Iron Palm packs a punch in Shaolin Temple contest

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) – 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.

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 one of Yang’s 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.

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