Long Pole training
The Long Pole is a weapon between 8 and 10 feet long and is made out of very hard, strong, but flexible wood and looks like a giant pool cue. The best is when is made from Red Oak hard but flexible wood, and weighs between 5 and 6 pounds. If you are an average sized or larger sized male you should probably use a 9 foot pole for training purposes but some of my customers want a larger and heavier pole. If you are a smaller male or a female you should probably use an 8 and a half foot pole, unless you are exceptionally strong.
The pole is a relatively recent development in Ving Tsun. It is probably derived from the other kung fu styles, but the movements were modified to suit the ving tsun principles. In Wing Tsun the pole is never used in a swinging motion, but instead in a stabbing motion, like a spear but without the metal point. The grip is also narrower in Ving Tsun than in the pole forms of other Kung Fu styles and the steps, performed mostly from a low shaolin style horse stance, use the unique Ving Tsun penetration force.
Although two hundred years ago the long pole was actually used in combat, today it is learned mostly for historical reasons by ving tsun fanatic types and advanced instructors, and also as a unique method of strength training that is said to greatly increase power in the empty hand techniques. In Ving Tsun schools the pole is generally not taught until you have achieved some hand skills. In some Wing Chun schools only the basic strength building exercises are taught, not the long pole form or the actual pole fighting techniques. In many of these schools students can train these basic pole exercises much earlier.
The pole is said to help develop the ability to strike with power in a very short range. This is variously called “Fa Jin”, or “inch force”, as well as other names. This type of power is essential to Ving Tsun because in Ving Tsun we never pull back our hand before a punch or strike. Ving Tsun considers pulling back to be too slow, too telegraphic, and it also creates an opening for your opponent to come in. Because in VT you must strike without pulling back, and because, in general, Ving Tsun is a close quarters fighting style, the ability to exert power in a short distance is very important. Incidentally, this kind of power is not unique to Ving Tsun, nor to Eastern Martial Arts styles. Many western boxers can hit with tremendous power from a very short range.
While eastern martial artists explain short range power in terms of Chi, or the “silk reeling force”, westerners talk about fast twitch muscle fibers and kinetic linkages. Both eastern and western stylists would agree that the Ving Tsun punch utilizes a unique snapping of the wrist at the moment of contact to create extra power. Also both would agree that having a strong wrist is an important part of punching power due to the fact that when your punch hits a solid object such as an opponent’s body the impact creates a rebound or recoil force which has a tendency to collapse the weak points, if any, of the attacking weapon. Both the wrist and the elbow are potential weak points in the punch. Because the wrist is often the weakest point in the “linkage” it must be fully trained to prevent any collapse on impact before the punch can reach its full potential. Remember Boxers and other ring fighters use not only gloves but hand (and wrist) wraps which stabilize the wrist. You don’t have that on the street.
While the pole is not all that heavy due to its great length and leverage factors it does build up tremendous strength in the wrists and forearms as well as exercising various stabilizer muscles. After a hard workout with the pole, you will feel pain in muscles you never even knew you had. The low horse stance, unique stepping and the unique training method that goes along with stepping in the low horse, called “battle punches”, also trains stength in both the legs and in the core.
The video below shows one of the most arduous of the strength training exercises you can do with the pole.