Wing Chun Pole Training
Wing Chun Pole Training consists of relatively few moves. The names vary due to the fact they are generally just descriptive. However, listed below are some of the common terms in use,
- Dang Kwan (Hammering Pole) & Tiu Kwan (small lifting movement)
- Laan Kwan (Long Bridge Pole/ Barring Pole)
- Biu Kwan (Thrusting Pole)
- Taan Kwan (Outside Pole)
- Fook Kwan (Inside Pole) Kum Kwan is another term often used.
- Lou Suei Kwan (Water Flowing Pole)
- Heun Kwan (circling pole)
Length of Pole
Pole training is very common in all forms of ‘traditonal fighting all over the world. The staff or cudgel were common in Medieval times.
Poles are common as they were readily available. The most common length being approx 5-6ft as poles of this length were used to tranport pails of water from wells. However, the Wing Chun pole is approx. eight feet in length, but can vary up to around 9ft.
There is a saying “a foot longer a foot stronger” relating to the potential to keep someone at bay or to beat a person who has a pole a shade shorter, much like the importance of a western boxers reach in the ‘tale of the tape’. There obviously comes a point where the weight/lenght of the weapon is too extreme!
Type of Wood and Design
There are a number of different types of wood used for Wing Chun Pole training.
In Hong Kong there appears to be a majority favouring the heavy hardwood pole and also the longer pole. This is generally going to benefit raw strength training often referred to as ‘Gong Lik’. These poles are made of a wood that is typically referred to as ‘Ironwood’ as they sink in water. They are very heavy indeed and suit people who have the mass to handle them… big people!
In the UK Wing Chun Assoc. we use these ‘ironwood’ poles, but also use the rattan poles as they are far easier to wield and suit those people of a lighter frame. The speed of movement is increased and this alone would be of benefit when facing a heavy pole. Th problems arise when a very strong heavy set practitioner uses a lighter pole. They will have huge ease in using the lighter pole and an abundance of power.
So it must be remembered that the pole is often used as part of the physical conditioning of the Wing Chun Athlete, practitioners would use ironwood and even metal to build physical prowess.
The Wing Chun Pole that one would use for safety has been designed to be easier to wield.
To reduce the weight and increase ease of use, the pole is tapered to half its dimensions form 1 1/2″ inches diameter at the base to 3/4″ at the tip.
Resembling an oversized pool cue, this design allows the heavy base to be manipulated in the principle of a weighted car park barrier.
In weapons training the stances change to accommodate the power and to create safety against the opponents weapon.
The very short wing chun pole since is known as Kwan Ma (pole stance) sometime referred to as ‘half hanging stance’ and is used to prevent an opponent from easily striking the inside legs and particularly reduces risk to the inner leg.
It is not a huge leap to realise that a pole with a knife on the end is a ‘Spear’. Any strike to the lower inside leg can then be fatal.
The stance is low as this allows the practitioner the ability to cover his body well with much smaller movements. In the picture, to the right, Sifu Eric Wilson is demonstrating the dangers of holding the pole too high. Your opponent simply should not lift their pole too high.
Using the Pole
Using your hands correctly enables you to use them like ‘gunsights’.
Accuracy is life saving. With such length there will be limited need for movement, indeed the 6 1/2 refers to the amount of techniques in the Pole Form.
The tip is used to devastating effect and, with accuracy and focus, it is a formidable weapon.
It is not practical to use the shaft of the pole to strike as it allows the opponent to see the movement more easily, judge its distance and to counter strike.
When using the pole to block or trike it is most useful to use the top ¼ of the weapon. Due to the length any movement with the hand at one end is exaggerated at the tip. Discipline and control are essential in effective use of the pole.
The pole should, whenever possible, be used to thrust thus offering very little of the pole to be seen. Similar to the commonly called ‘flute movement’ above. The pole is used to intercept as much as possible, much in the way a fencer works on angles. For this reason the movement is keep to a minimum and the principle of ‘Economy of Motion’ is adhered to. There is a statement in Wing Chun ‘Kwan Mo Leung Heung’, the ‘pole does not make two sounds’.
The grip of the pole is relatively narrow to prevent the opponent from striking the hands. The grip is always of prime importance in weapons training. If an opponent can dislodge your grip you become immediately vulnerable to attack, you will end up facing an opponent who is ‘tooled up’ whilst you have lost your
‘equaliser’. This could also be psychologically weakening too.
Like all aspects of Wing Chun Kuen (except the knives) the pole is simplicity personified.
There are no fancy techniques involving twirling or grip changing. The real skill lies in the use of power.
The pole is used with explosive short power and shocks the target, whether that be any part of the opponents body or their weapon.
Benefits Of the Wing Chun Pole Training
Wing Chun Pole training develops tremendous forearm and wrist strength. As such it benefits the punching power and most basic hand techniques.
If one can use the power explosively the benefit to general short distance power in empty hand combat is maximised.
In the image to the left Master Sinclair is teaching at his annual Summer Camp where you can clearly see the pole bending on the down stroke. Master Sinclair will often break a pole with the use of correct power with the lighter training poles.