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The Staff June 5, 2009

Posted by warriorspath in Uncategorized.
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Ahh… the staff! Despite my limited experience with kung fu, I feel quite confident that the staff is its most fundamental weapon. Functionally the staff is extremely versatile; fully capable defensively and offensively. For one of kung fu’s earliest practitioner’s the Shaolin monks, the staff embraced their philosophy of nonviolence. The staff can disable and deter an attacker without seriously injuring them.

Often the staff is fashioned from white wax wood along with many other traditional Chinese weapons, a practice that dates back thousands of years. The white wax wood is prized for its durability, flexibility and shock absorbing attributes. Structurally the staff is fairly long, often slightly taller than its user, with a ‘head’ and a ‘tail’. The staff is thicker towards the ‘tail’ and then thins out toward the ‘head’.

Simple and elegant...

Simple and elegant...

This is for the purpose of counter balancing the staff, as the staff is often held closer to the thicker ‘tail’. The position of the hands and greater weight of the ‘tail’ allow the wielder to strike quickly and accurately with the head. However, the staff is not a ‘one-headed’ weapon like its close cousin the spear. The staff is still even enough in shape to be usable from both ends thus making the weapon ‘two-headed’.

A martial artisit with a heavier, more ornate staff

A martial artist with a heavier, more ornate staff

Functionally the staff is a jack of all trades. While it will not deliver crushing blunt blows like a hammer or the savage slashes of a sword, the staff most often far surpases them in range. The staff is one of the longest weapons wielded by martial artists, sometimes giving the fighter a 4-5 foot attack radius. In addition to its range, it is also very lightweight, making quick successive and pinpoint attacks possible. Furthermore the staff’s length also allows it to be used defensively. The middle of the staff can be quickly brought in front of the body to block or parry blows. It is also very easy to spin the weapon like a fan which can be used to block, distract, or strike an opponent.

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The Jab June 2, 2009

Posted by warriorspath in Uncategorized.
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The first technique that I’ve been taught in my classes is the fundamental ‘jab’. I’d wager that not only in kung fu, but in virtually every other hand to hand martial art the ‘jab’ is the bases from which other techniques arise.

Now before one can begin to punch one must be in the proper fighting stance. Every school and martial art has their own basic fighting stance. Ours attempts to be a generalist as possible. For the right handed the fighter holds their fists near their chin with their elbows in and close to the body. Next the fighter moves their left fist approximately 3 fist lengths forward ahead of the right fist. As for the legs, the fighter has their left leg positioned along with the left fist, in front ahead of the right leg. The feet are pointed forward and the knees are bent, further more the back is straight and the chin is down, eyes forward to the opponents face or chest (never look down or at the opponents limbs).

Observe the fighter on the left

Observe the fighter on the left

Often we are told to ‘rest’ in our fighting stance to allow us to learn to be comfortable in that position. This particular stance is designed to to attack straight on, will being well grounded and difficult to unbalance. The left fist is positioned forward to deliver quick and deterring attacks. The right fist is position near the chin to defend or launch a longer and strong strike. The legs are bent to allow the fighter to launch forward and maximize range and power. The feet are planted evenly on the ground and pointed forward to achieve greater balance.

The jab like most attacks starts from the legs upward, to the hips, up the abs, through the shoulder and arm and into the fist. The fighter first takes a step forward with their left leg to get closer to the opponent, thereby increasing ones range and providing a moving target instead of a static one for the opposition. Simultaneously the fighter bends their knees and pushes up with the heel of their right foot. It is important not to move the right foot while doing so to prevent losing power to fuel the attack.

At the exact same time as the fighter pushes up and toward the opponent, does the fighter twist their hips to the right. As the hips rotate the, the fighter launches their left fist at the opponent. Now rather than a straightforward motion, the fighter must make their strike ‘snap’ like a whip, giving it added power and speed and sets the fighter up for a follow up attack. It is important to note that the right hand is by the fighters fist at all times to defend the face and body from a potential attack. Also as the left fist extends to strike, the fighter pulls the right arm backward, while still held against the body to add to the ‘snapping’ action, of the body.

The elements of the jab

The elements of the jab

This jab allows the fighter to maximize speed, power, distance, and sets up for a fallow up attack, which is often with the right fist. Often to practice the jab we are told to ‘punch without punching’. While¬† seemingly contradictory at first, what it means is to practice by emphasizing the movement of our legs and hips instead of the arms. Usually we hold or arms and elbows towards the body without our fists out and use our legs and hips to propel that stationary fist into a punching bag or dummy.