Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Kung Fu Claw - Gravel Bag

Matthew Page catches the bag from the top with his right claw hand

n evening in July. The heat makes the old floor sweat. Where you thought there might be a chance of a breeze – by the open windows, by the door through which someone has just entered – it’s just the air collapsing under its own weight.

There is no respite. You sit deeper in the sei ping mah horse stance. Your fingers, slick with sweat, clamp down on the foot long canvas bag bursting with gravel. Then you toss it up in front of you. Your left hand, in the shape of a tiger’s claw, snatches it out of the air. The bag is your prey, and you lift it up and down a few times, seizing up the canvas flesh and the gravel meat inside before tossing it once more into the air for the right hand to catch.

Sometimes, you lose track of where the bag is. Sweat has run down into your eyes. But you dare not move out of the horse; there is only one direction allowed – further down.

That’s the taste, the smell of old school Kung Fu claw training. If you’re lucky, there might be some incense burning to sweeten the air. Not the oxygen: of that there is little left. Most of the oxygen has been swallowed up by the sheer repetitious nature of the training.

Why so intense, so long, so deep? Because the tiger claw, eagle claw, mantis claw, the old Karate claw techniques, require you to grasp, tear, pull with the force of the entire body and with a mind so honed that, like the grip of the claw, it never lets go. A training that belongs to the martial arts core.

I’d like to share some of that early training I encountered, right from the horse stance up to the tips of the thumb and fingers. You’ll require a bag, possibly twelve inches long and wide, filled with gravel. (At one point we used lead pellets, not the most healthy ingredient). Sand is good too.

Whatever you use for the inside of the bag, please make sure that the weight isn’t too heavy.  Pain in the fingers, wrists and the elbows isn’t going to improve your claw technique.  The amount of weight should be sensible, not self-defeating.

1.  Stand in a horse stance, knees bent directly over your feet, toes pointed forward. Try to maintain a back straight.  Grasp the bag from the top, right palm facing the bag. Lift the bag up to the height of the middle of your chest. Let it fall out of your right hand. Catch it, from the top, with your left hand before it falls to the floor. Lift it up with your left hand, then drop the bag and catch it again with your right hand. And so on.

Here, Matthew catches the bag straight in front of him

2.  Another method is to throw the bag up in front of you and catch it horizontally straight out in front of you. Perform this first with the right hand, then the left. Alternate back and forth.

Strike down with a claw hand and grip

Southern Kung Fu systems such as Pak Mei, Southern Crane, etc., along with old style Okinawan Karate, practise claw techniques that attack along many of the body’s corridors, very close, in conjunction with other techniques.

3.  For this type of practise, lay the bag on a bench or a small table at the height of your hips. Strike downward with a claw shaped hand, grip the bag, pull it slightly upward – just an inch – then recoil back into the bag with a punch.

You can also practise the reverse – punch first, followed by a claw grip.

Follow the claw hand with a one inch punch


Horse Stance Training

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