The Heavy Stick

Posing with the Heavy Stick

I made myself a heavy stick for training. I duct taped a 3 pound leg weight to an ax handle. It’s crude, but it works.

My goal is to work up a training program using the heavy stick. The aim is to build strength and overall fitness. Something that GM Estalilla points out is that the long stick much more readily lends itself to calisthenics and fitness.

It has occurred to me that a key is SLOW movement. If I swing the stick normally, even though I must exert myself to start the swing, soon momentum takes over, and there is little work performed by the muscles. In a descending strike, momentum and gravity result in a strike requiring little effort. But if I strike in slow motion, I must exert control of the stick throughout the strike. The slow motion strike has an added element of safety, because the stick is constantly under control.

I’m interested in hearing anyone’s heavy stick training ideas.

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9 Responses to “The Heavy Stick”

  1. If you use it one handed it works the wrists because all the weight is at one end. Hold the stick at the very end to your chest in a hammer fist grip (either with the thumb or palm side of the “hammer” at your chest and all movements done with the stick parallel with the floor. Do your regular strikes one handed (but train both sides).

    For two handed training go to YouTube and search “Chinese Wand Exercises” for 17 movements with a 4′ stick (but some movements can be done with a 3′ cane). Now imagine doing these movements with a weight lifting bar (the iron ones weigh about 15-20 pounds without weights).

    If you are a traditional Filipino artist make some heavier non-rattan sticks for your solo-practice so you get udes to swinging hardwood sticks, this also better simulates the weight of bladded weapons.

  2. Old Dave Says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a few weeks as I’m very interested in using a hiking staff (jo, stick) as a defensive weapon. I very much like the idea of Tapado, finish the job in one strike. I also have been doing strength training with weights for many years, and follow several blogs regarding the pros and cons of various training protocols. And for sports, I play some handball once or twice a week.

    In the case of your weighted stick, the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID) principle suggests that the best way to improve your striking “thump” is to practice striking with the stick you will be using for real. I think that Clarence Bass in one of his articles or books recently summarized the transfer of skill depending on how similar (or not) a practice activity was to the objective…and if wasn’t very similar there was a negative transfer, and at best maybe a neutral transfer. So don’t use a very light/heavy stick or one of a different dimension or balance for practice.

    I recently concluded that swinging a stick through the air was not the complete training requirement…it’s not like hitting a baseball, but instead you may experience a profound shock slamming against a two hundred pound body that doesn’t move (in my case, maybe a 100+ pound mountain lion) on impact. So I hung a car tire on a tree limb with a chain, not swiveled, so that I experience the sudden stop of the stick…and gauge the thump of the impact by how much spin I get on the tire (the chain wraps up too, causing a lot of resistance). Involving the whole body, especially the hips, has improved my striking force significantly.

    So, from my experience, if you want to build strength, do some full body exercises like squats, pushups and chin-ups, and/or weight training. And practice strikes with the real stick, against a solid target, lots and lots and lots.

    By the way, if there was a serious threat of mountain lion activity in our area, I’d be carrying a shotgun with buckshot on my hikes, instead of a stick…don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, eh….

    Old Dave

  3. Old Dave,

    (Or perhaps you would prefer the Filipino honorific, “Manong Dave.”) Sounds solid.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dan Inosanto and other Filipino martial arists have been using tires since the early days just for this very reason. As for training with same/different weapons my opinion is that the heavier the stick the harder it is on your partner when practicing full force.

    I also have the idea that if you are not training against a living, independently thinking human then you are not training fully. As a kid I used to train from books and skipped the footword in favour of the strikes, when I grew up and could afford real training I saw that it is the footwork that carried the strikes, without footwork the strikes are useless.

    Another old solo technique is to take a heavy rope and hang it from a tree, stick 2 sticks in between the twists at various levels that one would be sttacked at; hit one end of the stick and the other end wil ollow to try to hit you.

