Archive for November, 2009

My Weapon of Choice

Posted in Weapons with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Any weapon is a trade off in qualities.

While the 28 inch short stick (and the very short stick, too) used in most Filipino martial arts is useful in close, it lacks stopping power and reach.

The short staff of Tapado has incredible stopping power, but it is cumbersome in close. Both the short stick and the short staff are obviously weapons, and awkward or illegal to carry to a party, on the street, or in a car.

I believe that the long stick is the ideal combination of characteristics. It has greater reach, and as a two-handed weapon, greater stopping power. A walking stick, a cane, and a baseball bat are legal and can be carried inconspicuously.

The real challenge with the long stick is to use it effectively in close, especially because opponents will either attack from close range or try to move in to close range to negate the reach and power advantages of the long stick. I believe that with the right techniques and training, it is possible to overcome the close range Achilles heel of the long stick.

My weapon of choice is a light baseball bat. In a future post I will explain the advantages of the baseball bat as a weapon.

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Types of Sticks in the Filipino Martial Arts

Posted in Origins with tags , , , , , , , on November 29, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Here is some background on the various stick lengths used in the Filipino martial arts. I think it is important to understand why certain lengths of sticks are used. I will talk here in generalities to give the reader a big picture. Stick lengths are approximate and will vary.

The Short Stick -28 Inches

This is the most common length of stick in the FMA. I would guess that it’s used by 90% of Filipino stylists. I believe that the 28 inch rattan stick is designed to simulate the machete. No other real world item handles like a 28 inch or so rattan stick.

My contention, though, is that real-life field machetes are heavier than the typical “show” machete many FMA stylists train with.

The Very Short Stick -21 Inches

When I trained in Serrada with Jaime Cabiero the length of the stick was from the armpit to the palm. When I measured mine, it came out to about 21 inches (I have a hammer handle that I use for that length of stick.). Although it was never explained to me, I believe that the chief reason for such a short stick is that in close the stick is less likely to get caught in the defender’s arm or the opponent’s arms or weapon.

Some people believe that this length of stick is used because it is easier to conceal. GM Estalilla explained to me that Filipinos would conceal a short stick down the middle of the back to be used in the event of a brawl. This length could also be concealed in a sleeve.

Some Serrada stylists use sticks that are even shorter than the pit-to-palm length mentioned earlier. I once heard the late GM Giron refer to a very short stick as a “chopstick.” As far as I can tell, the only purpose of the extremely short stick is to increase speed, which I think is mainly done for show.

The Long Stick -36 Inches

This is used by the Ilocano styles, such as Kabaroan, Giron Arnis, and Marinas from lowland Luzon.

According to the late GM Giron, the larga mano styles are based on the “panabas” which is a machete- like blade mounted on a stick. There are other brush-clearing machetes of longer length than the shorter bolo.

GM Estalilla also explains that the Kabaroan stick matches the length of the European walking cane that was in vogue in the Philippines.

The Short Staff -48 Inches

What is interesting, though, is that GM Estalilla’s father used a stick about 46 inches in length, reaching from the floor to the “didi” (nipple). Traveling merchants used to carry their merchandise on a pole slung over the shoulder, with a basket on either end (“pingga”). This pole could be used to fight off dogs or bandits. Sometimes these vendors would engage in challenge matches, wagering their merchandise.

The founder of Tapado, the late GM Mamar, deliberately chose the longer stick (approx. 4 feet) to give him a greater reach advantage as well as a greater margin of safety against other eskrima stylists using the 28 inch long stick.

Seated Defense

Posted in American Arts, Videos with tags , , , , on November 28, 2009 by bigstickcombat

I’ve uploaded a video on defense while seated.

I got the idea from an old Wallace textbook from the 70’s on long stick self-defense, depicted in the photos above.

An American Art

Posted in American Arts with tags , , , on November 28, 2009 by bigstickcombat

The following is a post of mine on a martial arts forum.

My training is in the Filipino martial arts, but I decided to pursue an American path, to make the art American and contemporary, which for me means:

  1. I speak English. I use English terms. Although I am fluent in Spanish, and know all of the Tagalog and Visayan terms, I have decided for the sake of clarity and accessibility to label everything in English.
  2. I use American weapons. I have been in the Philippines and have seen people wearing machetes as casually as baseball caps, but here in the US machetes are a rarity. The same can be said for rattan sticks. I train with a baseball bat, and my techniques are intended to be implemented with a baseball bat. Someone else earlier in this thread mentioned flashlights -a heavy case flashlight is an example of a realistic, Western weapon.
  3. I wear American clothes. No gi’s. I wear tennis shoes. I don’t go barefooted.
  4. I believe in the scientific method. I’m tired of the old, “2,000 years ago, in the mist-enshrouded Himalayas, Sifu/Sensei/Guru Immortal …” A technique is valid because it makes sense and because it can be proved to work, not because someone did it this way 200 years ago.
  5. How many Filipino stylists have considered the implications of taking an art founded in a humid tropical climate and applying it in Michigan during the winter?



