9 months ago, my Chinese martial arts school (Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu) had a special class for those who wanted to do the first 100 days of Iron Shirt (aka Steel Jacket) Neigong training. That first "season" was focusing on strengthening the Fascia and cultivating the Chi. I was one of the two out of 10 participants who have completed the whole 100 days in a row.
Here are the links to the previous posts.
- Iron Shirt Neigong, the Fascia Fitness from the Martial Arts world.
- Wu Xing Dao's Iron Shirt Neigong level 3
- I completed the 100 day Iron Shirt Neigong training
Iron Shirt season 2 - The steel brush
Iron Shirt season1 ended in November last year but with the end of year holidays and the Covid-19 thing, my martial arts training was little bit all over the place and it was only two weeks ago that I managed get back into the next step of this body conditioning program.
The next step of Iron Shirt is the physical conditioning with the use of a brush made of steel rods. Most of the steel brushes (aka Qigong brushes) are made of shiny stainless steel but when cleaning my garage not long ago, I notice the previous house owners left a pack of steel welding rods that seems to be the perfect length and diameter. They were old and got a dark color on the surface which I believe is a patina (black oxidation), unless they came in that color... not sure. Anyway, I thought they look good and won't spit on free steel material.
The construction of the steel brush
So first step was to find something that would serve as a handle. My kung fu instructor used a piece of PVC in which he stick the steel rods together with hot glue but I noticed the hot glue does not bond well with PVC and steel and the rods tend to slide out slowly and I kept pushing them back in. So for my own brush, I decided to take this piece of hardwood pole also left behind by the previous house owners (thanks guys 😄). It's a dark wood covered in yellow paint.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of each step until I was already oiling the handle so I went back to take some "fake" shots lol. But the next step was to sand the yellow paint out and at the same time reduce the diameter of the pole a little bit so it is more comfortable in my hand.
I needed the handle to be hollow so I could slide the rods inside. Using my bench drill with a spade bit, I drilled a 22mm whole from the top and went down as far down as I could. Having lost my caliper, I did my best to find the centre of the handle but still managed to drill a little bit crooked.
The length of the welding rods are about double length of my instructor's steel brush, so all I needed was to measure and cut them in half. It took me a while to cut 30+ rods.
As you can see from the picture above, the rod body is blueish grey but the tips are brown. This is due to rust from sitting in the garage for years. It took me ages to clean them off and but I should have spent even more time because it's still there. I might dip the tip of my brush into white vinegar to try dissolving as much rust as I can later on.
I wanted my brush to be robust so to glue the rods to the handle, I chose to use two-parts epoxy. I squeezed the two parts directly inside the handle and used one of the rods to mix thoroughly. All the rods went in, I made sure the tips that were cut (sharp ends) were inside the handle so only the flat and safe tips are pointing out. A final amount of epoxy was added on the outside.
To seal the handle and protect it from sweat, I used multiple coats of Organoil, a 100% natural oil that contains Tung Oil and beeswax. I use this oil a lot and like its mat finish. As the oil sets, the wax hardens on the surface of the wood which helps waterproofing the material while the tung oil penetrates and hardens on the inside.
After handling the steel brush I went back to the sander and created a bevel on the top of the handle. That made it much more comfortable in the hand.
And few tests to see how it works:
Video clip on Twitter:
The theory of the steel brush is about body conditioning. Just like with the hardcore body conditioning from the Muay Thai practitioner, with the iron brush you are hitting yourself in order to condition your body and be able to cope with hits from an opponent when you could not block or avoid them. However with the steel brush method, it's less hardcore. The steel brush is heavy (mine is 0.965 Kg) but being composed of multiple rods, will not damage your body (when used properly). As the brush gets in contact with your body, it will flatten and spread the energy out, sending vibration to your muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. At the beginning you just as strong as you can without real pain. You avoid hitting the bones directly but aim at meaty areas and let the vibration reach the bones instead. You go from shoulders and back to arms and legs. On each body part, there is no need to spend too much time the idea is to repeat a little bit every day and let the body adjust and evolve. The repetitive pressure and vibration will lead to denser bones and your skin and muscles will start to get use to the soreness and you will be able to increase the strength as weeks go by. Prior to the beating, you also need to prepare your body with some QiGong exercises.
I've completed today my 14th days of the 100 day program. Tomorrow will be a new milestone as the first two weeks are usually for getting used to the moves.