In the beginning, there was no wing chun dragon pole.
In the history of wing chun as told by sifu Gary Lam, the Iuk dim boon gwun, or six and one half point pole, came to wing chun through a sort of kung-fu cultural exchange. As sifu Lam tells the tale, masters from many different boxing styles united to create
Many writers have speculated on specifically who tliese men and women may have been. Each different lineage of our tradition has its own version of the legends. Some were probably monks from (or even the abbots of) the legendary monasteries of the shaolinsi, which were burned to the ground by Ching troops. Surely the few surviving monies and nuns must have split up and gone their separate ways to avoid being captured en masse. It seems certain that they were not able to regroup overnight. $
Many legends tell of how these men revealed themselves in the nick of time to save the day for the Ming resistance. They later added their knowledge and expertise to the effort to overthrow the Ching.
The gun dominates warfare in our day and age, and more often than not martial arts are portrayed in a competitive boxing ring-like setting. It is important to remember that in the era during which wing chun was developed, one’s skills with hand-to-hand combat weapons determined whether or not one would survive in battle. Most of the martial arts we know and love originated as weapons technology. Wing chun is the product of an escalation in weapons technology.
It is very common for hand-to-hand combat weapons to have their beginnings as common household or farm tools. Nunchaku, for example, were originally used to thresh wheat. The Okinawan kama were practical farm tools used to harvest grain crops. The dragon pole itself has its humble beginnings in wing chun history as a boat pole. Used to guide the boat in the desired direction as well as to avoid rocks and other riverine hazards, the pole was of necessity because it was both long and sturdy. It is sure that with daily use the poler, himself, became strong and sturdy as well. Sifu Lam also explains that the inhabitants of the red boats early on developed a sort of play fighting with the poles.
How the actual luk dim boon gwun form came to the red boats is debatable. There are at least two legends about whom the contributor may have been. He may have been the legendary shaolin abbott Jee Shim, who hid among the red junk opera company disguised as a cook. Or he could have been a wandering kung-fu master who legend has it made a dramatic entrance into the Ming resistance by mystifying the red junk boatmen with incredible feats of strength. Whoever he was, sifu Lam ensures us that he was a master of the hung kuen (or hung gar) system of kung-fu. This is why the pole training, with its low horse stance and big wide movements, look so different from the rest of wing chun.
When this hung kuen master made the pole form available to the guerrilla fighters, he found plenty of raw material to work with — the boatmen of the red junks. The pole form provided a fast and sure means of developing internal power, which greatly aug-mented the wing chun training regimen. Ultimately, the pole training was simplified to suit the character and needs of wing chun. Sifu Lam notes that although the pole training originally had many techniques, it was eventually reduced to the short training form we know today. Yut chun chang; yut chun kang or one inch longer, one inch stronger. This saying sums up the rationale behind dragon pole fighting tactics.
When considering its proportions, it is easy to understand why some may doubt the luk dim boon quan’s relevancy to modern martial arts training. The dragon pole measures 9.5 feet-to-Continual on page 85 10 feet in length and weighs 10-to-15 pounds (poles made of purple heart wood can weigh over 20 pounds). Why all this length and weight? The primary purpose of dragon pole training is not in its use as a weapon. The main points of dragon pole training are to develop internal power, confidence and what sifu Lam calls fighting mind. To develop it is to develop the ability to finish your opponent before he finishes you, or as the wing chun axiom goes to be quick to end the fight. Dragon pole training especially concerns the development of this type of single- mindedncss; training results in height-ened confidence It is said in the traditional wing chun training songs that the dragon pole makes only one sound. This is because at higher levels of training we do not stop our opponent’s pole with multiple blocking actions while waiting for a gap. Drawing out your opponent’s reaction creates the gap. By forcing your opponent into action he will create a gap for you.
Sifu Lam states that although the training is simple and will result in greater power, it takes a long time to develop simple and powerful actions.
It is said in the traditional wing chun training songs that the dragon pole makes only one sound. This is because at higher levels of training we do not stop our opponent’s pole with multiple blocking actions while waiting for a gap. Drawing out your opponent’s reaction creates the gap. By forcing your opponent into action he will create a gap for you.
Sifu Lam states that although the training is simple and will result in greater power, it takes a long time to develop simple and powerful actions
The Other Wing Chun Pole Take some tubing and a little sand and you’ve got a pole that benefits martial artists of any style.
When most people think of a wing chun pole, they think of an nine-foot long piece of oak that tapers from two inches down to less than one inch. It is one of the two weapons taught in more traditional styles of wing chun. Depending on whom you ask, it either evolved from a hung gar spear set or the long poles used by canal boatsmen to steer their boats and occa-sionally fend off river pirates.
But there’s another pole which I find quite useful in developing speed and explosiveness in my straight punching. It evolved from a backyard sifu’s idea of trying to find a cheap way to develop wing chun striking power. It’s three feet long, about 1.5 inches in diameter, made of PVC tubing, filled with sand and capped at both ends. For purposes of training, it is painted a different color in the middle 12-inch section than the other ends.
That’s it. That’s all there is to making one of the cheapest, easiest pieces of wing chun equipment you’ll ever use or own.
How to use your short pole Now that you’ve got it, with the caps sealed and the paint dried, what do you do with it? Start out standing in your basic wing chun horse stance. Hold the tube vertically in the middle of the middle section, just like you’ve just dealt a straight punch with that hand. Release your grip on the pole and quickly retract your hand while shooting the other hand forward in an open position. As soon as you make contact with the palm.