Iron palm is traditionally a part of kung fu training. But what if you don’t study kung fu, but instead study a different form of martial art? Can you undergo palm training? Is there any reason to?
Don’t necessarily think of it as a kung fu-specific thing. It’s just a method of hand conditioning. It could even be done by someone who doesn’t study any martial art at all (although there probably wouldn’t be a reason for that)! It conditions the palms to be able to deliver harder strikes as well as endure those harder strikes with less chance of injury, and is therefore applicable to anyone who may be doing any sort of striking with an open hand.
Does your karate style have open hand strikes?
If you train in a style that doesn’t use open hand strikes there there may not be a reason to condition your palms, but you may benefit from iron fist training instead. While they are based on the same principles, their techniques are slightly different.
In fact, these same principles extend to all forms of body conditioning. Some styles may do “iron shin” conditioning. Other styles such as Muay Thai have their own methods for conditioning the shins, but the end result is the same.
On that note, Muay Thai guys don’t kick trees. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes they may kick banana trees, but banana trees have a rubbery bark that acts as padding. They certainly don’t kick hard trees like you have seen in the movies. And if you’re training at home, don’t go in the back yard and starting kicking a tree. You’ll hurt yourself. You also probably don’t have banana trees around where you live, anyway.
Regardless of the type of conditioning you’re doing, progress must be gradual and slow, and the correct materials must be used. That is the reason for the progression from mung beans to pebbles to steel shot, as well as the slow increase of reps (if at all). Whether you’re training your palm, fist, shins, or anything else, always err on the side of progressing too slowly.
So back to the topic at hand. Is iron palm training appropriate for non-kung fu styles? If palm strikes are relevant to your chosen style of martial art, then perhaps it is. Nearly every martial artist can improve their ability by improving their level of conditioning.