Weapon training: The Secret to Success in Wing Chun
Why is it that so many students of the wing chun system fail to see any real improvement in their empty hand skills, despite spending many years on the system? It’s because they don’t spend enough time on weapon training. The weapon set of the Ving Tsun system has been designed to not only improve your ability to use both edged and blunt weapons of any size, but did you know that weapons training also improves your empty hand skills? It does, and there are many benefits to weapon training in wing chun, both inside and outside the school.
When to begin learning weapons of the wing chun system
Before we get started it is important to understand that weapon training should only take place with an experienced and qualified instructor. This is not a task for self learning as there can be many dangers not immediately apparent to the self taught student that could result in serious injury or death. It is also expected that when students begin learning the weapons that they have trained up to a satisfactory level of competence as designated by their teacher. Traditionally the weapons of wing chun are not taught until one has gained competence in the first three empty hand forms, the wooden man and has adequate skill in chi sao an dother two person drills.
Why train with weapons
Training with baht jum doa, the double knife set, as well as the lok dim boon kwan, the long pole, have an almost immediate effect on generating explosive power. Combined with the wooden dummy, the weapons help you generate unstoppable impulse force from a very short distance. Weapon training is also key in the development of controlled effort. Learning to handle heavy weapons requires your full mindfulness that results in learning to develop precision and accuracy that carry over to your empty hand skills. Don’t imagine being able to place a perfect strike to your target with precision, accuracy and speed. Learn how to accomplish it.
A tip on how to choose a weapon
When choosing weapons, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
When choosing a long pole, try to find one that is made of a strong high quality hardwood that is heavy enough that in the beginning you can just barely handle it. Listed in order from the most dense (heaviest) and strongest to the least that is still appropriate for the task at hand are Ipe (iron wood), purpleheart, and hickory are great choices. Even oak will work out if you cannot find a pole made of the previously listed woods. Poles should taper from about one and five eighths down to about one in an eighth inch over a 108 inch length. Many on the market are more in the order of one and a half inches tapering down to one inche over 96-102 inches. While the smaller and hence lighter poles can work, keep in mind that they will limit your development to some degree and your explosiveness. Better to go a little too heavy and grow into it than too light and outgrow the pole too fast. But as one simple point of reference, if you do not have access to good quality poles, as they are expensive and in limited supply, a closet rod could work for learning the basics at first, although they are often light, weak and do not taper, they could at least get you a start.
For the knives (doa), it is a challenge to find a really good pair as they don’t tend to be an item most stores keep in stock. However, as a general guideline training knives should have a strong and heavy blade that is about an inch or so longer than your forearm from wrist to elbow. The knives should also have a tip that is roughly inline with the centerline of the handle. For ‘weapon/combat grade’ you should seek out a pair that can hold an edge well. Either tool steel, quality damascus steel, or a high quality stainless steel. Be aware that many knives on the market are cheap and mass produced for a generic audience. For a quality set of baht jum doa, expect to pay around $250 USD for good quality training knives and at least $600 for combat grade.
How to get started
Start with an investment of about $250 for training knives made of steel and a long pole for about $200. There are a few different sets available, and as you progress, you can purchase better quality and more expensive weapons. Be sure to wear close toed shoes when training. And remember that each weapon has a learning curve. Don’t expect master-level skill immediately; it takes practice and patience.
Training with wooden knives
Learning how to use a wooden training knife set is a great option for you because it will teach you what your weapons are capable of and how hard or soft you need to strike. When in training, wooden swords can be used with other students who also have them without worry that someone will get injured when proper gear and caution are taken. Wooden swords are a great way to work on basic strikes and blocks while being able to test yourself against an opponent.
Training with long poles
At the very least, you should be training with a long pole once per week. Long poles should be trained at least as often as knives. Long pole techniques are just as important, if not more so, than knife techniques in the beginning stages of weapon training. As Wing Chun is first and foremost a striking system, it’s important that you develop an understanding of how to best strike with your pole so that you can develop the energy necessary for empty handed striking. The knives will also help develop this skill.
Fighting with swords and poles
Sure, there are people out there who still learn and practice their sword play on the battlefield. But you’re not likely to run into them any time soon, so don’t let that hold you back from adding weapons training to your Ving Tsun routine. Instead of continuing to do the same thing over and over again with the same ol’ kicks and punches, try incorporating a bit of stee and woodl into your routine. Training with swords can help improve your empty hand skills by forcing you to move more deliberately and thoughtfully than when throwing around a few standard punches or kicks. It also helps develop precision and accuracy in movements, which is an invaluable skill for anyone practicing martial arts. As such, it can help improve your overall fighting ability—even if you never plan on picking up another weapon again after learning how to use one properly.