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WUSHU COMPETITION CARBON FIBER CUDGEL REVIEW

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WUSHU COMPETITION CARBON FIBER CUDGEL REVIEW

By: Matthew Lee

Written October 24th, 2014

“…the carbon fiber staff, compared to white wax wood staffs, is only slightly heavier, at least in my experience.”

—Quote taken directly from the write-up

At the beginning of the month (about three weeks ago on October 2nd), I got a call from Jason Liu, who is one of my former seniors of the Wushu school we both used to go to, my fellow US Wushu teammate and one my current coaches.  He told me that the new Wushu carbon fiber staffs (棍; gùn, or cudgels, or guns, or whatever you want to call them, they’re usually just called staffs in English) were available, that he could get one for me, and that I should buy one (by the way, again, thank you, Jason.  I really appreciate it), since I had a habit of going through and breaking all my previous staffs in training.  We also had a very interesting discussion that night regarding the current state of Sanshou, since to my surprise he read my write-up “About Sanshou: Breaking Down Full-Contact Wushu”, which was posted up as a note on Facebook (but now I’m going off topic).  I agreed to get a carbon fiber staff as Jason pointed out it would be useful for me, and in the next week he stopped by my apartment to discuss other matters (again, not important here), and to give me the carbon fiber staff I purchased.  Long story short, after a short time of having the staff in my possession, I finally had a chance to try it out that Friday night.

It has been a week since then, and now with the free time that I have, I’ve decided to put my thoughts on paper (or rather, on Microsoft Word to the Internet, as it were).  Yes, this write-up is going to be a product review of the carbon fiber staff.  Fear not, there will be no product placement, nor will there be any bias towards this product; WESING (Weizhixing Sports Goods Co., Ltd., the company that manufactures professional Wushu equipment, both Taolu and Sanda equipment, including these new staffs) does not sponsor me (although I did have the privilege of meeting the CEO of WESING during my time in Costa Rica for the 10th Pan American Wushu Championships), so I am going to do my best to at least be objective about my experience and observations here.  For those that have the “tl;dr” (too long; didn’t read) reaction, you can just go ahead and watch my video review here, as it covers the following points that I will be covering in this write-up:

Now as far as I know, only one other person on YouTube has actually done a review of this:

Part 1: 

Part 2: 

While short, the review is informative and makes many relevant observations, which I will also address here.  But apart from this, and aside from Mark Moran’s blogs and vlogs (Wushuzilla.com, or as Wushuadventures.com as it’s now called), unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information on this, so for those that are interested in this product, I just thought I might try to help and throw my two cents in.  So let’s take a look!  This is my look at the new Wushu carbon fiber staff!

BACKGROUND HISTORY

Those of you like me that have been aware of this new type of staff’s existence for quite some time now probably got their first glimpse of it in videos from Mark Moran’s Wushuzilla channel on YouTube.  To be precise, the very first sight of this new kind of staff on YouTube can be seen in the video of then-current all-around China National Champion and World Wushu Champion Zhang Kai’s gunshu (棍术; gùnshù, staff event) event at the 2012 China National Wushu Taolu Championships: 

As we can already see, there was some kind of wrapping on Zhang Kai’s staff (Mark even zooms in on it after Zhang Kai’s form at 1:55), which covered a broad area of where his grip on the staff was.  I remember being one of, if not the first person, to comment on that video, asking about the wrapping on the staff.  At the time, Mark, who is very prompt with his replies I might add, also said that he was “wondering that [himself]”, and that it was the reason he zoomed in on it in the video.  So in short, he didn’t know, at least at the time.  I say “at the time”, because about five months later, Mark would post three separate videos that would give us our first real look at these new staffs on Youtube:

Part 1: 

Part 2: 

Part 3: 

As we can see in Part 1 of 3, Mark speculates about the new, brighter staff, which can almost be likened to a metallic pipe in appearance.  In Part 2 of 3, we see then-current Shanghai Wushu Team member Yang Yuhong in the process of wrapping his staff.  A day later, Mark would update his Wushuzilla.com blog, now www.wushuadventures.com, with a new post, “A First Look at the New Chinese Cudgels”: http://wushuadventures.com/a-first-look-at-the-new-chinese-cudgels/