  5. If you’re talking about raw power development, it might be better to purchase an 8 to 10 pound sledgehammer from a hardware store and practice by hitting it against an old truck tire. Old time fighters used to chop wood because it improved punching power. Unless you live in the country and cut your own wood, the sledgie and tire works well. Train both sides evenly, and you can swing for reps or time. This is a great conditioning routine and you could jump rope for 1 minute, hit the tire for 1 minute, etc. back and forth for 10-20 minutes. You’ll get increased power development (your stick will feel like a chop stick compared to the sledge) as well as footwork/ coordination from the rope and your conditioning will go up too.
    For more specificity, I prefer a slightly heavier stick, used with impact against a solid target (e.g heavy bag, tire in a tree, hay bails, etc.) as this really is specificity. The sledge hammer drills work well for a two-handed system such as Tapado or Big Stick Combat!!

  6. Tommy,

    That sounds like a great training regimen. I’m going to have to set it up.

  7. Darrin,

    Yeah, its a good routine. You could always spice it up by creating a little circuit of exercises (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups, Hindu Squats, etc., etc.) that you try and blow through as many times as you can in say 20 minutes. As you get fitter you rest less between sets and exercises until you get to the point you’re going non-stop for the full duration. I’m an “anti-gym” guy, my gym is outside! Also, you were discussing slow, controlled movements to eliminate the momentum, and this can be a part of your training as well, almost like isometrics, but once you have a suitable level of strength I believe it is better to try and apply it under “game speed” because you are moving too fast in a fight to exert maximum strength. You must explode quickly and the ability to deliver as much strength in as short a period of time as you can is power and that is best developed with ballistic exercises like sledge hammer slams, and using medicine balls with various rebounding drills. The mistake most people make is using too much resistance for these exercises. When you think of a big stick, what are we talking 20-24 ounces? Boxing gloves are between 12-16 oz, depending on “venue” so using heavy implements is counterproductive. A 6-8 pound medicine ball is about all an average sized guy needs, and an 8-10 pound sledge will develop excellent carry over to your big stick. If you can work up to explosive reps with a 10-12 pound sledge, you’ll hit like a Mack Truck, believe me! Forget about all of the “beach body glamour boys” with respect to real fitness. What you look like has no bearing on what you can do. Prime example: James Toney.
    You can develop elite levels of fitness with a home gym that costs you less than $100.00.
    O.K., sorry for the long post, just thinking out loud…

  8. Old Dave Says:

    Like Tommy, I believe in “honest sweat”, working out in the fresh air. I have a problem with scores (maybe even 100s) of pine beetle killed trees to cut down and process. After trimming the branches and cutting them up to about six foot lengths, I rip groves in the bark along with length, and then “pop” the bark off by slamming them with a Gerber 17 inch hatchet (about 32 ounces). Good practice for strike force and accuracy, and grip strength. Moving the logs around before and after processing using a hookaroon (pulling), or flip them end to end (dead lift and pushing) is great exercise.

    I’d also like to recommend a “best” exercise, low tech and easy to do…the Farmer’s Walk…pick up some decent weight in each hand (like a farmer carrying large cans of fresh milk from the barn to the truck), and walk with them until fatigued. This is a full body movement with a upper body “pull”. Use dumbbells if you’re a gym rat, or pails of water, or bags of sand or salt, or even some of those tires that you’re beating up. A variation of this is the Waiter’s Carry…put one of those weights over your head and do the walk (upper body “push”)…you might need two hands for the tire. And it’s great for grip strength.

    I also agree with James regarding “…if you are not training against a living, independently thinking human then you are not training fully.”. I play handball twice a week, and there is nothing like the action against an opponent that can be duplicated in solo practice. Serves that you might think are golden are kill shots for your opponent, and the ball during rallies comes back to you at all kinds of speed and odd angles. It’s amazing how often you can’t even get out of your own way to make a good strike at the ball. Lots of practice for fast feet and graceful movements. Fast, unpredictable action…and you don’t usually end up with injury…but wearing eye protection is necessary. And I also use a 3K medicine ball…I think that it is a great tool, with several types of explosive throws.

    I may have a training exercise for my springing mountain lion…next post…best regards.

    Old Dave

  9. jimmyfatwing Says:

    Pickaxe handle is a good heavy training tool, or a piece of scaffold pipe. Both can be cut to size do they match your ‘usual length’. Will work the forearms, and you get a good cardio workout!

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