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Sunday, April 6, 2014

First Ever Wing Tsun Long Pole Seminar Vancouver

Ground-breaking seminar last weekend – it was the first ever seminar that introduced the senior students to the wing tsun long pole.

For those that aren’t familiar, the wing tsun system consists of two weapons – the long pole and the butterfly knives. In the wing chun curriculum, the weapons are taught at the very end..so you can imagine the excitement (almost) everyone had for learning this stuff, myself included.

 The long pole measures about 8.5’ long and weighs approximately 5lbs, give or take a pound depending on your innate strength, pole manufacturer, and build quality. The weapon itself is very awkward to handle, in my opinion, unlike that of a knife or even a bat. You’ll quickly appreciate the skill and training required to actually use this thing..

Unlike other martial art styles, the Wing Tsun student handles the long pole at the very end with a grip width of your own shoulders. There’s no dramatic spinning, tossing or twirling of the long staff.

Without the ability to take on a wide grip and the requirement to handle the pole at its very end makes that 5lbs feel more like 40lbs. It is this where the long pole training really shines. The shock to your nervous system to manipulate the staff with any form of accuracy and coordination, let alone power or even speed, is amazing. This is no easy task and, when done properly, you’re easily drained.

For us newbies, a heavy pole is not to our benefit. I would recommend not using such a heavy pole if you can when you first start out, as the handling the sheer weight distracts you from learning how to activate your body to properly move, coordinate and get your timing right. In fact, I had the pleasure of using one of the lighter ones during the first half of the seminar which really helped me ‘figure things out’.

From a conditioning standpoint, this thing just rocks. Your entire body – core, legs, shoulders, chest, back, arms – get an incredible workout. Even those “isolation” exercises, that many in wing chun circles deem as detrimental, are expressed here (eg. bicep curls, shoulder raises). It’s great for grip strength and the low horse stance is fantastic for rooting.

Long pole training really emphasizes the need for “whole-body movement”, as you quickly realize that using only your arms to manipulate the staff is absolutely a waste of time and effort. Such whole-body movement would translate to your empty hand fighting as well.

It’s funny, many wing chun people quickly discount  long pole training. It’s incredibly impractical – you’ll never fight with a pole that long! No one carries a long pole with them! And they’re absolutely right.

It’s also funny that these people rather chi-sao. And the same argument could be made here too – chi sao is impractical, you’ll never fight someone off chi-sao. I ask the same question, why not just fight?

The benefits of long pole training come from its conditioning. It shocks your body and just amplifies all your empty hand skills. It’s no different from any other drill we do and just adds to our tool kit.

But, beyond that, I do believe there’s practicality from a self-defense perspective. Sure you may not ever find a 9’ long staff, but you may find yourself using a weapon that’s 5’ long. Now your body has some idea as to how to manipulate that thing properly. Sure, chances are slim that will happen. But so are the chances that you’ll ever need a bong sao.

Overall, I had a great time at this seminar and was glad to see the energy was shared by others. I got home close to 5.30pm that night, only to be in bed by 8.30pm. I was completely wiped. Slept like a baby. It was pretty awesome.

Until then.

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