For the sake of being concise and avoiding repetition, I will avoid trying to restate specific points made in Mark’s post unless deemed necessary, although you are encouraged to read it for yourself if you would like.  In his post, Mark speculated what exactly the new staff was made of.  Given the specific name of this product, it is now obvious and clear what they are made of.  However, at the time, the existence of these new staffs was certainly news, and international exposure was very limited.  But very recently, WESING has finally opened up and is now selling these staffs overseas, giving lucky Taolu athletes like me a chance to get our hands on it.  This is where the actual review comes in.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

Okay, so first off, just a quick rundown of how it feels: Obviously, it’s harder and more durable than white wax wood, and unlike white wax wood staffs, which have natural knots in them that can cause them to break more easily, the carbon fiber staff is completely straight.  The top half of the staff is really smooth, but the bottom half is strangely not as smooth.  I don’t want to say it’s rough, because it’s not coarse to the touch.  Rather, it’s just “grippy” (if I can use that word), which is good, because you can grab from the butt of the staff to just above the print (which consists of the red WESING logo, the label 竞赛棍; jìngsàigùn, literally “competition staff”, and the specific measurement of the staff in centimeters), which is where the hands mostly are for staff techniques; the grippy part stops just above the print, and then it’s just smooth onward for the rest of the staff.  From what I understand, the original carbon fiber staffs were smooth all the way, making them slippery, which is why China athletes had to put grips on their staffs, but apparently WESING fixed that in the newest ones, so that’s good (but if you still want to add grips just to be safe, I wouldn’t blame you).  Another thing is that, contrary to what most of you may think, it’s not completely stiff like a monkey staff or Karate graphite bō (棒; literally stick or cudgel) staff.  It actually is flexible to a certain degree, so it feels a lot closer to white wax than I thought at first, which makes me happy.

TRIAL

Okay, so I guess the first thing everybody’s wondering is how the new carbon fiber staff compares to white wax wood staffs when you practice with it, or more specifically, if it’s heavier or not.  Now, I’ve heard that it’s heavier, and I’ve heard that it’s lighter, so I guess that really depends on the kind of staff you’ve been using before; if you’ve been using a comparatively thicker staff before, chances are it’ll feel lighter to you.  If you’ve been using thinner staffs (in other words, if you’re spoiled like me and you use light staffs that break very easily), it is heavier.  I remember reading on Mark Moran’s old Wushuzilla blog that the new carbon fiber staff was made heavier than the wooden ones for northern staffs, whereas the new carbon fiber nangun (南棍; nángùn, southern staff) was made lighter than older nanguns (which doesn’t make any sense, since northern staff has a lot of swinging techniques, and southern staff has more two-handed striking techniques, so making it heavier for northern staffs doesn’t help).  Now, I’ve never tried the carbon fiber nangun, much less done Nanquan (南拳; nánquán, Southern Fist), so I don’t know if that’s true or not.  But for me the carbon fiber staff is only slightly heavier, so to me it’s not really a problem, it’s just a marginal difference that doesn’t really change a lot.

So for me, white wax wood staffs are faster, but again, not by much.  I’ve been told that the carbon fiber staff has really good balance, and I agree with that; I do feel like I have a good amount of control with it, so that’s a plus.  Again, it is harder than white wax wood staffs, so just be careful that you don’t hit yourself on the head, you might get a concussion (I don’t know, I haven’t tried that yet, haha).  Now, one concern I’m aware of about this staff is that people are afraid of having wrist problems from using it.  That hasn’t happened to me yet, I haven’t experienced anything like that so far, but worst case scenario, if you’re having wrist problems, I would recommend doing wrist circles (the kind that you do during warm-ups) and wrist stretches (palm stretches), and wrist strengthening exercises, like wrist curls and wrist rotations/circles with weights, just like in Mark Moran’s “The Top 5 Wushu Strength Training Exercises (Yang Yu Hong Interview)” video on YouTube: 

One thing I’ve noticed is that the carbon fiber staff has a lot less rebound than white wax wood staffs, like when doing the shuaigun (摔棍; shuāigùn, which is slamming on the ground or smacking on the ground or whatever you want to call it) technique.  Obviously, this gives you better control of the staff, so there’s another advantage.

