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  1. #1

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    Psychological Aspects of Iron Palm

    I posted a thread in the Iron Palm Beginners group that I thought might create some cool discussion here on the CMA forum......

    "Let the new age-y discussion begin! (just kidding)

    So I have been practicing Iron Palm twice daily (with few exceptions) for almost two months now. In terms of martial arts training thats just a drop in the bucket, but in terms of what we normally think of as "conditioning" be it cardio, strength, or toughness, it seems like I'm pretty well into the game. In Iron Palm terms, however, I've only just begun. Twice a day for a year before I make any changes to my practice (e.g. change the medium in my bag, change the frequency of practice, change how hard I hit the bag).

    I tend to have a frequently shifting attention, and a tendency to change interests a lot. So when it comes to Iron Palm, I'm at the point where, if the practice was purely about results for me (e.g. breaking bricks, having tough hands), the pay-off would be too distal for me to maintain my regimen.

    Luckily, Iron Palm the way that I have been taught is much much more, and at this point the actual body conditioning that I am working towards seems secondary to the OTHER reasons that I continue to train (strange, I know).

    My iron palm routine includes some great elements that should be a part of everyones life in my opinion: relaxation training, attention to breathing, light exercise to start off the morning, meditation, and visualization. As a psychologist in training, the idea that Iron Palm has become a psychological or therapeutic practice for me is a fascinating idea.

    I find it even more interesting when considered alongside the evidence against the catharsis hypothesis (e.g. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/...hs/myth_30.cfm). The basic idea here is that most of us tend to believe that performing violent or aggressive acts (e.g. yelling, playing a physical sport, hitting a pillow, sparring, rolling) "lets off steam" in some one, decreasing our anger and making us less likely to be as angry next time. However, the actual evidence suggests that acting aggressively routinely when angered 1) escalates the situation 2) escalates the physiological arousal 3) conditions you to act aggressively when angry. So your school counselor who had you hitting stuff with a nerf bat as a kid was probably actually contributing toward your anger management problem. Add to this the fact that a large number of adolescents engage in mild to moderately dangerous self-harm behaviors, possibly as a way to act out, but also to help regulate emotion (e.g. http://www.livescience.com/11043-tee...ce-injury.html). Isn't there a healthier way to handle things?

    Enter IRON PALM training. I'm just spit-balling here, but it seems to me that Iron Palm training does three general things that might be psychologically beneficial: 1) sets up a generally healthy routine of meditation and light exercise 2) Pairs a relaxed state with a violent act [e.g. striking the bag] possibly counter-conditioning the link between violence and states of high arousal 3) Causes mild pain/damage to the hands. Could iron palm training be a more constructive alternative for adolescent cutters? Could it be a form of anger management? Is it just all-around good for mental health? The world may never know (unless I one day end up at a university and do a study).

    I also wanted to point out that all of these psychological benefits don't even tap into the intrinisically spiritual nature of qigong specifically and iron palm training more generally. There is some evidence that meditation can show greater effects (e.g. with pain) when performed in a spiritual context (e.g. http://www.springerlink.com/content/n5080hv642406j56/).

    So my advice to all of the TCM, qigong, and iron palm practitioners out there is this: it's okay not to get completely wrapped up in the debate about where you fit into western medicine. Us soft social-science psychology folks have a home for you right here."

  2. #2
    W. Rabbit's Avatar
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    Shoulders, neck hurt bad.
    Do qigong, feel all better.
    Thanks qigong. The End.

  3. #3
    ChenPengFi's Avatar
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    The basic idea here is that most of us tend to believe that performing violent or aggressive acts (e.g. yelling, playing a physical sport, hitting a pillow, sparring, rolling) "lets off steam" in some one, decreasing our anger and making us less likely to be as angry next time. However, the actual evidence suggests that acting aggressively routinely when angered 1) escalates the situation 2) escalates the physiological arousal 3) conditions you to act aggressively when angry
    That sounds like a non sequitur as it pertains to MAs, the key words being "when angry/ered".
    I'm not angry in class and don't get angry from sparring.

  4. #4
    Rivington's Avatar
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    One immediate issue people face when fighting is their own adrenaline dump, which interferes with fine motor control.

    Qigong is a way to help mitigate that.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rivington View Post
    One immediate issue people face when fighting is their own adrenaline dump, which interferes with fine motor control.

    Qigong is a way to help mitigate that.
    If that's the case, then I definitely need to keep up with my qigong work. I feel like I burn through a 3-minute rounds worth of energy before I even touch gloves with my sparring partner.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChenPengFi View Post
    That sounds like a non sequitur as it pertains to MAs, the key words being "when angry/ered".
    I'm not angry in class and don't get angry from sparring.
    Good point, I didn't mean to imply that EVERYONE who does martial arts is trying to blow off steam or is angry. Just the idea that hitting people or things doesn't seem to be helpful for anger management in the long run.

  7. #7

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    When you really start to get into the training, after 6 months you will have engrained the methodology into your brain. Once you can reproduce the movements with little to no effort, you know it has become entrained into your nervous system.

    As my Teacher, Master Gene Chicoine explained to me. Standing is for power.

    So when you do your standing before you hit the bag, it can last from 5-15 minutes.

    Then you follow the hitting procedures, and at the end when you are done, you stand again for about 5-15 minutes.

    Standing will help lower your blood pressure, loosen you up, help develop a serious ability to move energy through your body.

    You must learn to relax the excess tension in your body in order to learn to use just enough to hold your skeleton from falling over.

    when you can relax more of the fascia and musculature, you can then utilize more muscle fibers and that means more power.

    That is why you never want to train with loud music. Train the mind, and the body.

    That is why you are looking at the hand as it rises up and as it descends to hit the bag.








  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Dugas View Post
    You must learn to relax the excess tension in your body in order to learn to use just enough to hold your skeleton from falling over. When you can relax more of the fascia and musculature, you can then utilize more muscle fibers and that means more power.
    That's starting to sound like zhang zhuang to me: is there a short way to describe the difference between that & iron palm's standing?

  9. #9
    It is Fake's Avatar
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    Semantics and focus.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by It is Fake View Post
    Semantics and focus.
    Mr. Fake, you've talked a little about iron palm a few times here on the forums. Could you describe your own experience? I'm just curious what your training regimen was like and where you learned it. Was it a xingyi thing?

    Also my kindle just autocorrected xingyi to 'dingo.'

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