Kung Fu is an ancient Chinese art. It’s been practiced for thousands of years. History books have been written about it. Movies have been made about it. You and your kid’s have probably taken Kung Fu lessons. The Shaolin monks have dedicated their lives to honing their Kung Fu skills and we, the runners, can reap the benefits of their life long dedication.
Everybody loves those old Kung Fu movies. The ones that are horribly dubbed by english translators. Where the guys fly around an old Chinese court yard and kick each other. Don’t lie. You know you love them too. (Yes, I have a Bruce Lee box set and No, you can’t borrow it.) But what does Kung Fu have to do with running other than dedication and practice? Let me tell you.
In ancient Shaolin Kung Fu lore, there are five fighting styles. Each is represented by an animal. They are the dragon, tiger, leopard, snake and crane. Here are the attributes of each and how you can compare them to running:
The Dragon - The dragon represents grace and beauty.
How graceful are you when you run? How is your form? Is it smooth or do you feel like your out there flailing away?
Good form conserves energy by eliminating wasteful movement. We often forget about form when we are in the moment or when we are tired. That’s why we need to focus and practice proper and graceful running form.
The Tiger - The tiger has great strength and power.
How do you build strength in your legs and core? Hills? Do you run the stairs at the local gym or stadium? Do you cross train? Leg and core strength are important to running longevity.
The Leopard - The leopard is known for it’s speed, agility and footwork.
We become faster and increase are leg turnover by doing speed work or fartleks. Footwork is important. Heel landings are bad. Forefoot or mid foot landings are good. Good speed work outs and footwork can make us more efficient and shave seconds, even minutes off of our race times.
The Snake - The snake is aggressive and defensive at the same time.
It’s important to know when to be aggressive. When do you make the move? At what point do you pick up the pace and sprint to the finish?
It’s also important to be defensive. Don’t start out to fast. Resist the urge to break to soon. Conserve your energy. Don’t let adrenaline and excitement get the most of you. Be aggressive at the right time and be defensive until then.
The Crane - The crane exercises patience.
Running takes time. We can’t get to where we want to be in a day or even a week. We need patience. It’s when we get ahead of ourselves that injuries occur. Sometimes we progress to fast in our training and our bodies aren’t ready for it yet. We need patience during races as well. Just like the snake, being aggressive to early could lead to disaster in the end.
Are you a Kung Fu runner? That’s okay. Neither am I. We may never be Kung Fu masters but we can certainly train like one.
What are some attributes of running that you find important to work on?