Dec 17th 2016  


Joshua Villar, Instructor, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts, on a painful change of ground during his knuckle walk training challenge

This entry is part 12 of 9 in the series Training challenges

We haven’t had one of these for a while – a training challenge! Instructor Joshua Villar set one for himself – and without wishing to steal his thunder (whisper it) it’s a knuckle walk. Why would anyone want to do that (as Josh asked himself when he was half way through)? Well, the simple answer would be that walking on your knuckles toughens them up – it’s one way of doing it.  But maybe there was also an element of exploring pain thresholds and endurance. Either way, like that other famous endurance event, Le Tour de France, you can read about it rather than do it, and wince at the photos in the comfort of your own home.

“I will set the scene. A lone Kung Fu Instructor stands on top of a hill in Bromley Park. A cold wind blows, ruffling his traditional Chinese garb, but he pays it no attention. He is too focused on the task he has set himself. He takes a breath and goes down into press up position on the cold hard concrete path. Putting one fist in front of the other he begins to walk on his knuckles.

Knuckle Walk – The Rules (there were rules??)

Allow me to clarify; this was the ridiculous challenge I set myself, to walk on my knuckles for half a mile. The rules of the challenge were simple; I could take a break at any time during the challenge but could only move forward if I was walking on my knuckles.

Knuckle Walk – The Logic (there was logic???)

Here is the logic behind the challenge; when you punch someone, your wrist needs to be strong enough to transfer the energy into your opponent without your wrist buckling or breaking. Walking on your fist strengthens your wrists as well as conditioning your knuckles. Would I recommend doing this on concrete as I did, well no, this was definitely a mistake, as the same results can be achieved on a wooden floor and with the added benefit of not scraping up your fists.

The Hill of Doom (now we’re getting somewhere)

Anyway, back to the Park. I started the first leg of my challenge – down a big hill, now known to me as the ‘Hill of Doom’ (because it was definitely the hardest section of the challenge).  The ‘Hill of Doom’ was excruciatingly painful, as all my Joshua Villar, Instructor, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Martial Arts, shows his bloodied fist to the camera after a knuckle walkweight was being pushed down into my fists. I had a short rest when a lovely lady stopped and asked me what I was doing, I told her and she laughed. She then proceeded to talk about her father’s experience of Second World War army training and her own dance training. It was a pleasant conversation and ended with her wishing me luck with the rest of my journey. The hiatus over, I continued down the ‘Hill of Doom’, every stride becoming more painful. It was a massive effort to make it to the bottom of hill. The first section of the challenge was complete.

The deuxième étage (part 2 to you and me)

The second stage was much easier, as it was relatively flat. However by this point my fists where sore and bruised so it was just as painful as the ‘Hill of Doom’. By the halfway point of the second section I thought I wasn’t going to make it but then something weird and miraculous happened, I lost all sensation in my hands. I don’t know why this happened but was glad that it did, as it allowed me to finish the second section.

The troisième étage (you get the picture)

Joshua Villar, Instructor, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts, "flying" up a hill during a knuckle walk challenge

Is this the bit where Joshua says he is flying up the hill”?

And here I was the third and final section of the challenge  – a big uphill section. Fear not, this was by far the easiest part of the challenge as all of my weight was being put onto my feet taking all the pressure of my knuckles. I flew up the first third of the pathl. But then the hill betrayed me. The ground suddenly changed from relatively smooth concrete to
jagged stones and although this part of the hill was only a few meters long, it was very painful as the sharp stones dug into my already raw and bruised knuckles. I powered through but not without a few manly yelps. When I finished those few meters, I found a second wind, and flew up the rest of the hill.

The ligne d’arrivée (cue musical interlude)

Before me I could see the finish line, only ten more meters away! But something very odd happened. I hit a wall – I couldn’t take the last few steps. My mind had given up on me. In the best cinematic tradition my brain screamed ‘No!!!!!’ ‘I’ve made it this far, there is no way I am giving up’. And so with one final push I made it to the end of my half-mile. I stood up, fist pumping the air, the ‘Rocky’ theme song blaring in my head. I did it, I actually did it!

Fancy having a go? (I think we know the answer)

It was a tough and long challenge (taking about of one hour fifteen minutes from start to finish) and one I took a lot away from. The main lesson I learnt was that I had not prepared adequately for the challenge – my fists remained raw and bruised for a couple of weeks after completing it. So a word of warning for those who wish to take on this challenge, build up to it slowly. Start with a few steps and see how you feel and don’t make my mistake of doing it on concrete and jumping in at the deep end. It can really mess you up! That said; there will always be blood, sweat and tears during training. (Disclaimer; I did not cry, so just blood and sweat this time….).”

Thanks Joshua for sharing the pain. Don’t try this at home, unless you really really feel you have something to prove!


Joshua Villar, Instructor, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi, does a knuckle walk downhill.

“Walk on, With hope in your heart, And you’ll never walk alone”