Impact Conditioning and Avoiding Hand Injuries in Wing Chun
Most 1st world human hands are not well conditioned for striking. As tool users, humans have hands best evolved for grabbing things, not for use as clubs. I advise students to avoid striking with any part of the hand other than the palm heel or hammerfist unless they regularly practice impact conditioning. There are many names for this type of training -usually some body part preceded by the word "iron" (i.e. iron palm, iron fist, iron head). However, they all fall under the heading of impact conditioning. This type of training will not prevent all hand and wrist injuries but it certainly helps and as a bonus can improve the delivery of force into a target.
There are many slight variances in method, but most safe, effective methods can be summed up as follows:
-Mild trauma is induced in the area desired to be conditioned through impacts with a surface of a chosen density.
-Proper joint alignments are trained.
-A specially designed herbal liniment is applied before and after the impacts to aid in recovery.
-Less dense materials and fewer repetitions should be used in the beginning of such training.
-Gradual progression towards denser materials and more repetitions should only occur following steady adherence to a program over the course of months and years. (The best fill materials to start with are rice or mung beans.)
-Following each session there are exercises and/or self-massage techniques employed to ensure proper blood flow continues to the area trained.
-Recovery times are observed.
Much of the impact conditioning in Wing Chun is done on wall mounted bags, but this is not the only configuration possible. Bags laid on a firm horizontal surfaces, free hanging bags, and large open containers filled with the medium are also common. Smaller elongated bags and even sticks are often employed on areas of the body other than the hands. Different configurations will lend themselves better to different strikes. For examples: Strikes with the back of the wrist may be difficult with a bag laid flat but are more easily achieved on a hanging bag. Elbow strikes should never be done on a wall bag or other unyielding surface due to risk to the shoulder joint.
If this is true for any training it is true of impact conditioning. Too slow of progression is better than pushing too fast and creating injuries. In my practice of martial arts, my biggest goals are to be healthy and to avoid debilitating injuries (whether from an assault, a slip-and-fall or training itself). And isn't that what self-defense is all about -avoiding loss so one can continue to thrive?
Consult various sources and find the best teachers you can.
Final note on this: be careful with your hands!
Sifu Nick Edmonds
Red Light Wing Chun Phoenix, Arizona