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The Cleaving Staff Method

The 'fight ending' technique of the simple staff is the cleaving chop.

See our two person set on youtube!

Sun Wukung prepares to chop a demon dressed as a fair maiden. A modern illustration from the famous novel Xi You Ji (西遊記) / Journey to the West. Sun Wukung acted as bodyguard to Monk Tang on his journey to India to fetch Buddhist scriptures. Demons and monsters pursued Monk Tang for the purpose of eating his flesh and extending their life by thousands of years.


Almost every chapter of the book ends in a terrible battle where Sun Wukung attempts to 'chop demons into meat patties!'


Cleaving in Six Harmony Staff

pi gun

Pi / the cleaving maneuver from an early Qing Dynasty manual on White Eye Brow Staff.

Not only does Sun Wukung depend on this technique for routing monsters, but the cleaving method is also the most important technique of Six Harmony Staff. A form of over 100 moves it seems to go longer than the cardio abilities of the normal practitioner!

The unique aspect of this staff form is that the entire form becomes a two person set to teach the students the methods of attack and defense. Within the two person set both practitioners repeatedly set up to cleave each other with the long end of their stick or to smash each other with the short end.

The two person drill can be performed as a single long form or broken up into short practice pieces to train individual segments of techniques. Below is a short practice piece in pictorial explanations.



Mechanics of the  staff

gunThe  slender end of the staff is called 'gun' (rhymes with win) or gun tou / staff head, and the heavy side is called 'ba' / handle.

In this style of staff method the 'ba' is held by the right hand and is used for the short attacks such as smashing and piercing. The 'gun tou' is held by the left hand and used for the long range attacks such as stabbing, spinning, swinging and striking.

The solo form

A short section of the form first shown as a solo exercise.

gai ba

Right gai ba / cover with the handle. Use the handle to smash down on the opponent's head or neck.

This is also the same posture for cuo ba-poke with the handle.


The following four pictures describe pi / cleave. Using the staff head to pass outside the right knee and cleave to the earth.

'Lun' / rolling outside the right knee. The move just before the cleave.





'Lun' is complete and the cleave is performed with a jump in the air. The jump helps to avoid the opponent's strike.

'Pi' cleaving to the ground. The staff and feet all come to the ground together.




'Pi' seen from the opposite side.




The Staff in Nashville

In early December of 2008 I had the great fortune to be invited to the Nashville Peng Lai school. During the cold winter weather we trained this staff form outdoors from sun up to sun down with pauses in between for our favorite warm up drinks; yerbe mate and green tea.

At the end of practice Justin and Jojo volunteered to take part in the following pictorial explanation.

For Two People


gai ba

Jojo on the left and Justin on the right. Jojo follows the moves of the solo form above.

Both Jojo and Justin come in for the attack with 'gai ba.' The attack and defense is the same move.


Justin shifts over to Jojo's outer gate and strikes with 'jian' / to cut. This strike is applied to the knee joint, but for safety we hit the calf.

Jojo immediately raises his front foot out of the way as he swings the staff down to defend. This motion is 'lun.'

As he does this move he must leap up into the air.

pi gun'Pi' here he lands in the hill climbing stance. In the picture above it is shown as the one leg squatting stance (pu tui).

Cleaving to the top of Justin's head.

tuo gun

Justin defends with 'tuo gun' / the supporting staff. One of the few movements of our staff method that is defense only.

The quickest way to attack is to stab Jojo with the staff end, a method usually reserved for spear. In this case Justin will attack with the more powerful gai ba technique...

ti gun

Within the Shaolin book of staff (late Ming Dynasty) this block is called 'ti gun' / raising the  staff.

Not In The Set

The following series of moves is repeated five times through out the form yet does not appear in the solo form.

au bu gai ba

Justin takes advantage of Jojo's waste of power and applies gai ba to the side of Jojo's head.

Left foot right hand is called au bu gai ba / oblique step cover with the handle.

au bu gai baThe defense of gai ba is also 'gai ba.' Jojo defends from Justin's attack to the head with au bu gai ba.
da xiJustin swings his stick handle down to Jojo's knee. Notice how low he tilts his head.
Jojo's target is to strike Justin's head again.

One goes high and one goes low.

da touThey can avoid getting hit if Jojo can get his leg out of the way in time. He must do a speedy but unusual jump. The picture shown here is just before he leaves the ground.

His strike to Justin's head loses most of its power, but in training it is required to actually make contact with Justin's back.

cuo baJust as Jojo has finished his leap Justin attacks with cuo ba / poke the handle.

This is aimed at Jojo's head or neck.

Jojo defends with cuo ba.

From here Justin is free to start over from the beginning of the drill.

The attack and defense of Six Harmony Staff are often the same or similar moves. So you see 'gai ba' as an attack and 'gai ba' as a defense. Most of the moves used for defense are exactly the same as the move used for attack.

Like the cleaving of Mantis Boxing it is often a matter of who gets there first and the responsibility of the attacker and defender to adopt to the changing circumstances[

More staff articles with Sun Wukung Staff Of the Great Sage

Staff article about me learning the two man set The Method of Stick Fighting


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