When people start Kung Fu the issue of fitness often arises and it usually comes down to one of two concerns: do I need to be fit to train at Kung Fu, of will I get fit training at Kung Fu?
There will be a minimum level of fitness needed to train, but this is surprisingly low. If you need to take it easy to start with, working slowly and even stopping to sit out for a moment, no one will judge you for it. Of course, if you are training on your own at home, this is obviously true. Remember this is a style that relies on skill, not on strength, size or fitness, so in one sense there is no great advantage in being super strong and fit. On the other hand, you will get fitter and stronger during the training; it is inevitable.
While it is generally going to be a benefit being fitter and stronger, there is at least one question you need to be clear about. If you want to get fitter, ask yourself, “fit for what”? At the extreme it is possible to sacrifice health for greater fitness. Health and fitness are not the same thing. You can aim for such a high level of fitness that you have to sacrifice your health on the way. This is why simply aiming for ‘fitter’ without a target can actually be dangerous. When you can do a hundred press ups, why not go for two hundred, or three? Well, here’s why. It won’t make your muscles any bigger or stronger. It won’t have any effect on any part of your daily life; nothing will be better. However, you will have a higher chance of joint problems when you are older, you will just wear out the joints. The only benefit, (and I use the word loosely) is that you can boasting about how many press-ups you can do (and no one will be very impressed), and I don’t think that compares well with an increased chance of long-term injury. You see ‘fitter’ is not a good target; it has no definable standard of achievement. It’s a bit like ‘thinner’; you can diet until you die, and you can train until you are crippled. I’ve done the over training thing in the past and now (in my late 50s) every health problem I have, is down to that over training; that aiming to be that bit fitter, without a defined target. With the Kung Fu Living exercise regime we have defined our fitness aim as ‘an optimum level of fitness training, enough to enable a full and active life, able to do any activity that any normal person might want to take part in, and a level of fitness that can be maintained, without risk to long term health, well into old age.’ Of course, there is still a huge variety of fitness levels amongst students, some do additional training and we can give useful advice to help them define and achieve their goals. Others find that the amount of exercise built into the exercise regime is entirely sufficient for them to gradually increase their fitness and strength, which is, of course, what it is designed to do.