By Hai Yang
Most of the time, we use fists or palms in martial arts. Compared with the legs, using hands have some advantages, because it is easier to change direction of the hands, hands are faster also. In internal styles, we use obvious hands and hidden legs (not only kick). So having strong hands for punching and pushing is very important.
There are two crucial factors. One is the technique of the hands and the other one is the hardness of the hands.
The technique of the hands includes many aspects. For example, how to make the fists? How to push? How to move hands faster? All of the above questions are related to the efficiency of the movements of the hands.
I could talk about the above questions for a long time, because there are so many factors we have to know. Each aspect can be talked in an independent article. However, in one sentence, I would like to say: use the whole body force to punch and to push. We will talk about this more in other articles.
Here, I would like to emphasize on how to make hands hard. Some people may say that I am wrong. Because they would say that internal styles should not use hard force. And making the hands softer is better. They are right, but they forget something important also. The reason is that we have different definitions of hard and soft here. We could not get the same conclusion or agreement if we do not think about or understand something from the same direction.
When we use our hands, no matter fists for punching, palms for pushing, fingers for point pressure, there are only two situations: static hands and dynamic hands, or Yin and Yang hands. The hands are called dynamic they before hands arrive to the target. And the hands arrive to the target as static hands.
Keeping the hands soft when the hands move toward the target (body, arms, legs or whatever part of your enemy) helps accelerating the speed. Relaxed arms move faster and hands just follow the arms, which is common sense. So keeping hands soft during the movement is very important.
However, when our hands arrive to the target, the hands have to become hard right away, no matter which styles we are talking about. And harder is better. People may ask, why Tai Chi master uses soft hands to push? Well, the answer is very simple. You only see the soft hands when he touches your body. But his hands will become very hard when he pushes you!
In physics, the deformation will generate the damage. Strong force will generate the deformation or break the objects when the rigid-body cannot sustain the impact.
More importantly, the active object (your hands) should be able to sustain the counterforce from the passive object (your enemy). So that, preventing the deformation of your hands is important at this point. This is why hard hands will give better results, in order to keep the rigid-body work effectively.
Now, let's talk about the hands of internal style masters.
Their hands are soft, however they are able to make hands very hard if they want. And their techniques which used in the last second (when they punch or push you) have to be based on hard hands, even though the time is too short to be observed by most of the people.
Before the hands arrive to the target, they are dynamic hands or soft hands. When the hands arrive to the target, they are static hands or hard hands. This transformation can be explained by the concept of Yin and Yang also.
How to make hands hard? Technically, the answer related to how to hold the palms or the fists. I will not talk about this here. But I want to talk about some common exercises for this.
Traditionally, people will practice some auxiliary exercises, such as punching the sand bag, punching the paper pad or pushing the some objects such as trees. All of these are good exercises.
However, I want to emphasize something specifically. Please do not punch or push something too fast, too hard. Otherwise, you will damage your health (not only your hands, be careful). I heard some people punch stone, wall, even metal, that is absolutely wrong. The reason is that their hand bones will get hurt. You will see the damage clearly when you go to the hospital to take an X-ray, and that is irreversible. These people will suffer the pain when they get older. Why should martial artists have to suffer more than the people who do not practice?
Some people want to use some Chinese herbs to help the practice, which is a good idea. But, that kind of herbs should be used at the correct time and with the correct formula. I have seen many people whose hands get hurt from martial arts in my Chinese medical practice. And usually, it is already too late when they try to ask herbs from me.
We have to know this, no matter how hard you practice, our skin will not become as hard as metal, your bones will not be as hard as metal either. Excessive practice or unscientific practice only makes the skin thicker and breaks the bones...That is not a traditional practice at all.
Many herbal remedies help stop the pain, but the damage is still there. And sometimes, you will not feel the pain and will keep practicing because you have used the herbs to wash your hands. But the result will be worse, because some bad formulas use narcotic herbs to stop the feeling of the pain when you practice, and the damage is still developing without the consciousness.
Therefore, in order to practice the hands scientifically, use the hands with good timing and good position and master the technique of moving the whole body force into the hands.
This is the key of how to use the hands in internal styles.