There once was a family who was given the honor of sending their son off to study at one of the Shaolin temples. From the very first day, he was told to sit in a small pond in the back of the temple and smack the water. Every day for over a year that was all that he did.
After a year, he went home to visit his family. He was set at the head of the table, a place of honor, and small feast was laid out before him. He was then asked by his family what he had learned, and the only reply he could give was "nothing". His family grew a little concerned. They figured that after a year, he would have learned something. So again they asked and again he replied "nothing". So the family demanded to know what he did all day. He said "I sit in a pond and do this..." and brought his hands down on the table. It immediately shattered, and dropped to the floor in pieces. The family just stood in amazement and could say nothing.
For the rest of his life, the monk found time every day to visit the pond, sit in it and smack the water.
The point of Iron Palm, as the story illustrates, is to work over a very long period to condition the hands. While some philosophies state that the practitioner should strike a hard object over and over for immediate ends, Iron Palm training stresses to use objects that have give and will not permanently damage the body.
Iron Palm training can be done with a bag filled with different items that increases in hardness over time. It can start out with items that have much give like sand and progress through to harder items like dried beans and small copper bee bee's.
The reasoning behind not going any harder than the bee bee's is twofold. First is not to damage the body. The hands are very valuable tools, and not having them work properly due to incorrect training does not serves any purpose. Plus if a person displays big knurled knuckles, than that is an indicator to others and giving away valuable information. The second reason is that the human body is made up of almost 90 percent water and not wood or stone. That means that the hands need to only be conditioned to be stronger than the human body.
The striking of the bag can be used to practice multiple hand positions like punches, palm heals, little fists, wrist strikes, eagle claw grabs and so on. This has proven to be a very valuable training aid for many generations.
To make and Iron Palm bag, the following items are needed:
- Thick material like denim or corduroy (from worn out pants)
- Thread and needle or sewing machine
- Fill material
- First cut the material into rectangles big enough to hit with an open hand. Sew the two halves together inside out multiple times to withstand the constant pounding that they will receive. Remember to leave about a 1-inch opening to turn the pouch right side out and to fill the bag.
- Next, fill the bag with the Fill material. Do not overfill.
- Finally, stitch the opening shut.This is not a difficult project, but it does take time to make sure that the bag is stitched securely enough to withstand the strikes.
The other method that can be used for Iron Palm training is a little more expensive, but it is much easier to make. Its final cost can be between $15 and $20. It is nothing more than a flowerpot obtained cheaply at any home supply store filled with sand or beans. The pot should be deep enough that the fingers will not hit the bottom and not have a drain hole. However, if one that catches your eye does have a drain hole, just buy a cork or place a snugly cut piece of cardboard in the bottom. It can be filled with playground type sand, but this can be very messy as it sticks to the hands, and ends up on the dojo floor. Beans are other material that can be used. They can be bought in bulk very cheaply and do not make nearly the mess that sand does.