What Kung Fu Fighting and Exercise On the Go Have In Common

In the fast-paced mania that modern life can be, exercise on the go facilitated by smart devices is a growing trend.

And why wouldn’t it be? It’s the perfect marriage of mobile app development and exercise philosophy that adapts to unpredictable schedules. People don’t want to force their lives into rigid, programmed time slots at the gym anymore.

Our remarkable tech age is all about on-the-go flexibility, and every industry — from exercise to food to entertainment — is transforming itself to meet the needs of the always-moving customer.

In that context, mobile exercise means people are taking their workouts, their personal trainer, and their workout time management system with them on their mobile device. It means that people’s phones can contain custom workouts that adapt to flexible time slots that may change every day or multiple times a day.

Take an office worker, for example. Maybe they’re on a quick break or a longer lunch. Whether they have five minutes, 15 minutes, or 50 minutes, there are now plenty of options for that worker, who can shape their workouts for those conditions.

People are combining work with workouts, and they’re focusing on close-range, compact workouts that don’t require much or any special equipment or tons of space. But is this kind of thing for the serious fitness enthusiast?


In fact, some of the greatest physical fitness masters in history would endorse it wholeheartedly.

Why Ancient Shaolin Monks Would Have Loved Our Modern Age

It’s easy to marvel at where technology is taking us. But the idea of an adaptable, carefully organized workout routine that is completely portable and flexible is not a new idea unique to our age.

In fact, we’re betting that even some of the most ancient and revered athletes of all time would be enthusiastic about these on-the-go exercise apps: kung fu warriors.

The famous Shaolin Temple in China houses the most famous masters of ancient kung fu, one of whose values is compact movements that can be accomplished anywhere, anytime — whether you’re sitting eating dinner or walking along a narrow mountain trail.

Ancient Shaolin monks prided themselves on being able to adapt their martial art to any situation and any physical space, and make use of any object. Think of Jackie Chan, who studied traditional kung fu forms, and remember how, in his films, he uses common objects — chairs, tables, belts, lamps — for defense and attack. That’s not just showbiz. There’s historical precedent there. Shaolin kung fu was developed because the temple resides in a rural area where it was vulnerable to attack by animals and bandits. The monks developed self-defense strategies that incorporated the tools that they used every day, such as shovels and brooms.

In other words, kung fu masters from the year 464 valued something that the office worker in 2015 values: physical disciplines that could be performed anywhere, as needed, without specialized equipment.

The ancient art of kung fu — one of the oldest known martial arts — emphasizes fast, multitasking movements: i.e. simultaneously blocking and countering an opponent’s punch in one movement or using lightning-quick side-steps that both dodge an opponent’s advance and launch an attack. Kung fu warriors, including modern practitioners, are legendary for their jaw-dropping speed. They achieve this speed because every movement is designed to be as compact and in tune with the body’s natural movements as possible.

A Martial Discipline That Could Be Practiced In a Closet

While other martial arts such as Japan’s karate emphasize big movements with rigid, extended limbs that take up a large amount of space, China’s kung fu prides itself on its speed, softness, and its preference for close-range defense and attack.

In other words, a kung fu warrior always closed the distance between herself and an opponent as quickly as possible.

For this reason, the motions of kung fu evolved over centuries until they became so finely tuned and so compact that the discipline can now be practiced almost anywhere: in a small apartment bedroom, in a cubicle, even in the shower.

The Shaolin monks of China, in other words, invented exercise on the go centuries before smart phone apps made it common practice.

Bruce Lee Would Approve

Allow this little historical lesson to be a pep talk. Next time you’re doing your on-the-go workouts — maybe some push-ups and crunches in your office in between meetings or a five-minute cardio session before the kids wake up — just imagine you’re training next to Bruce Lee. Be inspired by the fact that you’re channeling the spirit of a long tradition of adaptable workouts designed to be done anywhere, anytime.

Your mobile exercise lifestyle, in other words, is not some fly-by-night fad, and it doesn’t mean you’re not serious about fitness. On-the-go exercise has a long, hallowed tradition dating back centuries to some of the most skilled warriors who’ve ever walked the earth.

Feel good about yourself. You’re in good company.

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