The practice of shaking the Long pole (Dǒu Gǎn) in internal martial arts has its origins in ancient spear techniques. During the era of cold weapons, long spears were generally over eight feet long. In martial arts families, when teaching their disciples, they would first learn the techniques of the medium-sized and circular spears. In the north, white waxwood poles were used, while in the south, they used rattan poles. Only after achieving a certain level of skill were they allowed to use the big spear. Before the Ming Dynasty, the Sha Family Pole and Yang Family Big Spear were both very demanding in terms of skill. Often, when their spear skills were accomplished, they would also have developed the whole-body coordinated power, making it easier to practice techniques like hand strikes.
Later, during the Ming Dynasty, martial arts masters created the Six Harmonies School based on the principles of the big spear. The founder of the Xinyi Quan, Ji Longfeng, was especially skilled in spear techniques, earning him a reputation as a “spear god” among people. Some styles, like the San Huang Pao Chui Men, also put equal emphasis on both fist techniques and spear techniques. In recent years, Wu Wenhuan, a renowned Tai Chi Quan master, proposed a new theory that Tai Chi Quan originated from spear techniques.
1. **The Method of Shaking the Long Pole:** The big pole is over eight feet long, preferably made of white waxwood, which is hard and flexible, with the ones from Henan, Hebei, Shandong, and Anhui being of superior quality. Since it’s rare to find a completely straight pole, you can use gentle heat to straighten it after purchase.
There are two methods for practicing shaking the big pole. The first one is derived from the Dai Family Xinyi Men, transmitted to Cheng Tianxiang and Cheng Tianlu, who further passed it on to Chen Yunyue. The second method was passed down by Yan Zhigao, a master of the Tai Chi Men, to Liu Changchun, Zhang Xueshan, Cao Shouqian, and others. After years of practice, the combination of these two methods can yield remarkable results.
2. **The Efficacy of Shaking the Long Pole:** Practitioners of spear techniques discovered the special effects of shaking the big pole, which were then applied to unarmed combat. The Dai Family Xinyi Men regards the practice of shaking the big pole as a secret method that forms the basis of cultivating vigorous power (dǒusǒu jìn). Tai Chi Men’s Yang Banhou, who began learning Tai Chi Big Spear from a young age, had a 28-jin (about 13 kg) spear, heavier than the 18-jin (about 8 kg) pole used for martial competitions. Hao Weizhen, capable of shaking an 80-plus jin (about 36 kg) iron pole over 200 times, is another example.
In summary, the practice of shaking the big pole is an essential training method in internal martial arts that leads to whole-body power development. It is a versatile skill that enhances combat effectiveness and internal strength, offering practitioners a deeper understanding of martial arts principles and techniques.