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TR U E STR E N GTH™ Questions and Answers by Stephan Berwick and True Strength Practioners

TR U E STR E N GTH™ Q&A I just got your True Strength Yang DVD from DragonDoor. So, could you explain me, how does slapping myself toughen me up? How does it actually affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments and j toints? Am I able to take hard kicks on my thighs and shins without having to limp afterwards with these exercises? What about the stepping exercises, will they help me with my footwork in the ring? (I do Sanshou/Sanda) Will your stuff help me with my strength training, too? Congratulations on getting this unique program program of body conditioning!  True Strength Yang™ was actually designed originally for fighters like you - those looking for an extra training edge to help them handle the rigors of combat. Like ancient Maori warriors and even Western boxers, slapping/hitting oneself has always been used as a way to condition the skin, muscles, etc to handle punishment in a healthy, lasting manner.   Over time, controlled self-hitting conditions the body in a very direct way.   Essentially, slapping the body at key body parts and in a relaxed, flexible manner develops your body’s ability to heal from many types of external strikes and gives you the ability to handle pain.  It is very much like a stimulative, percussive self-massage, which can be deeply conditioning. True Stength Yang™ wakes-up your hormonal system, ‘kneading’ the skin and muscles and stimulating your internal organs,  while causing your skeletal structure to respond to contact as one, united structure - all fundamental to any fighter’s ability to withstand punshiment and especially important as one ages.    This is a very important aspect of strength training and often overlooked by athletes.   While you do see certain types of self-hitting and partner hitting in contact sports, (such as medicine ball training in western boxing and muay thai - partner hitting in football and rugby - and body falling and rolling in jiu jitsu, judo, aikido, and wrestling),  it is often not viewed as a stand-alone discipline, which True

Strength Yang™ offers - without the use of any apparatus, medicines, etc. And yes, the stance training on the True Strength Base™ DVD will deeply help your footwork and lower body strength for the ring, by developing your ‘root’ and making your overall footwork more sure and stable - all helping you withstand the damage of leg kicks and also making it much harder for your opponents to move you at close range. This type of stance training trains your legs to be structurally intact - making the construction of your stances more integrated and operating as one unit, which unleashes very deep ‘functional’ strength.  This is absolutely crucial for ring combat, especially for stand-up styles like modern sanshou.   Take if from me - I’ve put my body through a lot of punishment over the years, which compelled me to create the True Strength™ regimen as a focused way to keep my toughness up, without destroying my body - something you’ll be increasingly aware of if you continue in sanshou.     And part of the whole package of keeping the body strong, tough, and fast-healing is the use of more so-called qiqong practices, which many fighters, endurance athletes, and strength athletes practice in some way or another, with focused breathing and motor skills exercises.  To that, my upcoming True Strength Yin™ (to be released in a few months) will reveal the more ‘internal’ side of this regimen, that combined with True Strength Yang™ provides a near complete internal/external conditioning regimen great for the ring and for life. Will True Strength Yang™ make me withstand possibly crippling blows(something so heavy, that one’s muscles will bruise and rupture beyond repair)and even fatal ones, like a kick in my ribs? As we know, a broken rib can impale one’s lungs. What about the specific body parts you hit? For example, you show how to hit the extensors of our forearms. Will the other parts toughen up?

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TR U E STR E N GTH™ Q&A Overall the program will affect all of your body parts. The DVD presents the fundamentals which do affect your main body parts overall. The regimen does have another level with even more targeted “hits”, to get at other, smaller body parts.   Hopefully we’ll put that on DVD in the future.    The program will help you repel normal strikes, but of course if you’re hit by a car, beaten with a bat or worse, nothing will prevent that damage. But the nice thing about True Strength Yang is that if you do suffer from really debilitating strikes, your recovery time will be better than normal. Just as expressed in your last note, after you took a rest from the program you noticed quite a difference in how you’re able to handle strikes.  Part of what you experienced is a better recovery/healing time from hits.   

Sink into the movements, keep very relaxed and make sure the movements are fueled by waist. Don’t try to destroy your limbs.  You might also consider spreading intense workouts out more, to perhaps every two days to keep your body healing appropriately.  Remember, body toughening is as much about faster recovery as it is about pain tolerance. In fact, developing faster recovery from strikes is really what this is about - which is not about beating yourself overly hard, but about balancing intense self-hitting with a deep relaxation which allows for quicker healing and deeper body control.   Using True Strength Yang kick exercises, will I be able to kick someone with full force without bruising and breaking my shins? Most sources instruct to kill the nerves on one’s shins, but now I know better, thanks to you.

