Iron Palm is not a style but a skill that is an essential component of Kung Fu styles. Some people specialize in its practice but that is like the Muay Thai student who is known for his strong jab, or the judoka who has a good inner leg reap he may have developed this tool to a high level but he still needs the other aspects of his style to support it. Most styles of Kung Fu contained some form of “Iron Palm” practice. Iron Palm does not in fact refer to a method of hand strengthening but to the results of correct training – traditionally every Pai would have its own method. Sometimes it is referred to as Iron Fist or Iron Finger
Having a strong hand and a good strike is useless unless one has the tactics and methods to deliver it. When done correctly Iron Palm teaches to strike with the whole body (not the arm). The body becomes like a massive whip generating a wave of force. The muscles of the hand are trained to instinctively flex open or closed depending upon hand the formation to maximize force when striking
One of the interesting aspects of Iron Palm training is that when done correctly it does not ‘deaden’ the nerves of the hands but seems instead to give them more sensitivity due to the increased blood circulation. It is a common misconception that one aims to essentially damage the nerves to ‘endure more’ pain in Iron Palm – this is completely untrue; loosing any sensitivity in the hands would be a massive disadvantage in a fight as well as in life.
If one wishes to train Iron Palm one should seek qualified instruction.
Iron palm training, also sometimes called “iron fist” training, is a system of hand conditioning used by martial artists to develop toughness in their hands and the ability to deliver powerful strikes. Iron palm training takes months and years of dedicated training under the guidance of a qualified instructor, and care must be taken to ensure that the student does not try to progress too quickly as doing so could result in injury. A skilled practitioner will be able to break bricks and concrete slabs with ease. By the same token, he will be able to do significant damage to an enemy with a strike.
Iron Palm raining begins by dropping the hand onto a canvas bag filled with mung beans, which is place on a table or stand waist high. The mung beans are solid but not too hard and provide a good amount of resistance for the beginner. After months of training, the second level is done with a bag full of gravel, which is harder and provides higher levels of conditioning. When the student has become advanced a bag full of steel shot may be used. This is optional and is not required to have a high level of skill, but steel shot is even harder than gravel.
Most iron palm training regimens require the use of dit da jow, a topical liniment, or some other type of liniment to help protect and heal the hands during and after training sessions. Since training takes place every day, the hands must be fully healed before the next training session occurs. Dit da jow helps to facilitate healing.