For all the technique and execution that can be honed via punching, kicking, or otherwise striking at air, it’s difficult to attain true practical mastery of any striking martial art without actually making contact with something solid.
After all, would the All-Pro lineman who never hits a blocking sled or clean-up hitter who never sees the inside of a batting cage please step forward? Anyone?
Shadowboxing may develop execution and speed, but only hitting an actual surface that provides some resistance ties power to technique. With that in mind, every Wing Chun kung fu student worth his or her salt ought to own at least one set of sand punching pads.
Like the martial arts themselves, not all bags are necessarily created equal.
Just as traditional boxers and muay thai practitioners strike somewhat differently, well-adapted bags, the sand punching pads – or “wing chun wall bags,” as they’re also known – are tailored in every way not to sway when hit. The flat bags are meant to be hung upon a wall, so that the only give is from the sand itself when struck.
One bag is fine, but be aware of the intended use when purchasing. Sand punching pads are sectioned to practice precise, targeted strikes at various levels of an attacker’s body. Single-bag sets are certainly available, but they can also be purchased in double or triple-pad hangings, as well.
Sand punching pads have the benefit that one can custom-fill the material with several substances – not all being equally beneficial, either. Depending on one’s initial skill level and preferences, one might try:
- Plastic Beads
- Glue Pellets
- Combination Rice/Sand
- Pea Gravel
- Ball Bearings
- Tossed Sand Grains
Beginners may opt to stick with beans, beads or rice. Once a fairly comfortable “intermediate” level is reached, consider swapping out some rice for a rice-sand combination. The plastic beads or glue pellets are good substitutes where high humidity might mold a bean filling. From there, tossed sand grains – such as “pool-filter sand” – or regular sand may become preferable for punching.
Advanced users with the hand strength to start focusing on iron palm strikes may want to consider the BBs, ball bearings, or pea gravel. Don’t attempt strikes with ball bearings until a more advanced level of expertise is reached. Ball bearings and gravel should not be struck with a closed fist.
Sifu Chuck O’Neill, in his Wall Bag video posted on EverythingWingChun.com, suggests seeking out a bag made of either heavy canvas or leather, for endurance of the most wear and tear. Both will endure not only the constant blows to it, but also the weight of any conceivable filler with which one could fill it. The heavy-duty materials will also reliable withstand abrasions with the wall resulting from the constant impact, O’Neill added.
For what it’s worth, he said, synthetic leather will be more forgiving of beginners’ unconditioned hands than more coarse canvas.
At minimum, make sure that the compartment containing the filler is secured with heavy-duty zipper that will resist the gravity of the filling, not a “jean” zipper.
Also, look for a set of punching sandbags that are well-connected with solid materials, such as a metal D-ring.
Finally, there are some precautions to hanging your pads.
First and foremost, remember: don’t attach it DIRECTLY to anything but a strong brick or stone wall. If attaching to drywall, first mount a sturdy plywood support to the 2×4 supports behind it. Then attach the bag to the plywood with strong screws.
Consider the training area, as well. These bags are noisy when hit, and since you’ll in essence be punching a wall, the wall will vibrate as the bag is struck and impacted with it. Choose wisely.