Please bear with me as I flog the horse of internal long staff drilling just one more time. I have written about using the Yi Quan long staff drills for pure internal energy centric work many times. I do understand that for most readers, these drills simply are not practical either due to equipment and space issues or just because they assume it's too hard to learn the mechanics from a book, film, or blog post. I very much understand that reaction, in fact it's probably correct.
And yet just for the record, I need to make sure I've made every effort to convey the coolness of it. Again I understand that another weird feature of my harping on this is the particular (simple) long staff drill set used comes from the hard-ass branch of Yi Quan, which at least in my own Yi Quan teacher's presentation views the entire topic of traditional internal energy concept as a complete fraud and waste of time. Yet I have extracted this one thing from their vast. self-consistent and comprehensive art, and re-purposed it as a delivery vehicle for my own model.
In fact, I have my own separate authentic Xing Yi staff work from my teacher, which fully develops and applies the exact internal concept that I have been talking about all along and which now, in this post, I will call Continuous Cestus Combustion (C3). But since even the bare bones, baby-simple Yi Quan staff work is too much for most people, I estimate that, a fortiori, the chance of anybody even attempting, much less achieving liftoff, on the real Xing Yi staff drills and techniques is vanishingly small, not gonna happen.
But the good thing is that you can achieve 80% of the same cool result using the kind of dumbed-down (I mean that in the nicest way :) Yi Quan version of long staff. But Caveat Emptor - I am not in any way claiming that any Yi Quan teacher alive has this interpretation, understanding or experience of their own staff work. This is my leveraging over of real Xing Yi deep internals to a simpler more apporachable practice framework and nothing more. There is no Yi Quan master anywhere who's going to talk to you about this C3 thing so don't bother asking them. As always if you are interested in the actual art of Yi Quan for it's own sake, please google the topic, you'll find you have dozens of great books and videos to choose from, plus a plethora of traveling seminar teacher events all over the USA and Europe, not to mention dozens or perhaps hundreds of schools teaching the full art all over China, where you can arrange a period of in-depth residential study. However, none of that has the slightest relevance for the work discussed in this post. If you have trouble understanding this point PLEASE LEAVE NOW.
Since I've written about this so many times, I don't want to have to go over the basic mechanics of the movements yet again. I have written this up in detail in my book PACKING SUPERCHARGE YOUR HANDS. Please pick up a copy. Or if you are one of my many haters who for whatever mysterious reason(s) nevertheless reads this blog, and you're mentally screeching to yourself right now about "shill!" and "SEO!" and all those tedious accusations, I say unto you: Do NOT buy the above book, for you can get the full mechanics also from my free article here:
And/or the free video tutorial here:
OK? Are we good on the mechanics? Great because I want to devote this post to an advanced aspect of this which is implicit in all the above materials, but which doesn't become fully relevant til you've gone pretty deeply into the ARC internal experience, which I feel a few baker's dozen of readers here has begun to do.
So you know how to hold the staff correctly, and you know the four dimensions of movement (up/down, in/out, side-to-side, and rotation), you know the major/minor technique model that gives you a primary emphasis and three subsidiary emphases on each technique, you know the legwork and stance changes, etc. You know it all.
Now here's the thing: for a long time, no matter how relaxed you try to be, concentrating, doing everything right, you may not feel much from this work. But if you've been doing the other, foundational work from all the books for triggering, intensifying, and controlling the ARC waves, flows, and states then at some point you'll begin to understand that as you very slowly move the staff in the mechanical way taught (above) that the internal power is building, concentrating, humming and buzzing in both your forearms as you move through the range (out and back) on each rep.
Then at the end of each technique's range (on both extending and retracting) the power will feel particularly intense and will buzz right through your hands in to the staff. This can be felt at first if you pause very briefly at the end point of each motion (extension and retraction both). During that very brief pause, you'll feel the gigantic surge from your forearms through your hands and into the staff. This assumes your entire upper body is relaxed enough, which I constantly harp on but I don't think anybody really takes very seriously, especially when they got a real weapon in hand! Be that as it may, you are only blocking yourself by tensing up your arms and hands in this. Hold the staff as you might hold a multi-million dollar Faberge Easter Egg if the curator of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg gave you one to hold above a concrete floor. That is: you must not drop it but also you must not damage it in the slightest with the slightest excess pressure.
BTW nothing in this post is even remotely related to the goofy-ass pole-shaking and tip-waggling thing. Yeah. Yeah that's a thing. Nothing to do with this. If you fiddle with that at this stage you're just reinforcing in body and mind the same old stupid physical tension and force paradigm.
Anyway, the forearms activation thing: it may start very faint and sporadic, or occur only at certain points or endpoints of the range of motion and not in other phases of the strikes. All kinds of variation at first. But over time you'll realize that the forearms are so 'full' that you can MAINTAIN THE CHARGE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE RANGE OF MOTION. Yes even at the endpoints, do NOT fully discharge it (so that you'd need to re-amp it from below again), just MAINTAIN THE CHARGE fully and continuously no matter how many reps you do. At first (if you can even get to the point of understanding what I mean by the forearm charge) you will feel the power 'break' off after maybe a rep or two but over time you can extend the charge longer and longer.
It's as though your forearms act as a propane tank on a welding gun, continuously supplying the fuel to your hands, and the staff, regardless of the position and orientation of target or flame.
For those who have watched my Vimeo tutorial on the 12 classical Xingyi Animals, you'll recognize this concept which is emphasized there. However, this stuff work is (possibly) the simplest and most direct way for at least some people to get a taste of what I'm really talking about, not just words and philosophy, after which it can be carried over to the Animals, to all of Xingyi and to Tai Chi.
This is really a fantastic internal training method, because from this you can begin to understand the classical training adage: 內外相合 meaning to harmonize internal and external. Most people's understanding of this line, at least most modern hip teachers, seem to take it as meaning that we need to somehow blend relaxation with tension. Use tension and structure as needed for practical purposes. Basically it's treated as a free license to use physical force as needed/desire, a Get Out of Jail card to discard the internal (which is secretly felt to be weak and ineffective).
But there is a deeper interpretation of this line. For purpose of this post, what it really means is that no matter what you hands and harms are doing with the staff mechanics (and those motions are all relaxed, so already departing from the standard interpretation of the teaching summarized just above) nevertheless your forearms, inner wrist point, palms and fingers are maintaining the charge at all times.
So harmonizing internal and external does not mean judicious use of physical strength when required, it means that no matter what (relaxed!) physical motions you are performing, you never lose the cestus charge.
I will call the experience of having your forearms continuously fully charged throughout entire range of motion with no breaks Continuous Cestus Combustion. May sound goofy to you now but when you experience it I doubt you'll come up with any better name for it.