Martial arts weapons training will really develop your forearms. There are bumps and lines I never knew could be visible on my small frame. The downside: my forearms are getting fatigued very quickly and sometimes I have trouble gripping things. It started in June and it’s worsened as I’ve increased the intensity of my training. At the same time, my weapons sequences have improved so I’m not sure what to make it of. I’m still discovering what my capabilities and limits are and how to balance training with rest and recovery.
In addition to using weapons, I trained these wrist and grip conditioning drills to strengthen my tendons and muscles.
- Staff: (20-30 reps each)
Up and down like a chop keeping the arm still (to focus on the wrist)
Up, down, and forward like a file/slice with shifting stances and extending the arm (to use the entire body)
Side to side (like a windshield wiper) keeping the wrist in one place
Horizontal and diagonal, keeping the staff straight out in front and moving the end
Circles with the far end
Circles with the near end
Half circles with the near end, focusing on turning the body
- Cinderblock Toss: Rotations, flips, one hand, or variations with a partner (2-3 minutes)
- Wrist Speed: Move a short stick vertically, horizontally, and diagonally as fast as possible (30 seconds each)
- Staff Freestyle: Eventually, instead of doing the drills in #1, I mixed them for 1 to 1 ½ minutes each hand while moving/angling in stances.
- Wrist Speed Mix: Move the stick in different directions.
- White Crane Qigong with weights: Mix weights and duration
Some of our other drills crossover to condition the wrists and grip. For more ideas, see the Fundamental Training chapter in Analysis of Shaolin Chin Na.
In our second year, we’ve reduced our conditioning time to focus more on sequences, applications/analysis, and reaction, so I only do those first 5 drills once in a while. I still train White Crane Qigong with weights on a weekly basis. Now, my wrist and grip conditioning mainly comes from using weighted weapons.
One of the sequences I’m focusing on is Short Rods (雙鐧 Shuang Jian). I’m drawn to it because it’s from White Crane and I like the way the power is manifested, it’s the first and only double weapon sequence I know as of now, it’s practical (I can find a stick anywhere, but probably no sword), and it’s fun :)
I’ve been training with aluminum rods, holding the wooden rods from the opposite end, and holding them from the proper ends. It’s a nice feeling when you go from heaviest to lightest and you have more speed and power in your movements.
Warning: Do not use this video as a reference! I shot it to see how my form looked and I now know that some of my targets are completely off, among other inaccuracies. My mind is still on my hands rather than on the target. This rep is between 100-120 times I’ve practiced this sequence since I arrived at the Retreat Center.
Caution: Don’t overtrain with weights. Increase a little weight at a slow pace (only you can read your body’s signals) and don’t aim for the heaviest possible weight as an end goal. Occasionally step back and train with less or no weights. Training with too much weight can:
- Increase the risk of injury.
- Train resistance against gravity, but different movements go in different dimensions. For example, if you practice punching with too much weight on your wrists/arms, your straight punches could end up with an upward angle and you would lose power and penetration going forward. The drill will start to go against your original purpose.
Another tool to use instead of, or concurrently with weights is resistance bands. You can change the angle of resistance by tying the bands at different heights and/or moving your arms/legs at different angles.
Remember: Body conditioning is vital, but it can’t replace doing the actual movements.