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The staff is the weapon that all styles teach. It is everywhere. Although it has variations among all styles, I will attempt to address them and how they compare with the Ho Mei Pai use and principles.

The first staff We shall go over is the tooth pick staff sold in most MA catologs. It is fast when used two handed but structurally week. When used by Ho Mei Pai it breaks like a twig and is too expensive for that. From what I have experienced with Karate, the staff is also too weak and only good for tournaments.
The Pine Staff is cheepest when bought as a closet pole. It is good for teaching or demonstrations as it will also break easily. When broken it tends to have a sharp edge so is not a total loss. The Pine staffs bought through catologs are usually made from a branch or the heartwood and are stronger and still break with the edge. They are still too expensive for the rate at which they break.
The next Staff is Rattan. The Rattan Staff is quite popular and its flexibility is a plus. The Staff tends to turn into rope with heavy use or contact with salt water. Being a grass it also doesn't stand up to edged weapons that well. The Rattan Staff does teach whipping power and brings the concept of timing into play. It will eventually break from the heavy power so I would not suggest that you replace it with the same.
After Rattan it is time to upgrade to waxwood. Waxwood tends to cost about 30 dollars depending on your supplier. Oak for instance is (unless you are lucky) 80 dollars on average, so Waxwood was my choice. The Waxwood has the benefits af hardness, flexibility, and when it breaks it breaks at the location of focus. This means that if it breaks during combat your distance won't change much. It also has a fiberous consistancy to it so the broken part will maintain a flail like affect for a couple more swings. The Waxwood tends to be a branch and this gives the possibility of raking strikes as there will be little knoby parts up and down the length. When the Waxwood breaks you can feel secure in your power. If it breaks on dirt then don't touch other peoples staves. They will not be happy and most equip. places won't take returns.
The next level is Steel. Be careful with Steel as it is expensive and crap steel bends easy. Get steel that is over 3/4 inch in diameter since anything less will feel goofy and is too thin. The Steel Staff is heavy but won't break. If it does then you can laugh at people who try and escape you arm bars.

The purpose of staff training in kung fu is for stance work. A good stance is required for staff power. It is possible to use arm strength but that usually stresses the lower back and I would not suggest it. The Staff training also solidifies the elbow, wrist, and shoulder joints into a unified whole which improves punching power as well as joint lock counters and throws. Armbars will improve and kicking blocks. The conection to the ground will also improve all basic meditations and Chi Kung training.
Always try and use a variation or staves to build different skills. Heavy teaches strength, lite teaches speed, week teaches control, strong teaches power, short teaches technique, and long teaches prescision. Partners also help.
Walk softly and carry a big stick. oooh baby.

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