I just stumbled on this pretty cool clip here of Steve Cotter doing “lying tiger” (fu hu gong) training:
It brought back memories, and then some.
When I started in Hung Chi Pai, these drills were the toughest part of the training. My teacher never called them “lying tiger”, but we’d do them over and over, especially the push up bouncing and walking. Obviously I didn’t get far at first but after a while it got better. Mind you, my teacher would make it more interesting if he noticed you could keep up. He’d come stand on your back or hit you with a stick a couple times. Sometimes both at the same time. Either way, he kept us going until our muscles trembled and finally gave in.
Classes were two hours, one hour of warm-up and one hour of actual training. The warm up was plenty of conditioning like in this clip, reaction drills and anything else my teacher could think of to make us suffer. One of the key-words in his school was “perseverance” and he wanted his students to know what that meant.
The second hour, at which point we were pretty much dead-tired, was the actual martial arts training: forms, drills, applications and so on. The kicker was that we weren’t allowed to drink any water, again learning to persevere. The biggest issue with that was the training facility, an old factory with an uninsulated roof and (almost) no heating. So in the summer we’d be melting while freezing our butts off in winter.
I vividly remember making it to the bar after class and ordering a couple of drinks right away. When I couldn’t stay around, I’d be so parched by the time I got home that I’d rush to the fridge and drink a carton of milk in pretty much one go.
Now I’m not mentioning all this to show off or anything like that. A typical training session from that time pales in comparison to what many top martial athletes do to get in shape for their competitions. So my experience is far from unique or “superior”, whatever that might be.
The main reason I’m mentioning it is because of an old group picture I recently saw again, one we took after class. Of all the people on it, I’m the only one still training.
Some of the training methods my teacher used are clearly outdated. Dehydration is a serious issue, one with potentially devastating consequences. But I don’t regret the way he pushed us to exhaustion and tried to instill a mindset of never giving up. In many regards this has helped me throughout my life, both in my training and outside of it.
I don’t train my students like that though. I like to think I updated the training methods a fair bit and that they benefit from this. But every now and then, the mood strikes me to do an “old school” training session again. Just for the fun of it, because it WAS a lot of fun.