With the fitness business boom in our country, and the influence of hollywood celebrities who adhere to a rail thin figure-its no wonder that both girls and boys, men and women have a skewed perception of health. So I use the Kung fu body as an example to many people. Whatever style you practice, your style will usually yield a strong, flexible body. Most people who train are naturally thin, but depending on your diet and training methods-a body type can range. The point is that the goal is not to look good. The goal is to be balanced, to develop yin-yang balance internally and to harmonize with one's environment and nature. Kung fu training gives very strong legs-a little bigger than the average skinny pant could possibly accommodate. The waist and backside, especially for westerners, will grow somewhat, because you are storing energy and building muscle. Some bodies have a thinner waist, and others have a thicker waist. The thicker waist types can usually throw, toss and take down opponents with greater ease.
I made sure to encourage my young student to spend time with me so we could talk more about not succumbing to those pressures. I told her beautiful was not just thin. She smiled and looked so relieved. We should really consider this situation carefully.
But in every fitness magazine and fitness guru on twitter, you see the low body fat physique to an extreme. Women with six packs and larger, sometimes implanted breasts sends a message that a woman should be unhappy with her body otherwise. For the man, the gigantic shoulders, biceps, chest and top heavy look may make him believe that he is not fit otherwise. The kung fu body does not look to inflate the upper body, with a thin waist and spindly legs. Adaptability, relaxation, speed, fluidity, timing and most of all-longevity are cultivated through the root in the lower body and relaxation of the upper. An upper body that is too big from weight training will slow a person down, decrease sensitivity and adaptability. In addition, it will not facilitate the storage of qi (energy) at the center of the body because the lower is weak and the upper is strong-a backwards concept in Chinese medicine. Does that mean that Martial Artists don't do any kind of weight training? or develop their upper body at all? No it does not mean that - the point is that sculpting the body to look good, is not the epitome of health, fitness and finesse.
When I used to teach boxing, sometimes I had bouncers who wanted to improve their punch. Believe it or not, I had a 300 lb. bouncer who could not punch as hard as I could when I was 120 lbs. The reason? technique, speed, relaxation. He was big, overly muscular in his top half and had difficulty relaxing. Don't get me wrong, he was strong. I am sure he could lift someone up and toss them around-but there was no finesse, no punching power, and very little adaptability.
So I will say that we should consider the ideals of beauty that we are exposed to and ask ourselves-is it really natural and healthy? Should we perpetuate the unrealistic and ultimately, unhealthy ideals by supporting them? How do we break those patterns? Accept that women should have a little body fat to be healthy. In Chinese medicine theory, women cannot have the healthiest babies or be fertile without yin- the soft side. A strong woman may also be soft at times, so this is not an anti feminist comment. This is not to say that having too much body fat is good, but rather a comment on the constant striving for losing pounds and fat is unhealthy.
Also accept that a man is healthy and appealing with a naturally strong, healthy physique not one that is forced, and created with hours of weight lifting and cardio. Fitness and health come more naturally through practicing healthy diet, not eating late hours at the evening, engaging in healthy, moderate exercise and being relaxed in life. Meditating, Qigong and Tai Chi should be cultivated as a balance to hard exercise and fast paced life. True health is not a superficial look, but begins in the internal world. American people are most frequently yin deficient-they lack the calm, the soft, the patient, the quiet. If we can cultivate the yin side, we can find a true balance of health. Otherwise, our constant need to look good, be active and cleanse, cleanse, cleanse-will actually age us faster!