Pigua Tongbei: Swing Your Arms Like a Great White Ape

An Exercise to Build Flexibility and Coordination

This Pigua Tongbei warm-up exercise is an old favorite of Mike Martello—Director of the Wu Tang Association of Belgium—and a new favorite of mine. It will loosen and strengthen your core: waist, back, shoulders and hips.

  1. Stand with your toes pointing forward, feet hip-width apart, and knees slightly bent.
  2. Rotate your hips and waist towards the right. As you turn, raise your left arm straight forward to shoulder height. Raise your right arm straight backward to the same height. You should be able to draw a straight line through both arms.
  3. Turn your hips and waist back to the forward direction, while continuing to raise both arms straight above your head.
  4. Rotate your hips and waist towards the left. As you turn, drop your left arm straight down in the backwards direction, and the right arm in the forwards direction. Again, both arms are straight and at shoulder height.
  5. Turn back to the forward direction, as you drop both arms to your sides.
  6. Return to step 2. Repeat these fluid circles for one minute. Pump your legs slightly to help raise your arms. Your entire body should move as one unit.
  7. Continue one minute longer in the opposite direction, swapping left and right sides.

Now perform the same drill while walking forwards:

  1. Start by walking normally. You will notice that when your right foot advances, your left arm also swings forward slightly as a counterbalance. This exercise will extend your natural walking movement.
  2. As you continue walking, swing your arms in a larger arc. When you step with your right foot, raise your left arm straight forward to shoulder height, and your right arm straight backwards to shoulder height (as your flexibility allows).
  3. After this is comfortable, swing your arms all the way through the cycle, as you did in the static exercise. Every time your right foot lands, your left arm should reach the front of its circle. (Note: this is not a windmill motion; your arms are moving in opposite directions.)
  4. Try not to sway your hips like a runway model, or to swing your arms out to the sides. If you get confused, return to step 2 for a few steps, then try again.
  5. After one minute, change directions, so that your right arm moves forward with your left foot.
Frankenstein's monster

In their best renditions of relaxed and natural movement, most people’s first attempts at this drill will instead resemble Frankenstein’s monster! That’s why this whole-body Pigua Tongbei exercise is so beneficial: your tension and clumsiness have nowhere to hide.

Demonstration by Brian J, Seattle Martial Arts Club

7 comments on “Pigua Tongbei: Swing Your Arms Like a Great White Ape”

  1. Were you able to make it to some of Mike’s classes while he was here? I was at the last Saturday/Sunday part of the seminar. Wow, it was great!
    Sorry I missed you if you were there earlier in the week.
    D.R.

  2. Yes DR, I was there two or three weekends ago.

    I initially held off publishing this because I thought it would be too difficult to learn without pictures or video. I’ve since changed my mind; my instructions seem easy to follow, whereas the demonstration is not.

    That said–if you make a video, I will link to it!

  3. Hey Chris,

    I videotaped myself doing a couple of drills for my own practice. I got quite the Frankenstein thing going too.

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