For the diangun (点棍; diǎngùn, we just call it tapping in the US), I’ve heard conflicting things; I’ve heard that the carbon fiber staff is faster, but I’ve also been told that it sucks for tapping.  For me, it didn’t really make that much of a difference, but then again, my tapping was never very coordinated, so you know…

Another thing to note is that even though the carbon fiber staff is flexible, it’s not as flexible as white wax wood staffs.  As you can see with the pigun (劈棍; pīgùn, which is the chopping or striking downwards) basic and benggun (崩棍; bēnggùn, which is the flicking up) basic, force travels a lot more easily through white wax wood staffs, which you can see from the vibrations at the tips of the staffs.  This is just more of a visual note to make if you care about that for performance, but again, the difference is just incremental, it’s not that big of a deal.

One last thing is that I remember hearing that even though the carbon fiber staff is more durable than white wax wood staffs, these new staffs still can break the same, so I’d just be careful with what kind of surface I practice it on.

So just to finish up with my final thoughts:

  • Just a quick review: the carbon fiber staff, compared to white wax wood staffs, is only slightly heavier, at least in my experience.  There is a bit of break-in period for this, so I would suggest getting as much practice with it as you can.
  • It is pricey.  It’s around $100 (not including shipping), so you’re going to have to decide whether or not it’s worth the money.  It is to me, because I was always breaking my staffs, and always buying more and just throwing money at problem, so I did need a substitute, and it’s lucky that there is this product for people like me (people who have no control and keep breaking their staffs.  Yikes!)
  • Also, because the staff is manufactured, they come in fixed sizes, so you can’t cut it down to size like a white wax wood staff.  So you pretty much get what you buy.  There are four fixed sizes.  I have 175cm, the largest is 180cm; so if you’re taller than 180cm, you’re pretty much screwed if you want this product (sorry tall people, I guess Wushu discriminates against you).

Anyways, at the end of the day, it’s really up to you whether or not you’re going to buy this.  If you want to stick with white wax wood, that’s fine, I like white wax wood too.  If you want to try this out, go for it!

So I hope this review helped!  It’s really just my personal experience, but I hope you guys got some useful insight into this new staff!  Thank you for your time! [Symbol]

PS: Special thanks to Justin Benedik for shipping the new carbon fiber staffs over, to TerpWushu for sharing their space out with me last Friday night to try mine out, and to Tim Babich and Xiaoyu Yin for recording the test footage for my video review!

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Matt began practicing Wushu at the age of 7 under US Wushu Academy, and is a coach of the UMBC Wushu Club. He has held positions in national, international, and local modern Wushu competitions, and is currently training in Sanshou/Sanda and traditional Chen Style Taijiquan. He is a four-time consecutive US Wushu Team member and Pan American Champion, and is continually trying to improve himself both as a competitive athlete and as a real martial artist. If you have any questions you would like to ask Matt, please email him at matthewlee@jiayoowushu.com.

  • Minh

    Hi thank you for the review, I decided to purchase one and tested it yesterday. The top part of the stick is already damaged, not much but I was wandering if it is happening to you too?
    I am thinking to take a nangun since the regular one is not enough thick as I thought.

    • Matthew Lee

      Hi Minh,

      I’m so sorry I didn’t see this sooner, I haven’t been keeping up with the comments on my write-ups for this site. To answer your question, this review was when the original version of the staff was distributed internationally, which was heavier and thicker; there was cap that would come loose with prolonged use, but this could be solved by regularly taping up the head to keep it in place. Since then, the new staffs that WESING produce are now split into gender categories, and are actually a bit thinner and lighter, which I now use for training. These new staffs’ tops seem to crack easily, as this already happened to mine within two months, though this may be because of the way I train. As before, I tried taping it up to keep it from falling apart, but just last week it completely fell apart when I took the taping, so I have now given up trying to keep it together. I don’t believe this should be a real problem though.

      According to this quick video review, Dayehengtong has produced their own version of the carbon fiber staff, which is even thinner and lighter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab_X_DEaYQw

      It seems at this rate, they will only continue to get thinner and lighter…

      -Matt Lee