The Sticky Subject of Weaponry Training

December 10, 2016 1 Comment

There was a recent debate about the art of stick fighting that disclosed a number of combat myths. Let’s take a look at what it takes to become a good fighter with weapons.

Before we can talk about techniques, strategies, and training methods, we have to know exactly what type of scenario we are training for. To keep things simple, let’s just limit our scope to single stick against single stick, in a squared off situation.

In a street fight, you don’t know where a weaponry attack will come from because often these sorts of attacks are ambushes. One guy sneaks up behind another, and WHAM, the fight is just about over. Awareness, luck, and a very thick skull are the only things that will save you from an ambush, so we will start one on one, like a sparring match.

The main point of the match is that you are going to try to hit your opponent as hard as you can, as often as you can, without getting hit yourself. You nemesis will be attempting the same. Everything will be moving at full speed and full power, and strikes can be targeted anywhere on the body. Thrusts and butt strikes are allowed with the stick, as well as any other striking such as punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Throws are allowed, along with the grappling that often follows.

Now let’s imagine that you are going to have this match in four weeks. What should you do to get ready and how are you going to approach the fight?
In many cultures around the world, this has been a real question posed on a consistent basis. Many cultures have and/or still do fight regularly with sticks or blades. In western culture, however, the notion of having a full-contact stick fight in a month is indeed rare. It just doesn’t happen very often. From a fighter’s point of view this would seem odd. There are probably tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone who train with sticks, but for most there is not even an inkling of a thought of actually using the skills. Boxers, wrestlers, kickboxers, and free-fight athletes train to use their skills at full speed and power against an opponent who is trying to do accomplish the same goal. The competition guides the training, and gives motivation to get in the gym and work hard.

This is what it will take for you to become an accomplished stick fighter. In order to train for a fight, you simply must practice fighting.

You should go ahead and spar, but you have to have safety factors in your training or you will be so injured that you will not be able to train. This is counterproductive, and will lead to a dismal showing in your upcoming fight. I use a padded stick, headgear, some hand protection, groin protection, and sometimes shin guards for practice sparring. This way I can spar at full speed and power while minimizing the chance of injury. (It should be clear, though, that as good as sparring with a soft stick is, there is no substitute for sparring with naked rattan and minimal body armor. Just know that you will get banged up.)

Here is an easy and effective formula to greatly enhance your stick sparring. Follow it, and I assure you that you will improve tremendously in one month.

First thing to do is to gear up, get a partner, and start sparring. After five or six rounds, you should be aware of some weaknesses in your game. This is what you want, because you can now apply the formula for martial success. Write down your weak spots, do drills to work on the necessary techniques and attributes to enhance those areas, do isolated sparring, then go back to full sparring. This is the formula used to achieve greatness in all fields of endeavor. You apply your trade, note your shortcomings, train to improve those areas, then repeat the process.

The key is to actually try stick fighting, rather than spending all of your time drilling techniques that you will never be able to do when you have to face a strong, fast opponent who is trying to remove your head from your shoulders! There are countless possible techniques in weaponry based fighting, but the truth is that when you go against a resisting opponent who is swinging hard, only a handful of techniques come into play. You will never understand this unless you try your art out at full speed and power. If you do, you will discover weaknesses in your approach. Discovering your weaknesses is very beneficial because your training will now have focus and meaning.

Here are some remedies for common stick fighting ailments.

  • Are you getting hit in the head? This is usually due to improper distancing, poor blocking skills, or telegraphing your attacks. Time to do some drills. Put on the helmet, give your partner a padded stick, and have him or her slowly swing at your head. Not in front of your head, but at your head. Practice slipping back out of the path of the stick. As you get better, have your partner pick up the speed and add faking. This will enhance your sense of distance, and your ability to read the attack.
  • Next, blocking practice. Have your partner feed a forehand shot at your head and work your block. Pick up the intensity as you get better at keeping that stick off of the helmet. If telegraphing is a problem, work on hitting the heavy bag with as little preparatory motion as possible.
  • Now that you have worked on these elements, do some isolated sparring where you and your partner will only strike towards the head. Get rounds and rounds of this in so that you get very comfortable with defending your head.
  • Now it is time to go back and work on the full sparring again to find more weaknesses. Make sure to isolate hand only sparring, leg sparring, and combinations like hand and head only, or head and leg only. These will force you to use tactics that you are not familiar with, and you will again grow. If you are being taken down easily, start in the clinch and just work on throws. If your ground game is bad, pick one position and drill from there. Spar to find your worst positions, then work to make it a strength. Train diligently, and that fight next month will be much easier.

I think it is important for martial artists to learn how to actually stick fight, rather than just learning to be a baton twirler. In actually learning how to apply your knowledge you will understand the blueprint for success in all areas of life. This is the greatest benefit to martial arts training, but is only gained if you take your training to the limits!

Check out our Battlefield Kali Single Stick certification course!

1 Response

Dick Harrell
Dick Harrell

February 07, 2017

Great article Burton, for any level! Where would you suggest one orders headgear for stick sparring?

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