Combat ready: Slapping the water

There is a tale from the early Shaolin period, where a young man, so desirous of being selected to the fabled temple of the Shaolin monk, camped outside for days until recognized and accepted into the hollowed halls and secret behind the walls. Besides learning the basic duties of a neophyte and taught to meditate rigorously, the young man also began his martial training soon after with anticipated fervor. However his disappointment was surely palpable when the master pulled him over to a large cauldron of water, on the first day of his training and directed him to stand rooted to the ground and to continuously slap and move the water with his palm. He thought this was unusual, but presumed this was a test of his patience. So he took to the tasked enthusiastically in hopes of winning approval of the abbot. Everyday, his training consisted of slapping that water in the cauldron, trying to move it. Everyday for three years.

The young man was first embarrassed as the task continued, then he got frustrated and eventually resentful, for he eventually concluded that he was never going to learn Shaolin Kung Fu as he originally thought. However, he had given up all his worldly ways and his family, he knew was extremely proud of his selection into the temple. Such an honor could not be tarnished by quitting, for it would bring shame on his family name. At the three year mark, he was allowed to visit the family for a holiday celebration. All were in a joyful mood and his parents were extremely proud of their son the Shaolin monk. Eventually someone asked if he could show them some technique he learned at the famous temple.

At first the young man resisted, but eventually the large contingent of family and friends soon all clamoured for a show of his obviously great skills. The young man became frustrated and soon angry, because he saw how the abbot and the monks conspired to humiliate him and now his shame would be on display for his family. Finally, not able to take the coxing anymore, the young man jumped up and cried “I have learned nothing in three years there”! As he jumped up, he slammed the palm of his hands against a marble table with such force, that he split the table in half.  Everybody was in awe and looked incredibly at the display of such a powerful demonstration….including the young man. Later upon reflection, the young man realized that he was being taught King Fu all along, however his concept of what it would look like was not the same as what the abbot and the rest of the monks had in store.

The Great Gama
  • The Great GamaSome of his feats of strength, included:
    1. Various feats done with lifting an anvil.
    2. Bending steel in many forms
    3.  Bending nails or short steel under 8″.
    4.  Bending medium length steel, while bracing it against the legs.
    5.  Rolling up and making art out of very large pieces of steel.
    6.  Bending horseshoes!
    7. Turn a frying pan into a useless metal burrito.
    8. Bodyweight feats done on the hands.
    9. Juggling Weights – Barbell Juggling – Spinning, twisted and flipping a barbell.
    10. Kettlebell Juggling – Spinning, twisted and flipping a kettlebell or two.
    11. Muscle Control – Make those muscles dance one at a time.
    12. Muscling Out Weights – Holding a weight in an unnatural leverage.
    13. Nail Driving with the Hands – Who needs a hammer when you’ve got strength?
    14. Partial Lifts – Lifting massive poundages in short ranges.
    15. Phonebook Tearing – Ripping a phonebook in two or more pieces.
    16. Pinch Grip – Build that thumb strength.
    17. Pullups/Chinning – A classic bodyweight exercise done in insane ways.
    18. Rope Climbing – Climbing a rope faster or harder than before.
    19. Teeth and Jaw Feats – For those with Iron Jaws.
    20. Building strong hands while working with thicker bars.

Ghulam was trained by his father, who was also a successful wrestler, at a very young age. General public noticed Ghulam when he appeared at a strongman competition at the age of 10. With more than 400 wrestlers and participants in this competition (which featured many tough exercises, like Indian squats), Ghulam Muhammad managed to secure his place among the last fifteen wrestlers. Since he showed incredible dedication and endurance for his age, The Great Gama was pronounced a winner of this competition.

Only nine years later, The Great Gama issued a challenge against the Indian wrestling champion Raheem Baksh who was much taller than him. Gama himself stood at 5’7″, while his opponent was 6’9″ tall. Imagine the advantage Raheem had against Ghulam in this match! Long story short, The Great Gama managed to win this fight which marked the turning point in his career. Many other well-known wrestlers like Stanislaus Zbysko, Dr. Benjamir Roller, Maurice Deriaz and John Lemm all suffered the same fate of losing a match against Ghulam.

At the age of 22, The Great Gama traveled to Baroda to compete in wrestling. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a match and decided to do something else instead. He lifted 1200kg stone (2645 pounds) up to his chest and dropped it down after carrying it for a while. It was 2.5 feet in height and it’s still kept at Baroda Museum for display.

Gama performing hindu pushups as a part his regular training routine

Gama’ trained every day, performing 5000 hindu squats and 3000 hindu pushups. My personal max is 800 hindu squats and 200 hindu pushups. Gamma would often performed squats while wearing 200 pounds apparatus and had someone rub him with dry mustard after every workout session. He had a major influence on many, including Bruce Lee himself. After reading about Gama’s amazing strength, Lee decided to incorporate Gama’s training methods in his own routine, which probably helped him to achieve the legendary status he has today. The Great Gama died in 1960 after a long history of heart-related conditions.

Building the pillars of strength.

In his book the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee showed how he incorporate the great Gammas routine into his own program. He would do 500 hindu squats daily, go for a five mile run and then do 100 hindu push ups. All before breakfast. While there are many variations of the hindu style of pushups and squats, the basic form or style is sufficient for even the most seasoned of combat warrior towards producing great gains.  It is a gym legend that the squat is the king of the lift.  Squatting heavy is said to release HGH into the blood stream which produces muscle growth. Hindu squats done properly are also designed to release testosterone and HGH into the blood stream. When doing hindu squats, you go down while balancing on the balls of your feet ( the advance form is to do it flat footed. This requires more flexibility) while blowing air out of your lungs and tightening your abdomen. Your arms drop down and brush the ground, swooping into a arch in time with your body coming out of the squat. As you come up you inhale and row your arms, pushing your elbows back to the point you feel the stretch in your deltoids, chest and upper back. Doing this continually, strengthens the lungs, calves and abdomen. It also helps to develop flexibility in the hips, knees and ankles. Of course the thighs become stronger, leaner even in women. When doing the hindu squats start off at a moderate speed, as balance and flow will be a challenge. If you can do this for 20 reps properly, you are on your way. Doing this for 30 days increasing by one to five reps daily will soon have you hovering near the 100 reps mark in no time.

I have recently incorporated a slow squat on my last rep. Going down for a count of 15 and up for a count of 15. As you get stronger, you can increase the slow count to 30 sec both ways. This burns and forces the nerves to be sparked. The individual fibers of the muscles are woken up and develop some serious power ( not just strength) in your legs. Caution it is not good to do this slow squat at the end on a regular, it will have a detrimental effect. Occasionally do though it as a switch up to shock the muscles. By the time your reps get higher than 100, you don’t want to overly fatigue the legs or joints.

In the case of the Hindu pushups, it is similar to the dive bomber pushups, but where in the dive bomber you come back the same way you go forward, by scraping your belly along the floor, in the Hindu  pushups you go straight back. You have less strain on your back and shoulder girdle and give the upper back and shoulders a brief recovery. You develop more flexibility and are able to do more. Incorporating these two exercises alone, as foundation of your combat preparedness is vital for developing that foundation of strength, power and flexibility.  Document your progress, test yourself. You will be surprised at how your body changes during the 30 plus days of doing these two exercises.

End Note: If you train up until you can run flat out for 200 meter, swim for a minimum of six laps in the pool, do a box jump to a height of your own waist (at a minimum), do pull up between 10-20 reps, while doing the hindu squats and pushups, you have entered into the arena of combat warrior.

Welcome….and come well!