Wednesday, May 16, 2012

About Conditioning... Part I

by Sifu Vyvial 
and Mary Ceallaigh

Traditional Ving Tsun kung fu techniques are based on the natural law of the body's structural power and don’t rely on physical strength. This makes the study of Ving Tsun great for people of any stature, as can be seen in the diversity of our students in the Moy Yat schools around the world.  We also train our kung fu habits through the challenges of various methods of endurance conditioning.  

Why do we do this conditioning stuff?  Because comprehensive embodiment through a variety of conditions increases our capacity to respond easily & quickly in many circumstances.  We are also exploring our training of the relaxation response that is so essential for the flow of self-defense and life in general.   Conditioning works with the truth that the human body is built for survival and will adapt to better handle sweat, stress, pain, temperature changes, emotional surges, and just about anything you can throw at it. Through challenging conditioning, you will build mental toughness, fighter's fitness. 

Physiologically the body starts to last longer, meaning we physically adapt and our muscles fail later and later until we surpass perceived limitations and are training at a new level.

The newbie student wants to know WHEN the delayed onset muscle soreness cycle (DOMS, more about that in Part II) or emotional triggers are going to lessen – and sifus will tell you it’s more about HOW we commit to stay in the process, and arranging your lifestyle to support this transformation  with good self-care, self-discipline, communication with your sifu, and the application of wisdom.  Training as a beginner in the new postures and movements of our Ving Tsun kung fu system will create soreness for sure, but once your consistent training has built up a foundation in your deep tissue and joints, you WILL be at another level and have to challenge yourself in order to feel any soreness!  In the meantime, keep in mind that the best response to post-training soreness is continued training and movement.  It will actually move you through your Ving Tsun conditioning much faster than erratic practice.  If a student doesn't experience any sweating and aching in class and/or post-training soreness, it means that effort must be intensified in horse stance and everything else.  And you can find a way to do that from the inside out.

The long angular muscles developed in traditional Ving Tsun training assist the free flow of biodynamic energy.  These sinewy muscle groups are the muscles that already exist in typical female anatomy - and they tone the body into a healthy, open conduit for chi energy, fortifying the immune system and strengthening the internal organs.

These Ving Tsun muscles are flexible and characteristically relaxed compared to the lumpy, tight muscles of Calvin Klein models or developed in bulk-up weight-resistance training or hefty physical labor.  Bulky muscles are tense and inflexible, restricting the flow of power in the body, and even completely blocking it.  Typically, new students with or without muscle bulk will use strength and tension-based movements during their early Ving Tsun training until they realize that this is counter-productive to the flow of real kung fu based in the power of the body structure and joint movements - a realization that may take a year of training to arrive at, as old habits are hard to break.   

Until learning this, the student’s sparring partners will not be able to experience the receiving end of “soft force” when training with this student.  (And all is not lost – there are personal training benefits to being on the receiving end of a muscle-bound or hard-force training partner, as it creates an opportunity to practice one’s own commitment to “soft force” in response, which is a likely situation in the world outside the studio). 


Ving Tsun training emphasizes the primacy of relaxation, and it applies equally to both the body AND the mind. The relaxed toned body is healthy and permits power to flow through it unrestricted.  But the mind must also be reconditioned towards an alert relaxation.  The value of aligning the mind and the body has long been known in Eastern cultures for purposes of physical healing, spiritual liberation, sexual harmony, and long-term vitality.  And today mental training is being reexamined as perhaps the only real permanent cure for stress and the many ailments and addictions that accompany stress.   Some examples of mental training that we do in class are Siu Nim Tao, the 5 minute single punch meditation, and breathing practices - all developed to train the mind to unite with the body, which is basic to self-defense conditioning.   Siu Nim Tao will warm you up and cool you down, as needed.  If you do nothing else on days you are not in class, do Siu Nim Tao.


One of the signs that we are working new ground is sweat.  Each student has their comfort level related to sustained endurance in certain postures or movements, as well as dealing with  environmental factors such as air temperature/circulation. Everyone comes to class having had a particular kind of day, at a certain level of hydration, and having recently eaten certain foods - the lighter and water-bearing foods being helpful for intense training. 

In Chinese Medicine, the water element is what we orient to during transformation and harvest.  Sweat is part of flow. Water's Yin energy is held in the kidneys, and its Yang is in the bladder.  When conditioning, you will notice an increased capacity to release the kidneys’ stored water through salty sweat rather than through the bladder. In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are revered, as they contain the root energy of all your organs and spark the energy of the whole body.  Sweating detoxifies the liver and the whole body, which is a great health benefit.  


Horse Stance

The basic standing posture of the Siu Nim Tao form, called Horse Stance or Goat Holding Stance or Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma, is one of the primary exercises used to enhance the endurance and strength of the legs and the power center (dan tien) awareness of the belly, as well as the mental training of the mind learning to accept the new sensations and new center of this posture.  Called "Horse Stance," this standing practice emanates from the hip joints and creates a unique training for the knees, calves, and ankles that is carried into Ving Tsun body motion, and is often quite strenuous during the early years of training.  It not only busts the bronco-rider of excessive ego and creates the humility required for a peaceful warrior - it also works with the internal life force or biodynamic "Chi" energy.  Life force moves into the legs as the students learns to sink this energy into the ground.  Students might start learning this by standing for only 10 minutes at first, slowly building up the time to an hour over the course of several months, according to individual conditions. This stance tones the nervous system of the entire pelvic floor, and aligns the prostate, uterus, and ovaries, which increases sexual vitality and general health.  Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma deepens your roots so that more energy can be unleashed into the circulation to express Ving Tsun with great power.

Low Horse Stance

The strenuous Low Horse stance or Jin Ma training has long been a tradition of Chinese martial arts, considered essential for full-spectrum vital energy mastery, as it develops Yang and rejuvenates Yin.  Jin Ma is phenomenal for training posture balance in all sorts of conditions, and was originally practiced for seafaring fighting legs on boats.  It brings enormous speed and grace to the feet when crab-walking and rising up from the floor.   To seriously cultivate your Jin Ma, you need to deeply relax in the process while also maintaining good body structure, and concentrating the muscles that support you in the seat and pelvis. Working Jin Ma into your daily life can begin with 3 minute stays, adding an extra minute every few days, according to individual conditions.  
"We practice for perfection."  ~ Sigung Moy Tung 
For the next week, orient your mind & body to have kung fu habits throughout your endurance conditioning.   Keep bringing your attention back to the moment-to-moment process, and your endurance will naturally increase.   Most of all, enjoy developing your purehearted strength and dynamic mobility, the essence of Ving Tsun kung fu training.


  1. Thanks for this blog!!
    your blog is very informative.
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  2. Great article!

  3. Glad you like it - we hope it supports your practice!!!


Thank you so much.