The pole serves to spell out to us some of the empty hand theory.
It shows us the value of the force being delivered through the structure and delivered through the one point, as in the punch.
Similar to working with a power rope, a good session with the pole will teach us to unify the body, to use the core with all of our movements. It does strengthen the arms, but when they burn out, the core must get involved.
The pole demonstrates actions such as tan, fook, bong, punch, jum.
It teaches us the value of keeping the arms up.
The pole training develops much strength in the structure and the joints.
In the pole training we are introduced to other very useful stances, and taught how to move around in them. These stances develop strength in the legs that the training stance doesn’t. They may not be used often in fighting, but when the situation demands it they are there for us and are extremely effective.
The low sinking stance sitting in the back leg we train with both feet flat, and sinking very low into the back leg. This method offers much more work for the quads than staying high with the front foot poised on the toes, makes for a much more stable and useful stance and also greatly reduces the size of us as the opponent’s target, making it difficult for them to decide how to strike while reducing the likelihood of their landing an attack. In the empty hand work this stance can be very useful to drop into momentarily to deal with a low strike. It saves us from using gan sau, which takes our arm down away from where we want it, near the opponent’s head, and risks opening us up to counter attack. Dropping into this stance with jum sau can deal with a very low strike, leaves our hands high, and we can deliver a very powerful strike from this position. It’s a great structure to use, but does rely on quads to hold it up, so it uses a lot of calories, and is vulnerable to a shin kick to the thigh. We only use it momentarily and drive immediately back up into our normal stance structure.
Apparently the pole training transfers very effectively to a pool cue or such like, if such weapons are to hand, and it is good to do some training with broomsticks and pool cues, but it’s most beneficial to simply look at what this training can offer the empty hand work.
Sometimes we need to sink lower than what our fighting stance can go, due to the very structure of the stance holding us up. Rather than dropping out of stance in these instances, the pole training gives us very stable and strong low stances we can use to deliver very powerful low strikes and effective defences, enabling us to keep our arms up rather than dropping them down and possibly opening ourselves up to attack.
Depending on how the poles are used, the pole training can teach us the value of softness to redirect an incoming strike and leave us in an optimal position for a following strike.
As with the knife training, the pole develops much wrist and whole body strength, and also conditions our mind. It’s much easier after facing someone attacking with a 2-3 metre pole, to deal with someone attacking with their hands empty.
We train with different weights and lengths of pole for different purposes, eg to develop structural and joint strength or to develop speed and power. Very heavy poles eg 3 metre 1.5″ galvanised steel pipes we reserve for the basic 7s pole exercise.
The two person pole drills are great for cardio fitness, structural strength and for control. Very slow pole sparring is good, but control must be exercised to avoid unnecessary physical harm, which equates to time off training.
When working with poles, it is important to be aware that it is resistance training, so there are considerations to be made. We don’t go straight to challenging the muscles with a heavy pole because this may well damage the joints, especially the shoulder and elbow. The joints, ie tendons and ligaments take a lot longer to adapt to what is being asked of them than the muscles do. We work a light pole to start with, and do lots of reps. When we can stand in the pole horse and do the 7s exercise for an hour with the light pole, we step up to a slightly heavier pole but only for a couple of minutes, then finish the hour with the light pole. After some time we will be able to do the whole hour with the heavier pole, then we step up to another even heavier pole until we are doing the hour with a 3 metre heavy hardwood pole. Now, in small increments, we build up the time with the heavy pole, until we can do the exercise for a few hours. The steel pole we work once a month or so to develop power, just 2 sets of as many reps as we can handle, and we only start working with it when we can do an hour with a moderate weight pole.
It’s good with the weapons training to mix it up a bit, eg knives vs pole, knives vs sword or short stick, pole vs sword or stick, rather than knives vs knives and pole vs pole. These weapons weren’t developed to fight against their own kind, but against other types of weapon, so it’s good for the understanding to train them this way.