Several years ago I received an email from someone who said that there was no mention in Chinese history of a Qigong-like exercise using a stick or bamboo pole. This person was wrong. Research has confirmed Bruce Johnson’s claims that the Wand exercises are indeed of Chinese origin. This article is just a brief overview but I have collected a great many photos, videos and descriptions of wand exercises in China.
The Chinese Government recently presented historical evidence that wands were used to aid exercise and enhance Qigong in ancient times, as Bruce Johnson asserted in his book. The Chinese Health Qigong Association studied Qigong stick methods and created a new routine called the Taiji Yang Shen Zhang. Interestingly, the wands they use to demonstrate this routine are about four-foot long, the length Johnson maintained was traditional and most beneficial.
In fact, many of the techniques introduced to the west by Bruce Johnson can be seen today in China. For example in Taiwan there is a method which is undoubtedly an offshoot of the techniques Bruce Johnson learned on the mainland. More about Chinese Wands in Taiwan here.
Some ancient qigong techniques have startlingly similar postures to the Chinese wand floor exercises.
A wand practitioner I know in England demonstrated the exercises for an elderly Chinese woman, who claimed to recognise several movements (which appear in Bruce Johnson’s book) and said they were practiced by Taoist monks in the Wudan region of China. This is the strongest evidence yet that Bruce Johnson was correct in saying that the techniques in his book were taught to him by his Chinese teacher in Shanghai.
There is just one more aspect of Johnson’s assertions that need to be researched – the use of bamboo for the wand itself. If we could find a wand practitioner in China using bamboo it would boost the case for bamboo poles – rather than poles in general, being used in China’s for heath and fitness since ancient times. There is one examples – a video showing a Chinese gentleman performing a new routine very gracefully with a four-foot long bamboo pole. Although the routine is new it shows how natural it is for the Chinese to use bamboo for this type of exercise.
Then there was the fascinating discovery of the photograph from 1900, as discussed in the article Searching for Old Chinese Wand Master
Further evidence of the Chinese nature of the wand exercises and be read here; The Four-foot Wand of China