How do we develop power?
Mass x velocity = momentum. Momentum is the force you want to deliver cleanly into your opponent’s body, ideally their head.
You can add mass by building muscle (or fat, really) but you want to stop short of sacrificing the velocity – this was the edge that Bruce Lee was riding in his bodybuilding. Big enough for muscular power and weight, not so big you lose speed.
In the Wing Chun system I am learning (Wong Shun Leung-Gary Lam-Gregory LeBlanc), power is generated through structure and timing. Both are trained in a variety of ways. In this post, I want to talk about training structure using the Dragon Pole.
In our system, the pole is introduced pretty early in Level One and its purpose is not to arm you with a weapon (although its a good weapon – second only to the sword in its day).
But the real reason the pole is taught in Wing Chun is to train structure and thus to develop power.
It’s called the Dragon Pole, the 6 1/2 point pole and the Luk Dim Boon Kwan.
Legend says that the pole was introduced to the WIng Chun system through a “kung fu trade” during the Red Boat Opera days. One of our ancestors taught someone a little Wing Chun and we got the pole.
Not surprisingly, since it originated outside the system, the pole does not use Wing Chun footwork. Training begins with arrow punching, delivered from a very low horse stance which reminded me of my karate training. The stance is square, very low, and you punch out, along the side of your body, more like a fencing move than a Wing Chun technique.
Its hard and takes a long time to become “comfortable” doing any amount of it. I was taught that it was used as a “finishing” or killing blow to an injured but not dead opponent.
One-legged Siu Lum Tao also begins around this time. These drills develop your legs and your core and your balance.
There is a short solo pole form and then some partner drills. When I was learning it, it seemed to take forever. Now when I do it, the whole thing lasts about a minute.
The pole develops the tendons (in a bodybuilding sort of way) but it mainly develops a structural relationship to the weight and the awkwardness of the pole’s size. Its heavy! Its cumbersome! But there is a way to hold it, above the elbows, that makes it easier to do. You have to get your body and your elbows under the weight.
This is the key lesson. When do a few sets of the form, you get so tired that you can’t muscle it, you need to find the easy way to do it. And that easy was is the doorway to structure and power.
Ultimately you are seeking to develop the ability to move that pole efficiently using your tendon and skeletal structure and to develop the timing to deliver that structured power in tempo with your step and the movement of your body weight so that your strike “makes one sound.”
Thats the “body, breath and mind all in one action” that my teacher speaks of as one of the elements of high level kung fu.