The Tai Chi Long Pole is a training apparatus primarily for internal martial arts training. The pictures and video demonstrations show the long pole used in training. It is made from unfinished white wax wood that is at least 3 metres long. Each pole weighs 5 lbs or more depending on the thickness. White wax wood is the only type of wood suitable for the long pole with its unique ability to bend and flex without breaking when whipping back and forth. Yet, it is strong enough to remain straight when held or thrust lengthwise.
The long pole is an important training tool for serious tai chi practitioners. The exercises train the internal core strength of the person as well as the core’s connection to the whole body. Just a few minutes of working out with the long pole will completely exhaust even a fit athlete.
The Chen style long pole form consists of only 13 movements that takes approximately 60 to 90 seconds to complete. Even though this is by far the shortest form, it is also the most strenuous Chen style form to practice. As such very few people are interested to learn the long pole form.
Other than the form, there are many independent exercises that allow us to train using the long pole. Here I would like to share a few of these exercises with you.
How to hold the long pole?
First, we need to learn how to properly hold a long pole. These exercises can all be done on both the left and right side. So, we learn to hold the pole both to the left side and the right side.
Left side long: Position your hands slightly wider than your shoulder width and elbows gently bent. The right hand holds the pole near the thickest end with the palm facing down. The left hand holds the pole with palm facing up ensuring the entire pole remains horizontal to the floor as it extends beyond the left side of the body.
Right side long: Position your hands slightly wider than your shoulder width and elbows gently bent. The left hand holds the pole near the thickest end with the palm facing down. The right hand holds the pole with palm facing up ensuring the entire pole remains horizontal to the floor as it extends beyond the right side of the body.
HOLD, PARRY, THRUST
This exercise involves 3 positions, moving from one position to the next continuously, with the driving force being initiated from the dantian.
HOLD: While standing in a horse stance, hold the pole left side long horizontally at around chest height with elbows bent.
PARRY: From the HOLD position, bring the right hand down to the right hip. The left hand remains at the same height but rotates with the pole. The left arm will finish extended and with the palm facing down. Turn your head and look to the left side where the tip of the pole is pointing. The pole should now be angled upwards.
THRUST: From the PARRY position, the dantian initiates a rotation of the right hip to the left causing the right arm and hand to thrust the pole to the left until the pole is horizontal and at chest height. During the thrust motion, the right hand rotates the pole clockwise while the left hand slides back along the pole until the two hands meet. Both elbows are now bent and squeezed inwards with both palms facing up to carry the full weight of the long pole.
HOLD: To return to the hold position, use the dantian to rotate the right hip, torso and head back into the horse stance. At the same time, rotate the right arm and hand counter-clockwise while pulling the pole back to the original starting position. The long pole should be sitting horizontal to the ground and the right palm should be facing the floor. Slide the left hand back to its original start position with the palm face up to guide the motion of the long pole.
Practice the HOLD–PARRY–THRUST series of movements continuously for about one minute then switch to hold the pole right side long and repeat on the opposite side. If you rely on brute strength to execute these moves, you will find yourself tiring out very quickly and unable to sustain the movements for long.
With this exercise, you can learn
- how to use the dantian to initiate movement
- how to drive power from the hips and limbs.
Start by positioning yourself in a horse stance. Hold the pole right side long. Deepen the bend in your left elbow so as to bring the pole tight against your chest. Use the dantian to initiate a twisting of your hip and torso to the right while fully extending the right arm to the right side.
Allow your weight to shift onto your right hip and leg while guiding the tip of the long pole down to just a few centimetres above the floor without touching the floor. The pole should now be pointing approximately 90 degrees to the right of the start position.
Using your dantian to direct these movements, start by lifting the pole. Then, rotate your hips to the left allowing your weight to also shift to the left hip and leg while making a big overhead arc with the tip of the long pole.
Allow the pole to come down to the left side within a few centimetres of the floor without touching the floor. The pole should now be approximately 90 degrees to the left of the start position or 180 degrees from the previous position.
Repeat the above movement drawing an arc with the pole before coming back down to the right side again. This movement is executed continuously from right to left, and left to right.
During the execution of the moves, the pole must be held tight against the chest at all times. The position of the hands and arms must also be maintained. The stance must remain low especially at the ends of the move on either side.
Perform the exercise continuously for one minute then switch your hold to left side long and repeat. This exercise:
- enhances our lower body strength and connection of the whole body
- more importantly, it increases the flexibility and range of our hips.
Stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. Hold the pole in front of your chest either “right side long” or “left side long”. Turn your dantian left and right continuously as fast as you can, keeping your hips leveled at all times. Grip the pole tight with your hands and restrict any movement of your arms. The result is the tip of the pole will start to flex forward and backward at high speed making it appear to be vibrating or shaking.
Shake the pole continuously for one minute, then switch your hold to the other side and repeat. This exercise:
- can greatly enhance your internal power
- enhance overall body strength
- provides a good cardio workout
Conditioning and Fitness
At Ji Hong Tai Chi & Qi Gong, these long pole exercises are an integral part of the training. You will find these exercises as part of our Conditioning or Tai Chi Fitness classes. They may be fairly difficult when you first attempt these exercises. With consistent practice every week, you will feel the difference in your overall strength as well as your overall body coordination when you practice the forms.