True Strength Yang really helps your body recover faster from strikes. Faster recovery is important for a fighter, but its even more important when recovering from deep trauma. After a month of True Strength Yang, my pain tolerance has increased, but I can’t take hard kicks on my legs from someone who has on shin guards. Can I switch from slapping to hitting myself with my fists? I have to slap my forearms really hard to create any kind of numbness now. You do not want to create numbness - no way! This is about conditioning the muscles a certain, deep way - not to kill nerves, which does more harm than good.   The more relaxed you keep your body relaxed during practice, the more “toughening” you’ll experience.    So do not hit your self too hard. And yes, you can use your fists for some of the exercises, (waist twisting exercise in particular), but not for most.   But if you use fists, you absolutely have to keep even more relaxed and “soft” to knead the muscles in a way that

conditions healthfully for better recovery, toughening, etc.

Killing the nerves on the shins is what too many martial artists do. Believe me, its not worth it. The kicking exercises in TS Yang will help you ward off injury if you kick someone hard, but you can still hurt yourself - even if you don’t feel the pain.  The key is learning how to kick properly, well targeted, without relying on using the edge of your shin bone.   Kick properly - don’t destroy your legs trying to destroy your opponents.   Try to destroy your opponents with proper technique and deeper, functional conditioning. I don’t know why, but I still wouldn’t be able to take hard kicks with my legs. I tried to hit my legs hard, and they’ll go numb if hit with enough force, the sides of my legs even more so. If my limbs are struck in their nerves, that is. If I brace for kicks as I’ve learned, I’m not crippled as much. I do the 20 minute routine every other day, and it’s been over

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TR U E STR E N GTH™ Q&A 2 months since I started. I don’t know, maybe I’m a “hardgainer”. Any suggestions?

for you though. So you might try sparring with gloves and head protectors, but no body and leg armor.

I doubt anything has really gone wrong.  Without seeing how you’re doing the program, I can’t fully judge if you’re a “hardgainer”.   But everyone is indeed different, so how you respond to leg strikes will of course be different from someone else.   Also, you have take into consideration other factors such as age, rest, diet, and the other kinds of training you’re doing (you could be overtraining actually), etc.

Overall, just be sensitive to how your body handles the rigor of combat - even with gloves and protective equipment. If you note a difference in less pain, less flinching, more endurance, more rootedness, and increased relaxation during a bout, then you’ll know how its going for you. Today I took sweeps without leg protection, but I’m not sure if I could take them with full force. Sometimes I felt I could have taken a hard kick, sometimes I didn’t. I think you can feel how hard the impact is even if the kick isn’t that hard, can’t you?

I’d say take a rest from the intensity of True Strength Yang for awhile. It appears as if you may be practicing the regimen too intense or too long as someone who just starting out with the regimen, which may be causing a bad overtraining effect on your body. This is something all athletes have to avoid, especially martial artists. You should try cycling your workouts, whereby you only do a certain type of training session no more than two or three times per week. And are your practicing the ‘Base’ material? My sense is the the guy who just posted is doing this, which is why he clearly described improved root -something that I think you have to pay attention to, as it is related to warding off leg strikes.

The responses I’ve been getting have been from somewhat older fighters or those recovering from injuries (sanshou, mma, muay thai) whom expressed that the regimen really helps them keep up, while giving them the capacity to heal quicker. When your legs are attacked you can certainly feel the depth of impact, whether or not it hurts or stings. Leg attacks really affect the whole body especially the lower abdomen - so even if a kick to your legs don’t hurt on the surface, the jolt can still be hard to handle. Thus the need for ‘rootedness’ and stance training (as shown on the Base DVD).

