Wing Chun is a pretty minimalist Kung Fu system. Its standard curriculum consists of three empty hand forms, then a set of techniques to be practised on a specialised wooden dummy, though they can also be done without it - "Air Dummy", like "Air Guitar", and finally, weapons forms.
There are two traditional Wing Chun weapons. One is a pair of knives, of length slightly shorter than your forearm with hooks on the handles, sometimes called Butterfly Swords. They allow for intricate twirling, slashing, stabbing, and blocking movements.
The other is a long, tapered pole with a brass ferrule at the business end, named the Dragon Pole. It can range from five to approximately thirteen feet in length. It is significantly heavier than the Japanese bo, or staff, and is generally held with both hands at one end, the stance and body acting as a counterbalance. It is used more like a spear, rather than the double ended Japanese weapon. Manipulating a pole of considerable weight is also seen as a good exercise for building the particular type of strength Wing Chun Kung Fu requires. I'll pass discussion of the veracity of that statement to those better educated in exercise science than I.
Rick Spain practising Dragon Pole techniques with the Dragon Mettle, a high tech metal staff, stick and pole training tool, developed by Sensei Russell de Lacey
Some Wing Chun systems have additional traditional weapons, such as throwing darts. But the swords and pole are the ones universally cited.
Neither is particularly practical as is, in twenty-first century Australia.
Carrying knives for self defence is illegal where I live, and pairs of blades around forty centimetres in length aren't exactly easy to conceal.
Unless you are very highly skilled, sharp butterfly swords are as much a danger to yourself as to anyone else, and most practice is done with unsharpened metal weapons, or those made of wood or hardened plastic.
Many of the techniques, if performed with sharp weapons, could result in you losing a hand, if you are not fully cognisant of what you are doing, and well practised. I know one highly skilled trainee who accidentally cut a finger tendon with sharpened butterfly swords and was unable to make a proper fist for the next twelve months.
A thirteen foot long pole isn't exactly easy to carry around either, especially if your commute involves public transport, a bike, or a small car without roof racks.
The reason for this choice of weapons is that their techniques can be easily adapted to readily available improvised weaponry. In essence, short or long sticks. You might have a rolling pin and spatula in your kitchen drawer to defend yourself with using butterfly sword techniques. Or you can pick up a broom, mop or umbrella, and use dragon pole techniques against an attacker.
Several martial arts practitioners I know keep sticks and cudgels concealed in easy to access places in every room of their residences, in case of home invasions. One man's paranoia is another man's preparation, I guess. I will neither confirm nor deny.
A good length for a practice dragon pole is often stated as being from the ground to your outstretched finger tips, when you stand with one arm stretched vertically overhead. This is a practical length which allows for a pole of reasonable weight, and still allows you to practice with it in spaces smaller than aircraft hangars and sports stadiums.
Still, one needs to be careful. As I found out one day.
I came in about an hour before class to practice the Dragon Pole. It takes up a fair bit of room, and other students gave me plenty of that, once I started swinging that sucker around.
I went through quite a number of repetitions of the form, the entire sequence, and in bits and pieces. I felt I was slowly becoming one with the weapon, my movements, smooth, economical and precise.
Well ... only up to a point.
Just before class was due to start, I decide on one final run through, full power. One of the sequences involves the bon dao, a diagonal deflection used against an overhead strike, after which I swing the pole around on a large overhead circle, then striking directly down on my hapless imaginary opponent with what might be called a number twelve strike in Filipino martial arts..
I had performed this action several dozen times in the session without incident, and proceeded confidently through it this time, doing my best to add a little extra oomph! to my technique.
My overhead strike takes out a fluorescent tube. Shattered glass and powder go everywhere. Of course, I am barefoot. Everybody gasps..
Some buds help me as I rush around with broom, dustpan and brush, and newspaper, to clean up my mess in the final seconds before class start time. Clock's ticking, dude! We finish, line up, and bow on with not a second to spare.
Sifu, Rick Spain, laughs. He asks me to take the warm up, still chuckling. I do so, reflecting on the virtue of humility.