“Making pain a friend”

17 Jul

A friend of mine recently began training in a new martial art. It involves a lot of high kicks, low postures, and almost Yoga like movements. He’s a contemporary, so to put it “politely” neither one of us is all that young anymore. So we chuckled about it and then got into a deeper conversation.

push ups

We noted the obvious need for a warrior / fighter to have physical conditioning. Then I also suggested that to fight, you had to make pain “your friend.” He responded by telling me his new teacher had just told him exactly the same thing.

da sam sing

Most people who have practiced Chinese martial arts have done “Da Saam Sing” (打三星). Initially we may have assumed, or been outright told, that it would make our arms harder. But a closer reality was, it was just getting us used to banging away with our arms. It was getting us used to the pain we would inevitably feel both blocking and striking.

pak da gung one

Consider what you would need to survive a life-or-death conflict? Initially, many think of techniques they need to know, but the issue is far more complex. Do you have both the physical and MENTAL conditioning to engage in a struggle such as this? Do you have the strength, endurance, flexibility?

pak da gung two

Do you have the determination? Will you fall apart under the stress and adrenaline rush, freeze and forget everything you have learned? It has certainly happened in the past to many practitioners. Remember, if you have not been hit or thrown full power, you don’t know how you will react to conditions such as these. This is a reality very few students studying Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) are forced to deal with in current programs.

pak da gung three

A number of teachers I respect all have said the same thing; if you wish to fight you must make pain a friend. You must experience it. You must internalize it. You must be comfortable with it, so that it can never been an obstacle. This is not at all a new realization. It has always been part of traditional Chinese martial arts, though many probably didn’t recognize it.

taking kicks

Think about all that basic training; Lihn Gung (練功), Ge Bon Gung (基本功) and of course Pak Da Gung (拍打功). These weren’t just physically conditioning us, they were teaching us to make friends with pain. And, as my illustrations in this blog should be proving, Chinese martial arts ALWAYS understood this.

alternationg shoulder strike

When we look at the shoulder strike drill above, we might also mention that in many respects it cane come to resemble the pummeling that wrestlers do… we always want to think we are different, but struggle, fighting, combat is all the same.

alternation chest to chest

Perhaps this second drill, smashing the chest, is more similar to pummeling?

alternating hip strike

Some traditional drills may even seem “silly,” until you’ve experienced combat enough to know that you use EVERY PART OF YOUR BODY.

shoulder striking

If you want to be a fighter, make friends with pain…..




2 Responses to ““Making pain a friend””

  1. Jeff March 2, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    I like this article, but I’d say you should make pain that friend that you tolerate even though he shows up all the time uninvited, You shouldn’t mind when he’s around, and maybe even be prepared to for his next visit, but don’t feel you’re missing something if he doesn’t show up. And don’t invite him! There are people I know (and I may even have been one) who don’t feel they’ve really given 100% if they don’t end every session in pain. But it’s not uncommon that that will actually hinder your training.

    After all, we learn martial arts to avoid getting hurt, right?


  1. Preparing the body for war 練功 | nysanda - August 21, 2015

    […] utility. The body must be prepared for war. IN an earlier blog I already touched upon this. In “making pain a friend” I focused more upon the hardening of the body and the acceptance of pain. This time around, I am […]

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