How should I test myself with a partner? Should I let him punch me in the stomach with bare fists? I planned on having someone strike me without gloves and shin guards. You should spar as and see how you react especially when sparring with bigger, stronger, or more experienced opponents. I generally don’t go for ‘stand and punch me’ tests, as they really don’t measure how a person can really handle punishment in a more realistic situation, such as in a fight. A bare fisted sparring match can be a good test, but the risks of facial and hand cutting, even if you can handle the blows, is probably not worth it

Will True Strength Yin have anything for the hands? The fists toughen up with a punching bag, but what about the fingers? They’re very delicate. I thought about this when I got hit on my right index finger by a stick yesterday at the Kali class. No worries, finger’s still okay. By the way, I feel I can’t take a hit from a blunt weapon (stick) on my forearms. Is it possible to do so without bruising?

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TR U E STR E N GTH™ Q&A Taking realistic hits from sticks is perhaps asking for too much. Some would recommend herbal solutions and other esoteric exercises, but the most tough people (internally or externally) can’t truly handle a full shot with a heavy stick or blunt instrument.

My right knee was a bit sore from yesterday’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rolling, but it was fine enough I’m sure True Strength Yang helps with knees also, right? Knees are precarious joints, that yes, TS Yang affects. But always remember that knee toughness is more about your lower body strength and structural integrity, more so than hitting the knees to “toughen” them up. The TS Base material is especially good for this purpose.

True Strength Yang actually helps the fingers as well. But again, I recommend doing some bag training without gloves or wraps, using different types of hand positions (open, closed, etc) Also, finger jabbing against hanging strips of heavy leather or canvas, can be effective and generally safe for toughening the fingers. Just never overdo this type of training. You don’t want to deaden your limbs - just condition them a certain way. I thought about something: since bracing is about flexing your muscles against hits, wouldn’t stronger muscles help True Strength training? Pavel told in his book Power To The People that stronger muscles are sort of like half-flexed, he called it residual tension. Stronger muscles are denser muscles. Seems logical that Paul Anderson (R.I.P) could achieve a lot more with your regimen than say, Richard Simmons? Am I right? For me - especially in terms of the True Strength program - bracing should not be about flexing your muscles against hits. It should be about minutely adjusting your structure to dissipate the impact of strikes with the whole body as an integrated unit. This is perhaps hard to understand, but it really is one of the secrets to absorbing punishment. Basically, with the overall correct body structure, a strike’s impact is dissipated over a bigger area, so that instead of the direct target taking the brunt of the blow, your whole body sort of absorbs or envelopes it. TS Yang (and TS Yin) develops that integrated structural strength in a very direct way.

Is clothing even necessary for True Strength training? All these months I’ve done it wearing just my briefs? I recently had a very long kick boxing session. Judging from my body’s response I think I wouldn’t be able to take a solid roundhouse kick on my midsection (we did drills with neither shin guards nor belts), but the impact felt lighter than it used to. But it was just drilling and not fighting with all that adrenaline, of course. I feel that uppercuts don’t hurt nearly as much in general as they used to, but the spot below my sternum is still a weak point. Can it be toughened up at all? It all depends on how your overall structure is. In other words, how best is your body absorbing punishment as one unit - effectively dissipating the strike across a broader area. For sensitive areas, like below the sternum, you have to make sure your body operates and holds itself well as one unit. That’s where partner bumping becomes very effective as both a safe test, as well as a progressive training tool to hone your body to handle deeper strikes. The True Strength regimen is fine with or without clothes. Some prefer clothing to lessen the risk of minor surface ‘black and blue’ marks that sometimes occur when first beginning the regimen. I am wondering if your program can help a

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TR U E STR E N GTH™ Q&A 61 year person like myself gain internal power. I am somewhat spry. I have practiced Aikido and some Wing Chun. My Aikido teacher is a strong believer of Ki/Chi to make up for lack of plain muscle in old people. Yes indeed, TS Yang will help you ‘release’ and better utilize your internal power. I have a number of students in your age category whom unleashed new found vigor from the regimen.

The key here is to recognize that “internal” power has more to do with refining one’s body structure during movement, while strengthening the stabilizers (from the lower body, up), which then allows your internal energy to flow more freely without blockages. So the real goal is to get your body to a state that allows your qi to flow evenly and openly to all your extremities. From this basis, TS Yang wakes-up your body, stimulating the hormonal system, opening the joints from a stronger base, and ‘kneading’ the muscles - all of which helps get your qi out, so to speak. I think you’ll really enjoy the program, which will give you “internal” benefits beyond its unique toughening benefits

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Stephan Berwick's martial arts, strength, training program