A proper training regimen will involve the use of the liniment dit da jow (sometimes translated as “iron hit wine”) which is used after each training session to help the hands heal before the next session. The dit da jow is alcohol-based and contains a variety of herbs and when rubbed into the skin may help promote blood flow (and therefore healing) and is also said by some people to help draw qi to the location where it was applied.
There are typically 3 ways to obtain jow:
1) Buy it from a supplier
Various martial arts supply companies sell their own jows that are all ready to go. They come in little bottles and you just pour out what you need and start using it. Note that some companies use glass bottles and other companies use plastic bottles, and there is sometimes a debate between which is better. Some people say glass is better because the liniment can leech properties from a plastic bottle, other people say it doesn’t matter. This is just something to keep in mind if you see some in different types of bottles.
You may also see some for sale at stores in Chinatown (if your city has a Chinatown).
And there are many places online where you can order ready-made jow.
Your instructor may sell it, too.
Make sure you find out the ingredients used in a specific formulation. Some jows actually contain ingredients that may be toxic (or illegal!). Don’t just assume that because it is dit da jow it therefore has magical properties and you don’t need to do your own due diligence.
If you see a jow for sale that doesn’t list its ingredients, stay away.
Pre-made jow tends to be anywhere from reasonably priced to very expensive. Expect to pay from $2.50/oz on the inexpensive side up to $10/oz or more on the expensive side, so if you are looking to save money, a better option may be:
2) Buy an herb kit and make your own
Some suppliers will sell all the herbs required in bulk (they usually come in a sealed bag) and you add your own alcohol (people often use vodka or rice wine) and wait the required amount of time. During this period, the alcohol is absorbing the qualities of the herbs. Different types of liniment require different amounts of time, but plan to wait anywhere between 1-6 months before the jow is ready to be used. Yes, this is a long time, but the kits are usually used for making bulk quantities (often a gallon or so) which means that when it is done you will have enough jow to last you for a long time. So if you’re going to go this route, you may want to use pre-made jow while you wait for yours to age just so you have something to use in the meantime.
3) Make your own from scratch
If you know what you are doing, you can buy (or grow) your own herbs from scratch. This gives you ultimate freedom as opposed to using someone else’s kit, and will also likely be cheaper (since remember the company selling you the kit to make your own jow probably still has to mark it up for a profit). The benefits of making your own include 1) potentially saving money and 2) using your own exact formula and specifications. However, most people don’t have the necessary information to know what herbs go together and why, nor do they necessarily have the means to obtain the herbs (some are hard to find), so this option is probably not ideal for many people.
So should you make your own dit da jow? Well, if you want it might be worth a try, but it’s probably best to start with an herb kit so all you have to do is add alcohol. Otherwise, stick with a pre-made type that you like and can afford.
And just a reminder, don’t attempt to buy or use alcohol if you are under 21! Even if it’s for kung fu, it’s still illegal!