At first blush, the idea of Kung Fu running sounds like intermittent training: you run a distance, stop in your tracks to undertake a bunch of martial arts moves and then you pick up the pace and run some more. Sound illogical? You’re taking this physical pairing too literally.
Kung Fu running describes the symbiotic relationship between martial arts and running—using Kung Fu techniques to build a better body, become a superior runner and sustain fewer injuries because these two disciplines are so mutually beneficial. Kung Fu running is cross-training at its most effective, requiring as much emphasis on mental acuity as on running.Together, they’re unstoppable.
What is Kung Fu Fighting?
Kung Fu fighting is an ancient system of theory and practice pairing self-defense skills with mental discipline. If the two sound contradictory, that’s the beauty of martial arts that date so far back in Chinese history, even learned scholars can only speculate about the origins. Some trace martial arts roots to the Shang Dynasty, but it wasn’t until Zhou Dynasty generals realised that there was no better formal training method for soldiers that it became so popular.
Considered the forefather of Judo, Akido, Karate and Kickboxing, Kung Fu fighting has outlasted emperors, centuries, regime changes and time! In 1927, the first formal Kung Fu organization was formed: the Central National Martial Arts Society. Since then, Kung Fu has become so universally accepted, it was added to the menu of Olympics games in 1999.
How Do Kung Fu and Running Complement Each Other?
Tim Woodbury is neither Chinese nor an internationally-renowned runner, but he’s as wise as Confucius when he compares the compatible, synergetic relationship between running and mastering Kung Fu techniques. Woodbury’s research and practice of both prove that by including Kung Fu training in one’s fitness programme, a runner becomes more patient and thoughtful and less anxious, all of which promote better performance.
As a consequence of adopting both activities, runners even become less prone to injury and burnout. Both Kung Fu practitioners and runners gain mastery over breathing, pacing, body alignment and balance; the result of this combination can be quite extraordinary.
Is There a Type of Kung Fu That’s Better Than Others?
Yes. It’s called Shaolin Kung Fu and this type of Kung Fu has attracted legions of runners who use it as a cross-training tool that helps them sustain fewer injuries while improving their running techniques.
Case in point: Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City partners with the Shaolin Kung Fu Training Center to help runners prepare for marathons.
Both marathoners and triathletes partake of conditioning programmes which “substantially improve strength and discipline”. This is thanks to an over-arching emphasis on stretching warm-ups, sprints, hops, jumps, kicks, blocks and punches, all of which result in explosive power and enhanced flexibility.
As a result, runners wind up with fewer tears and pulls, healthier joints, tendons and ligaments and they see improved balance and leg strength. Is the body the only recipient of Shaolin Kung Fu? Hardly. Runners develop greater mental strength, higher pain tolerance, more refined focus and discipline as a direct result of mixing conditioning runs with martial arts training.
How Important Are Shoes to Kung Fu Runners?
People who lump all martial arts into one may believe that all practitioners show up on the training mat barefoot, but since Kung Fu is considered a “street activity”, footwear is important — just as proper footwear is imperative to the runner.
Shoes even play a role in mythology tied to the practice of Kung Fu. Typical of this lighter side of the sport is Gene Ching’s online post, “Monk Takes off His Shoe: My Life as a Shaolin Shoe Salesman“. Shoes are so symbolic for Shaolin Kung Fu practitioners, it’s said that if you see a monk wearing only one shoe, he’s actually the “patriarch of Zen, Bodhidharma (or Tamo in Mandarin)”.
Tamo was subjected to persecution until his death in 536 AD. But he got even by returning to life and was spotted along a road carrying only one shoe. Furious that he had returned, his enemies insisted on checking his coffin, but all they found inside was Tamo’s other shoe!
Everybody is Kung Fu Running!
Jake Mace is no neophyte when it comes to the art of Kung Fu running, as his YouTube videos attest! Mace’s training techniques attract tens of thousands of viewers; check out his warm up routine and 400 meter run to be inspired and motivated.
It’s okay if you insist upon singing the catchy 1974 song “Kung Fu Fighting” while you train (View Carl Douglas’s iconic performance below), but if you prefer motivation from a “higher” source, we refer you to Bruce Lee, who once said,
I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.
Think about it.
Does this insightful Bruce Lee quote resonate with you? Can you explain how it applies to your own mental attitude each time you run?