Real Life Combat: Fort Hood Hero

Posted in Real Life Combat with tags on November 27, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Captain Gaffaney, Hero

What Went Down

In the aftermath of the Fort Hood Massacre, the conversation has focused on the police officers who intervened to stop Hasan. However, a new hero emerges from the story, as seen in USA Today:

“Investigators are still sorting out the actions of Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, a psychiatric nurse. But according to varying eyewitness accounts, Gaffaney either picked up a chair and threw it at Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused killer, or physically rushed him from across the room.

Army Maj. Gen. Lie-Ping Chang, commander of the reserve force to which Gaffaney belonged, said that two eyewitnesses recounted how the reservist threw a folding chair and “tried to knock (Hasan) down or knock his gun down.” Chang included this account in an essay submitted to USA TODAY.

Army Reserve Col. Kathy Platoni, a clinical psychologist who served with Gaffaney, said she was told that he rushed Hasan to within inches before being shot several times.”

Captain Gaffaney died from his wounds. Several soldiers thanked Capt, Gaffaney for saving their lives. Even though he failed to disarm Hasan, Capt. Gaffaney’s actions distracted the killer and allowed his fellow soldiers to escape.

Lessons Learned

1.  Learn to Use a Chair as a Weapon. A chair is a realistic impromptu weapon, and you should be prepared to use one and to defend against one. In Tony Jaa’s movie Ong Bak you can see a Thai boxing counter to the chair swung as a weapon.

To use the chair, grab the front edge of the seat and the top of the backrest. Jab at the opponent with the legs. If he grabs the legs, push forward to take him off balance. Throw low line kicks, so the opponent must contend with thrusts up high and kicks down low at the same time.

A folding chair can be collapsed and used like in the previous section, or swung one-handed in larga mano (long range) fashion.

2.  Winning Isn’t the Same as Surviving. A great disservice is done in the martial arts when we create the illusion of invincibility. At the end of the day, all of us are human and therefore mortal. Breathless ad copy such as “DROP ANY ATTACKER IN SECONDS!!!” encourages would-be martial artists to indulge themselves in fantasy.

The fantasy martial artist (and we are all guilty of this) imagines that winning means annihilating an opponent and emerging without a scratch or having to sweat. But sometimes winning and surviving exacts a terrible price. Sometimes winning means not surviving at all. The real warrior prepares himself for this eventuality.

Although Capt. Gaffaney was killed, he still “won.” There is no magic formula against a madman with a gun. His courageous actions saved others’ lives.

3.  I Am Thankful for Heroes in the US Army. It’s Thanksgiving, and I am grateful for all of the heroes in the US Army who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms and frankly, the luxurious lifestyle that I enjoy. My son-in-law is in Afghanistan right now, and I pray he is never confronted with the same choice that Capt. Gaffaney had to make.

What Is Big Stick Combat?

Posted in Origins with tags , , , on November 26, 2009 by bigstickcombat

In short, Big Stick Combat is the art of self-defense with a baseball bat, a long stick, and a cane. All of these weapons are approximately 36 inches in length, and are realistic, legal weapons.

I am Darrin Cook, and Big Stick Combat is a synthesis of my studies in the martial arts, particularly the following Filipino grandmasters:

  1. GM Estalilla of Kabaroan Eskrima. Kabaroan uses a heavy stick of approximately 36 inches in length. GM Estalilla lives in Fresno, California, where I studied with him privately. GM Estalilla authorized me to teach Kabaroan.
  2. GM Vasquez of Modified Tapado. Modified Tapado uses a short staff of approximately 47 inches in length. GM Vasquez lives in Bacolod City, Philippines, where I studied with him one-on-one. GM Vasquez appointed me Modified Tapado representative of the Northwestern United States.
  3. GM Maranga of Combat Eskrima Maranga. Combat Eskrima Maranga is a style of Balintawak, which uses a short stick of 28-30 inches at very close range. I was a private student of GM Maranga at his home in Cebu City, Philippines.

My ultimate aim is to have a realistic system of self-defense that is modern-day and practical. Although my teachers are Filipinos, I live in the United States, and have adapted the art to life in America. For example, my weapon of choice is a baseball bat, not a rattan stick.

I welcome you to contact me with your questions, comments, and suggestions.