Strong Legs

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Strong Legs

Postby Scott P. Phillips on Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:03 pm

I have to admit that I find it funny that there are people on this forum who think they need to strengthen their legs. So I wrote a blog post about it. (I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you.)
http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1/?p=1533
I guess some people just aren't clear on the concept of "internal martial arts."
I'm always open to contrary opinions though. It's possible that I've just had it wrong all these years and Chinese Internal Martial Arts are just a way to make people really strong. So how would a person know if they are strong "enough?"
Since a few people may start reading without going to my blog, I offered this challenge:
Find a small healthy kid, 5 to 8 years old. Show them how to do a horse stance and then try putting all your weight on their shoulders. As long as the kid’s back is straight and her legs are aligned to take weight she should have no trouble lifting you up.

If a kid that small is strong enough to lift a 160lb man, how is it possible that your average martial artist who trains day after day, year after year, could possibly need any more strength? Unless of course your training is actually making you less efficient. Unless of course, your cultivated strength is getting in the way of basic functionality. Unless of course, you are training because you believe you have some kind of intrinsic weakness which must be obliterated.

"Our true nature, though apparently of small account, is greater than anything under heaven."--Laozi
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby internalenthusiast on Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:50 pm

i think i follow what you are saying...

at the same time (as you point out) there are different kinds of strength?

i remember some nei gong training, with one of my teachers, where some very strong people (stronger than me) shook and sweated. more than the rest of us.

what i'd understand you to be speaking about is connection and structure. leading to flow, etc...

i'd say, yes, this is what we aim for.

at the same time: strength per se is not bad. it's one of the elements which in the crucible of training, enables us to advance?

jing/jin/ging equals: li (strength) plus yi/i (intent), plus coordination, plus chi...

so it's one element. but not the final fusion? as they say, in the cauldron or crucible of training, each element forms a part?

personally, i think one aspect of my attempt for "strength" over the years, and maybe the most important one, is: to try to get back from injury, and fix (as well as improve), the links that have been hurt, either by injury, or mis-use. this goes very deep into the body/mind, as i'm sure you must know.

i appreciate what you are saying. at the same time i wanted to put in a word for li/strength as one aspect of the matrix.

best...
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Bob on Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:59 pm

There is a famous saying among many Chinese martial artists, "wai lian jin gu pi, nei lian yi kou qi", which translated means externally we train our our muscles and tendons, bones, and skin; internally we train our: liver, lungs, heart, kidneys and spleen. This tells us that in a complete system of Chinese martial arts training, the external and internal are inseparable.

"Strong legs"--even the training we [the training from my teacher] do in horse stance is never a simple purpose of leg strength only--for better or for worse, we also relate to the strength of the kidneys [from a TCM viewpoint].
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Brady on Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:39 pm

internalenthusiast wrote:so it's one element. but not the final fusion? as they say, in the cauldron or crucible of training, each element forms a part?

personally, i think one aspect of my attempt for "strength" over the years, and maybe the most important one, is: to try to get back from injury, and fix (as well as improve), the links that have been hurt, either by injury, or mis-use. this goes very deep into the body/mind, as i'm sure you must know.


Sounds right to me. Strengthening is definitely important, and sounds like you did alot of it when you were holding horse stance for hours.

Maybe now you are the perfect martial artist Scott, but some of us find we have weaknesses that we can benefit from strengthening. Personally I've banged up my knee quite a few times and thus lost a lot of stability/strength. Thus the idea of "strong legs" is definitely a priority for me.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby internalenthusiast on Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:50 pm

Sounds right to me. Strengthening is definitely important, and sounds like you did alot of it when you were holding horse stance for hours.


just to be clear, hours cumulatively yes, hours at a time..no. i wish i had that kind of gong fu!

but yes, standing and nei gong have helped so much in fixing injury, where other modalities (while they were helpful) didn't seem to solve the problems by themselves.

i've got a ways to go, and am still working on stuff. but i'm very grateful for exercises which have helped!

