What is the first thing to address for training on weapons (knives and pole)? Typically, it is the preparatory exercises: “punching on wide stance” for the pole and “circulating knives” for the knives respectively. I would like to introduce, in my opinion, one Wing Chun-ised pre-preparatory drill for training on weapons in general, i.e. not just for a particular kind of weapon, and arguably not just for Wing Chun weapons, but all.
To use a weapon, the weapon is first to be held by one hand or both, regardless of its shape, weight and texture. How should this “first” link with the weapon, the holding, be done? Are there any general principles that can provide practical guidance to holding all kinds of weapons?
I propose this principle: You have to first turn your hand (palm and fingers) into an elastic wrapping surface to adhesively wrap-hold the weapon’s surface, so that your grip on it is defined by stickiness, but not by tightness; and the aim for doing so is to make the weapon a natural extension of your arm(s) and effectively a part of your body, but not leave it just as an external weight to struggle with.
When you hold a weapon, the intent is not to clamp hard at the contact surface, wanting to conquer the weight of the weapon as if in a weight-lifting or a resistance-countering exercise. Rather, you melt the muscles of the palm and fingers to become a sticky surface and use it to wrap and adhere to the surface of the weapon. This is similar to adhering a plastic tape (with some thickness) onto an object. By then when the tape is being pulled to the side (not peeling off), its adhesive force will bring the object’s surface along. Such adhesive force works similarly in wrap-holding a weapon: You start a movement from the lower centre, all the way up to the elbow as elbow power, which navigates the wrist-palm-fingers unit towards the desired direction; the adhesive force due to the elastic hand surface then brings the weapon along that direction.
When the hand holds tight, it affects the condition of the wrist too – the wrist is very hard to stay softened; wrist muscles contract to enable the hand to hold tight. The opposite is also true: When the hand holds sticky, the muscular tension in the wrist can easily be let go and the wrist can always be maintained active and dynamic. How can such wrist’s condition be described?
Let’s imagine in this way: Feelingwise, the forearm bones act like a stick, the holding hand like a wrapping tube with an adhesive lining, and the wrist joint like a small connecting smooth bead. The stick, empowered by the elbow power, moves the tube via the bead. As the bead is small and smooth, it does not restrict the movement of the tube to just one direction at any moment; the tube is free to rotate towards diverse directions even different from the one currently set by the stick. Yet the stickiness inside the tube always remains effective and functioning, completely not affected by the stick’s control. In this way, the object wrapped by the tube is not easy to escape, but always being brought along to the intended destination designated by the stick.
The stickiness between the surfaces of the weapon and the wrapping hand brings the weapon along the forearm’s moving direction dictated by the elbow. The weapon is no more an external weight to wrestle with; instead, it now acts as an extension of your arm, an additional segment extended beyond the forearm, being joined at the wrapping hand which is effectively functioning as an additional smooth “joint”.
In this regard, both the size of the wrapping area and the stickiness of the wrapping surface matter.
As mentioned above, the stickiness stems from your ability of keeping the hand muscles always soft and elastic, such that every unit (plain) area of the wrapping hand can maximise its actual contact surface by adapting its shape (then somehow convoluted) to fit with the shape of its counterpart area of the weapon. Thus, the softer and more elastic you can keep the hand muscles, the more sticky you can feel with the weapon, and more bodily power can be transmitted to the weapon. When you wrap-hold the weapon sticky, it can move in your hand as if shearing off from the hand surface but not able to escape due to the in-between adhesiveness recoiling it back.
Heavier, and usually also larger, weapons logically need more sticky contact areas to keep them in control and hence allow fluent transmission of power onto them. The said difference should be obvious by comparing mastering the knives with mastering the pole.
You may now wonder: How then should the sticky wrapping hand be trained up to?
The method for turning the wrist-palm-fingers into a wrapping tube with adhesive lining is no secret; it is just back to the basics: practising the circling palm movements in Siu Nim Tau. When the circling palm is done properly (to be elaborated in later posts), it is quite straightforward to manifest the adhesive property. Circling palm is a move repeated many many times in all of the three forms, SNT in particular. Just go ahead and try it out. In addition, try out the wrap-holding not only during Wing Chun weapon practice, but also in your everyday life when you hold or pick up anything – instead of holding it tight, try wrapping it sticky! That’s it.