As far back as 3000 B.C., the staff and the long pole were used in hunting as well as in battle. The staff is a stick between five and six feet in length, both ends of the same diameter. The long pole can be as long as 13 feet, with one end tapered. These weapons were easy to construct and were very popular in ancient days.
With the discovery of bronze and iron, the staff and long pole were modified into weapons such as spears, Kwan Dao (big choppers), and various versions of the long stick with metal casting at the end.
The use of the staff and long pole was also popular among the Shaolin monks during the early Sung Dynasty (A.D. 960-1279). During that time the monks were involved in helping the first emperor, Sung, establish his kingdom. The staff and long pole were used extensively by the monks, who, because of their religion, did not like sharp edged weapons that would inflict undue injury to their enemies. Even after the Sung Dynasty, the Shaolin monks continued to favour the use of the staff and long pole. In the Manchu Dynasty (1644-1911), the monks used these weapons to defend themselves from the Manchu Government’s siege on the Shaolin Temple.
There were many forms of staff and long pole in the Shaolin style, but the most effective was the “Look Dim Boon Grun” ie. Six-and-a-half-Strike Dragon Pole, originated by Grandmaster Gee Sin.
According to Chinese legend, Grandmaster Gee Sin was also one of the five Grandmasters who developed the Wing Chun style. But Yim Wing Chun, who became the only heir to the Wing Chun style, and after whom it was named, did not learn the dragon pole as part of her Wing Chun training. She completed her training with Grandmaster Ng Mui, having learned only the empty-hand techniques and the butterfly swords which she passed on to her husband Leung Bok Cho.
The Dragon Pole descended from Grandmaster Gee Sin through three generations of his disciples to Wong Wah Bo, and was reunited with the Wing Chun style by another twist of fate. Yim Wing Chun’s husband, Leung Bok Cho, in searching for someone to whom he could pass on the Wing Chun system chose on of his nephews. Coincidentally, this also turned out to be Wong Wah Bo, the third generation heir to the dragon pole techniques of Grandmaster Gee Sin.
Wong Wah Bo was a very popular opera star on a floating opera barge called The Red Boat. One day, Leung Bok Cho went to the Red Boat to see the opera. Leung and Wong got together after the show, and came to the agreement that they would have a friendly martial arts contest. If Leung could defeat Wong easily, then Wong would undertake to learn the Wing Chun system.
The two confronted each other on the stage of The Red Boat. Wong was armed with a 12 foot dragon pole and Leung had a pair of butterfly swords each measuring 14 inches. Since Wong considered himself as having the advantage, he asked Leung to attack first. Leung brandished the pair of butterfly swords to begin his attack. Wong was very cautious in defending because the swords were sharp and Leung’s technique was very tight and swift. Though he fought with all his might, Wong found it very difficult to fend off Leung’s attack. He was forced to retreat to the edge of the stage. Now, Wong could not use the most deadly technique of the Six-and-a-Half-Strike Dragon Pole to deal with the situation. When Leung aimed a double slash with both swords at Wong’s head, Wong raised his pole in a technique called Bong Kwan – (Wing block) to neutralize the assault, and followed up with a lower jab to Leung’s leg. This was one of the most efficient dragon pole techniques in the Six-and-a-Half-Strike Dragon Pole because block and counterattack were almost simultaneous. Wong used it quickly and thought this would surely bring a speedy victory. Nevertheless, quite unexpectedly, Wong felt something cold touch his hand. He looked down and found the sharp edge of a butterfly sword resting on his wrist. He had no alternative. He dropped the dragon pole and admitted defeat. Wong fell to his knees and begged to be Leung’s student so that he could learn the Wing Chun system.
From that brief encounter Leung realized that he had chosen well and that Wong had the potential of becoming the best. After Wong mastered Wing Chun, he improved the Six-and-a-Half-Strike Dragon Pole by combining it with Wing Chun and making its techniques much more effective.