:)
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Brady on Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:58 pm

Ya, I actually meant that comment to be to Scott, not very clear sorry. Nei gong has been good to my body as well.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby internalenthusiast on Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:59 pm

:)
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Alexander on Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:14 pm

Scott P. Phillips wrote:I have to admit that I find it funny that there are people on this forum who think they need to strengthen their legs. So I wrote a blog post about it. (I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you.)
http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1/?p=1533
I guess some people just aren't clear on the concept of "internal martial arts."
I'm always open to contrary opinions though. It's possible that I've just had it wrong all these years and Chinese Internal Martial Arts are just a way to make people really strong. So how would a person know if they are strong "enough?"
Since a few people may start reading without going to my blog, I offered this challenge:
Find a small healthy kid, 5 to 8 years old. Show them how to do a horse stance and then try putting all your weight on their shoulders. As long as the kid’s back is straight and her legs are aligned to take weight she should have no trouble lifting you up.

If a kid that small is strong enough to lift a 160lb man, how is it possible that your average martial artist who trains day after day, year after year, could possibly need any more strength? Unless of course your training is actually making you less efficient. Unless of course, your cultivated strength is getting in the way of basic functionality. Unless of course, you are training because you believe you have some kind of intrinsic weakness which must be obliterated.

"Our true nature, though apparently of small account, is greater than anything under heaven."--Laozi


I just tried this on my brother. He's 60 lbs, 10 years old. I'm 150 pounds. He had quite a bit of trouble, but managed to do this.

However, I still don't see what this proves at all.... Vertical motion and application of force are not the same as horizontal motion and application of force.

Are you saying that 150 lbs of whole body movement = 150 lbs of force, regardless of whether or not you have bulging biceps?
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby edededed on Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:28 pm

Maybe you are onto something, Scott, but on the other hand, looking at various famous internal martial artists, we can see a variety of people - skinny folk, barrel-chested folk, etc. For sure, we don't see much of the He-Man types, as that is not the kind of muscle IMA works to train.

In my opinion, IMA training DOES in fact train muscles, but not in the same way that bodybuilding might.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Andy_S on Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:40 pm

Every CMA I have done has involved stance training, and the more traditional the teacher, the more painful the training. (Ask one of the Chen village teachers to put you in optimum stance, and see how long you can bear it.) Moreover, those Northern MA teachers whose legs I have seen and/or felt were all very strong.(I recall my wife laughing at the funny thick little legs of Gao Mei-jian, the Beijing Riot Police Sansau Coach.) There is even a saying in Chen village that you can tell the development of the student by the level of his leg development.

I am reminded by a comment by Erle Montaigue some years back. He was talking about a famed Chinese teacher (I am guessing it was Chen Xiaowang) and his teaching methods. Erle noted that this teacher taught stance training, but when they saw him in shorts "he had legs like tree trunks!" Erle than indicated that this was clearly not the real way to learn Taiji, which does not require physical strength, etc, etc. However, we have the records of the early Yang family, and their training to pick up coins with their teeth while in stance: Extremely difficult, requiring a fine combination of both strength and flexibility.

Upper body muscleture is very differnt, and is not, AFAIK, much pursued or trained in IMA. The aim is to use the most powerful muscles in the body - ie the leg - to generate the force into the hands. The upper body is simply the conductor.

As for children being able to resist slow compression on their shoulders: What of it? Sounds like more performance training for the circus (sigh...). Exactly what functional relationship does this have to MA training?

We seek the ability to compress and spring. The compression training will build leg strength, whether you like it or not: try coiling and uncoiling silk reeling training in low stance, or HsingI dragon, or....
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby somatai on Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:38 am

of course your legs must get very strong in proper gung fu....if you have no legs then you have no foundation, pretty simple.......go chicken step for 15 minutes properly and you will discover your legs.......having said that skill comes from feeling them clearly, but that usually only comes from the process of discovering them which in itself makes them strong.
Last edited by somatai on Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Josealb on Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:25 am

What Derek said.

