The exercise "Iron Shirt" is hard GONG FU for the development of the external force. If you combine this exercise with training the internal power by means of TONG JIA GONG ("The art of a child", or "Children's exercises"; a complex of 16 exercises for teaching children develops flexibility, equilibrium, control of breath, steadiness, and speed), you can attain the same result as in GONG FU "Covering with Gold Bell". However, it is not easy to reach success, that's why the people in command of this GONG FU can be seldom found.
The training method of "Iron Shirt" is as follows: you should wrap round your breast, stomach and back with a few layers of soft fabric, then massage the wrapped spots with force. Bend and unbend your elbows from time to time. Don't hold your breath. It is advisable to sleep at a hard bed at night so that the body would touch a rigid surface. In due course the body becomes strong. It is somewhat difficult at first, but you will gradually get used to it. Besides, it is necessary to make a horizontal bar in the court, dig out a shallow pit under it and fill it with fine sand to a depth of 1 CHI approximately (CHI is a unit of length equal to 0.33 cm). Train yourself each day in the morning and in the evening in the following way: hang on your arms on the horizontal bar, then fall down to the pit so that some part of the body - shoulders, back, breast, stomach, buttocks etc. touch sand. During one training each part of the body should touch sand twice in such a way. You train yourself in this way during three years.
Then you train yourself without wrapping fabric. Now you should strike at the whole body with a wooden hammer, then with an iron one. It is necessary mobilize the internal energy QI during training, concentrate attention and direct force to the spot at which you deliver a blow. It will take another three years. When the upper part of the body becomes as soft as cotton wool, it means you have mastered GONG FU "Iron Shirt". If necessary, you will be able to mobilize internal energy QI and concentrate the force Li, your body will become as hard as iron or stone. A punch or a blow with a solid object will not do you harm. But all the same, blows with a heavy weapon should be avoided.
Some of Shaolin monks are able to use this GONG FU. Once my tutor, esteemed master Wang, gave a stage performance in Peking. I was only ten years old at that time. I, moved by curiosity and forgetting about decency, took a short pike and delivered a stabbing blow at his stomach with all force. But at the same moment I was thrown off and fell flat on my back. I stood up, surprised and ravished: master Wang instantly had concentrated his internal energy QI for defense, and my attack failed.
10. Exercise "A Series of Blows" (PAI DA GONG)
The exercise "A Series of Blows" is an external strengthening, hard exercise. Hard force is used outside, soft effort is employed inside. It is a method of hitting on the body surface to strengthen muscles and sinews, similar to the method of hitting on all parts of the body with a wooden hammer. This exercise is quite simple. What is called a series (of blows) means delivering successive blows with a brick. At the first stage a rectangular piece of hard wood, 30 cm long, 25 cm wide and 5 cm thick, is used. You take a wooden piece in your hand and do the exercise successively by delivering blows with its side surface at all parts of your body, at first at the left shoulder and forearm, then at the right shoulder and forearm. Start from light blows and proceed to heavier ones. Make a 100 blows or more. Then, proceed to the thighs and shins, starting from the left leg and holding the brick in the right hand, and continue with hitting on the right leg, holding (the brick) in the left hand. Then proceed to the breast and the stomach, hitting from the left to the right and holding the brick in a right hand, then on the legs (on their back and side surfaces), starting from the back of the waist. Then both sides. Train yourself every day once in the morning and once in the evening in such a way, each time hitting on different parts of the body one hundred times or more with a wooden brick. Change a wooden brick with a common baked brick after one-year training and continue training as above.
Start to use "gold" brick (a brick not of gold, but of iron)1 after another half a year. Train yourself another half a year, at this stage a certain level of mastership is reached. Continue to hit on all muscles of your body to strengthen and harden them. Of course, this method can not be compared with GONG FU "Iron Bull" (TIE NIU), thanks to it neither swords nor spears can hurt you. But if you are attacked only with fists and legs, blows will not harm you.
It is, then, necessary to strike with fists and legs at the torso, you do not inflict any injury at that. Then, continue to do the exercise and hit on different vulnerable (lit. "soft") parts of your body. It is necessary to pluck up your spirits in order not to inflict wounds or injure the internal organs. Hold your breath at the time of hitting, breathe out after a blow, then tense and deliver another blow. The head and the elbows can be trained in the same way. If you train yourself step by step for two years, you will be able to get a good result. This method is mostly used in five northern provinces and seldom in the South. It is employed along with the exercise "Beating a Wooden Man" (DA MU REN) at the Shaolin Monastery.
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