People are forever coming up to me and asking “Why do you do that to your hands? Isn’t that bad for you? It makes your hands look ugly!” When I don’t feel like going into any sort of detail, I often reply by saying, “Why do you eat so many hamburgers? Isn’t that bad for you? It makes you look fat!”
In reality, though, there are answers to these questions. Here is the really short version:
I condition because I am a martial artist. I am not a sports person. While I did take part in competitions when I was younger, it was never my focus. Street defence and fighting is why I train. If I hit someone on the street I don’t have a nice, cushioned glove to protect my hand. By conditioning, I harden my bones – building up their density so that there is less risk of injury to myself and more chance of damaging my opponent. It’s a simple equation, really – If the density of your bones is higher than the density of the object/person that you are hitting then it is the other object/person that is likely to be damaged instead of you.
There are so many theories on how conditioning may affect a person over time. Of course, conditioning in the wrong way, like doing anything the wrong way, can affect your health in an adverse way. In my opinion, conditioning has saved me. Before I learnt how to condition, and put in a place a consistent conditioning regimen, I damaged myself badly on several occasions – taking months, and even over a year in one case, before I could use my hand to its capability again. Even a light tap on a bag would send me writhing in agony. Due to conditioning I no longer have this problem. I am rarely injured in any way and can carry out my training to its true capability.
Knife hand – Taken from the condensed encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, by Gen. Choi Hong Hi
Some say that it causes arthritis. Fact is, chances are better of getting arthritis or doing permanent damage to your hands by breaking your knuckles on someone or something because you haven’t conditioned. In many cases people develop arthritis without ever having put strain on their joints at all. Just because it might happen shouldn’t stop me from doing it. In order to do my job properly, it’s a necessity. It’s like saying people should never write again because they might get arthritis in their fingers when they’re old, or, people should never type again in case they develop carpal tunnel. I have always been a practical person – I like things that I can use. I see no point in being able to look good kicking and punching but not actually being able to use the techniques in a real scenario without damaging myself.
Conditioned Fist – Taken from the condensed encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, by Gen. Choi Hong Hi
As far as looks – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have always had heroes whose hands and knuckles are big and calloused from use. I see well-conditioned hands and I see beauty. It is something I admire and is something that I actively work towards. If other people don’t like it, I don’t mind. I don’t train to look good. I train so my body will be functional and carry out what I want it to do. I do have fun and enjoy my training, but that is not why I train. I train with purpose and if I end up looking different to meet that purpose, then so be it. I take pride in the fact that I can break bricks, concrete and boards without damaging myself where others would be in a cast for months. I have confidence that in a fight I can repeatedly hit assailants without any worry about pain or damage to myself. It pays to be prepared and conditioning is part of preparation.
We all have our own perspectives and our own life to lead. Not everybody out there has to share your beliefs, or anything else for that matter. Everybody has their own opinions and priorities. It may not suit everyone to have big knuckles or calloused hands, but it suits me just fine – badges of honour.