s nothing like a huge glass of green juice to give you the micronutrient boost that you need. I found juices to be the easiest way to get all the vitamins and minerals I need, and I’d go back and forth between green juices, veggie smoothies and good old-fashioned homemade milkshakes with bananas and berries. After a few months of Kung Fu training you’ll notice a significant improvement in your blood work.
5. You’ll have more confidence
It’s not just about being more courageous and outspoken because you aren’t afraid of a beat down – although pure physical force won’t be a very good argument against you once you’ve learned the basics of delivering and receiving force – it’s about being confident in your ability to do a variety of different things.
With a year or two of Kung Fu training under your belt you’ll be able to keep your balance on ice roads, you’ll become a much more fluid dancer, you will be able to carry and move around some weight (be it a person or an object), you’ll look good, you’ll have excellent confident posture and you’ll be brimming with positive energy.
All of this things will make you more comfortable with all kinds of situations, and as your confidence grows so will your comfort zone. People will pick up on this and you’ll come across as a much more interesting, fun and sexier person.
6. You’ll be able to protect yourself
Let’s just hit the breaks for a second here and cover a few important points before we move on:
- Fighting and self-defense are totally different mindsets, and are both very precisely defined legal terms, which are not open to interpretation. Learn the difference if you want to stay out of trouble;
- If you don’t do a lot of free sparring you’ll suck at very important things like keeping your eyes open as you strike, proper breathing, gauging distance, timing etc;
- Even if you are good at sparring you can still freeze up or make blunders if you aren’t used to controlling the effects an adrenaline dump has on the body, and this has to be a part of your training;
- Common sense, awareness, avoidance, de-escalation, giving people face-saving exits and flying past an attacker and beating your previous 200 meter dash record are all important self-defense tactics with more favorable outcomes than physical combat.
OK, so you’ll be able to stay out of trouble most of the time by looking confident, trying to avoid risk areas, positioning yourself tactically and being assertive, but there will be times when a quick explosive barrage of attacks is the best way to keep yourself and those around you out of harm’s way.
Kung Fu styles allow for a good use of force ladder – i.e. you can arm lock a drunken “friend of a friend” who’s being a little too aggressive at a party and wait for him to tire himself out or push a persistent bully looking for a fight into a wall and run to safety, but you can also use more potent strikes or throws to dissuade a more determined attacker or even maim a criminal hell-bent on killing or seriously injuring you.
7. You’ll keep your cool in heated situations
A good master will be able to teach you self-control and explain to you that your training only gives you a better chance at staying alive and well, but combat is still a huge gamble and random chance can destroy all your well-laid out self-defense strategies.
Being ready to resort to violence as a last resort, and having the skill to effectively use violence against tough and aggressive opponents, will allow you to keep your cool when negotiating or settling an argument. When you’ve got nothing to prove you won’t make stupid mistakes like staring straight at a tough-looking guy to “keep an eye on him” or “show him you are not afraid”, or rushing into a fight that could have been avoided.
It’s worth researching the different Kung Fu styles to find something that suits your personality, physical build and the way you prefer to move your body, as the benefits of regular training are truly immense. This is why they say that Kung Fu is a lifestyle rather than a mere skill, and there is quite a lot to learn, so you can keep at it for decades and still have more areas to focus on and master.