Iron Palm packs a punch in Shaolin Tem­ple con­test

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By QI XIN in Dengfeng, He­nan qixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Iron Palm tech­nique is in the spot­light again af­ter a prac­ti­tioner broke eight bricks with one hand to win a mar­tial arts con­test in the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Tem­ple in He­nan prov­ince.

Zhang Longx­i­ang, 44, won the event by de­feat­ing more than 40 other con­tes­tants in the com­pe­ti­tion held from July 29 to Aug 4.

The Iron Palm tech­nique is a tra­di­tional Chi­nese mar­tial art and one of 72 orig­i­nally cre­ated at the Shaolin Tem­ple.

Zhang said break­ing eight bricks with his right hand was a per­sonal best at an Iron Palm com­pe­ti­tion. He won events in an­nual na­tional mar­tial arts com­pe­ti­tions for five con­sec­u­tive years be­tween 2006 and 2010.

He said prac­tic­ing kung fu re­quires con­stant train­ing to al­low a per­son to de­liver a pow­er­ful blow with­out in­jur­ing his or her hands. How­ever, the process is dif­fi­cult, and the hands are in­jured fre­quently, he said.

“It is tough prac­tic­ing kung fu, es­pe­cially in win­ter,” he said. “I can’t count how many times my hands have been in­jured hit­ting a sand­bag full of steel balls, but I never put my hands into a wok of hot sand be­cause it is a fic­tion fab­ri­cated by some kung fu movies.

“My teacher’s medicine, an oint­ment made us­ing a tra­di­tional recipe, helps alle­vi­ate my pain.”

In 1998, Zhang met Yang Xinchuan, a kung fu master known for the Iron Palm tech­nique. Zhang was amazed by Yang’s “big” hands and “mag­i­cal” skills, and dreamed of fol­low­ing in his foot­steps. To achieve this, he be­came ap­pren­tices.

“Prac­tic­ing is bor­ing and painful. I had to hit the sand­bag 6,000 times a day,” Zhang said. “There is no se­cret. The more you prac­tice, the bet­ter you will be.”

He re­mem­bers how happy he felt when he first broke a pile of three bricks, af­ter fin­ish­ing a year of tough train­ing.

“Prac­tic­ing Iron Palm is my hobby. It in­spired me to prac­tice mar­tial arts for nearly 20 years,” he said. “Be­sides kung fu, Yang also taught me about the moral­ity of be­ing a mar­tial arts prac­ti­tioner.”

He said his master had told him not to bully oth­ers no mat­ter how much power he had. “Prac­tic­ing kung fu is just a way to im­prove your­self,” he said, adding that mar­tial arts are a part of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­tural her­itage, and peo­ple have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to carry them for­ward.

In ad­di­tion to the Iron Palm, the Shaolin Tem­ple com­pe­ti­tion also at­tracted hun­dreds of con­tes­tants to com­pete in other tra­di­tional kung fu styles, such as Stone Lock and Fly­ing Knife. one of Yang’s

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