Oldschool IMA lower basin training builds up the legs like hell. Not having strong legs is like, a full armored knight on a donkey? It says allot about someone's training when they say that leg strength isnt needed.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Ben on Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:54 am

Although I haven't read Scott's blog yet, my understanding of what he is saying is you don't have to work to specifically build leg strength, not that leg strength isn't important. If thats the case then I agree.

In my training leg strength isn't the goal but I have managed to pick up a lot of it. IMO its a byproduct of proper training.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Scott P. Phillips on Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:39 am

Andy, I think Erle is correct and you are wrong. I also don't think you read the arguments on my blog.
______

The more traditional a teacher is, the more likely they are to start you off with kid's training. Kids don't yet have the hormones to develop huge muscles so they can do low stances without developing bulging muscles. If you want to develop these skills later in life you have to train differently.....And this is a longer conversation, and there is probably more than one way to do it. but I would say: First develop great twisting integration. Then great fluid pulsation integration. Then melt/dissolve anything solid. Then empty. Then fill with qi. Then empty and fill at the same time. Then become unconscious of the body. (Notice there is no strength level, though obviously one could put it at the beginning as a way to teach a student what NOT to do.)

_______
Somatai, if low Chicken Walk (Liuhexinyi) is making your legs hurt, you be doing it wrong. The old masters had skinny chicken legs and they did chicken walk on the roads, as a form of transportation.

________
Ed, yes, some of those old masters just had different body types. And some were mixed internal/external.

_________
Alexander, yes, force is force. Left-right, and front-back are important skills, but the only way you can use the ground is through upward power.
_______
Bob, that's an interesting side argument. (I'm having trouble with the second half of your translation "lian yi kou qi" ? what characters?)
We don't literally strengthen the kidneys. The kidneys are nourished by stillness, proper rest, sleep, smooth movement. Also by foods like black mushrooms which "distribute fluids," or slow cooked roots, and bone stock. In general, the kidneys are "tonified" by regularity and routine. Practice everyday in the same place at the same time and your kidneys will thank you.
There's more--in stillness (and later in movement) as the legs empty into the dantian and the dantian expands, the kidneys move forward and upward. Any effort or exertion will interrupt this process of rectification.

_________
The main point here is that if you lose the origin of the practice, you will just pile on your own crap.

---But to back pedal for a moment, it is possible to "reverse engineer" Chinese Internal Martial Arts through single minded determination, experimentation and direct exposure to a very wide range of old Masters. Sure, if Wang Xiangzhai could do it, why not you. But it's very rare.
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Re: Strong Legs

Postby Andy_S on Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:54 am

Scott:

What arguments? Mine are above. I grant you that many men who walk up hills will be strong in the leg with minimal bodyfat. But are they good at martial arts? Not for the first time, you mix apples with oranges. Though if your ambition is to be a master of hill walking, by all means, carry on.

You talk about "Weakness with a twist." I am all for twisting - but why with weakness? If you want to talk about compression and expansion that is fine, but the force in a spring is NOT just about twisting: It is equally about getting low.

I notice that you are also anti-core training. FYI, the picture you posted on the very same page - of a guy with a heavy sword on one leg - is perfect core training. (Don't believe me? Try any form of weight training - eg a heavy sword - and do it on one leg.)

Still, I grant you one thing: I never managed to hold the horse stance for one hour. You are certainly one up on me there. so I am glad to see that your training is not ALL iconoclastic.

Though you have some deuced funny ideas. Guys develop big leg muscles through getting hit, do they? Remarkable theory: You could make a lot of money marketing this idea to the bodybuilding fraternity. Though are you sure you are not talking simply about swelling and bruising...?

Seriously Scott, with you I wonder.
Last edited by Andy_S on Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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