Archive for December, 2009

The Sap Wallet

Posted in Resources and Product Reviews, Weapons with tags , , , , on December 31, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Fred Perrin Sap Wallet

Joshua Morale of Stick and Knife Fighters of the World (stickfighting.ning.com) referred me to the “sap wallet,” something I was not familiar with. It sounds like a very handy weapon. I have spoken of the merits of saps here, which is a little-known category of weapon.

The sap wallet, designed by Fred Perrin, can be seen in action here. In essence, you put coins into the bottom of the wallet, which is swung like a sap. The sap wallet resembles a prison weapon in which a bar of soap is placed into a sock and swung.

The Atienza Kali people have a video here in which they showcase a weapon called a “trapo,” which is a weight in a sock. The sap wallet could be wielded with these techniques. (As an aside, “trapo” is Spanish for “rag.” In the Philippines vendors at intersections sell rags sewn into circles like potholders. Drivers buy them for a few pesos to wipe their cars or to help them hold the steering wheel in the blistering heat.

I would categorize this as a semi-impromptu weapon, in that it is a weapon that would fit into your environment and that you have selected ahead of time for its suitability as a weapon.

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The Baseball Bat in the Movies

Posted in American Arts, Commentary, Weapons with tags , , , on December 30, 2009 by bigstickcombat

I just recently saw Quentin Tarantino’s movie, “Inglourious Basterds.” I was curious to see it because I knew at least one character in the movie wielded a baseball bat as a weapon. According to one review, actor Eli Roth “…portrays a merciless, baseball-bat-wielding Nazi killer dubbed ‘the Bear Jew’ by fear-stricken German soldiers in the film.”

Moving beyond movie entertainment, I believe the average person knows that the baseball bat is credible as a killing weapon. The average person also knows that it just wouldn’t be credible to have a terror-inducing Nazi killer wielding a 28 inch rattan stick, or even a 28 inch long, one inch diameter hardwood stick.

Eli Roth as "The Bear Jew"

My point is not to put down short stick stylists, but to get you to consider the merits of a weapon that most martial artists have ignored.

The Student-Teacher Relationship in the FMA

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on December 29, 2009 by bigstickcombat

There is an interesting article at Filipino Fighting Secrets about an American who goes to the Philippines to learn the Filipino martial arts, but who doesn’t seem to view the art or the student-teacher relationship too seriously.

I signed up for kickboxing in Cebu City. What sealed the deal for me was that they offered arnis, too. Unfortunately, just as I finished a grueling two hour workout, the arnis teacher would show up. I was soaking wet from sweat, and there were blisters on my feet. So I tried to cool down while the teacher changed into a satin uniform with fringe on it (That should have been my first warning sign that something was wrong.).

Arnis lessons consisted of learning a long form, practicing strikes while stepping into deep cross stances. All the while I was trying to wipe the stinging sweat from my eyes.

About the third lesson the kickboxing teacher explained that there was a fee for the arnis. I thought the arnis lessons were part of the gym membership. The young guy in the frilly satin uniform handed me a sheet like a menu, and when I saw the fee at the bottom, I was shocked.

I really had no choice but to explain that I couldn’t afford to continue studying arnis.

Later I met the young guy’s teacher. I told the grandmaster, “Oh yeah, I took a couple of lessons in your style with so-and-so.”

The grandmaster looked troubled and shot a look to one of his associates. “I’ve talked to him about this. You see, he studied with me for years and paid nothing. I have asked him that if he wants to teach using my name and my style, that he should pay me some of what he makes. If he doesn’t want to do that, he should call his style something else and teach on his own.”

I relayed the grandmaster’s concerns to the gym owner. It didn’t seem ethical for me to have someone teaching who was defying the wishes of his teacher, the grandmaster. The gym owner explained that from the young teacher’s point of view, it was only fair because he often taught classes to foreigners while the grandmaster rested or talked with others.

This episode to me highlights an appalling lack of gratitude and respect for one’s teacher. If you were taught for free, is it really too much to ask you to repay something when you have the opportunity? Had the young guy thought that perhaps being assigned to teach others was not a chore, but a learning and growth opportunity? Teaching and doing are two separate skills. Many Filipinos have difficulty communicating with foreigners, which is a skill that can be learned by practicing speaking, such as by teaching.

In a real warrior art, the teacher-student relationship goes beyond paying for classes. One of my teachers has high blood pressure, and told me that he once had to stop his medication because he couldn’t afford it. I told him that if he ever needed medication to get in touch with me, and I will see that he gets it. When I visit him I check to see that he has his medication, and I will get it for him if he doesn’t. It is not about paying for instruction, but about the ongoing debt I owe a man who taught me and who has done so much for the art.

Technique: The Power of Diagonal Strikes Part II

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , , on December 28, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Yesterday I talked about the advantages of diagonal strikes over horizontal strikes. I am not saying that you should never do horizontal strikes –I just think you should be aware of the various pros and cons.

I was attending a seminar of a famous eskrima group that was teaching a high horizontal strike as its number one. When I approached someone about the awkwardness and potential vulnerability of the strike, I was told that this was the traditional method, and that it was being taught as a means of preserving the old way. If that is the case, I think students deserve to be advised of the flaws of the method they are being taught.

We should also ask if teaching less effective techniques is really a good idea, unless the purpose is to teach something fun and collect money.

High Horizontal Strike to Temple

Note how the position of the hand exposes it to a counterstrike. The hand position is also vulnerable to a disarm.

With a light stick the stress on the wrist may not be apparent, but could you do this technique with a crowbar? A hammer? A fireplace poker?

A diagonal strike is a better choice.

Although I do not believe that every stick move has a blade move counterpart, or that every weapon technique has an empty-handed counterpart, and vice versa, the general principle of the advantage of diagonal strikes applies to empty handed combat as well.

Horizontal Elbow

For the opponent with his hands up, the horizontal elbow simply hits his forearms. Note how my head is exposed.

Diagonal (Overleft) Elbow

The overleft diagonal elbow tends to come in over the opponent’s guard and between his arms.

The position of the elbow also serves to shield my head from a counterattack.

Horizontal Hook

The horizontal hook to the body tends to be blocked by the opponent’s guard.

Underleft Knee

Although I could throw a rising hook to the body, I prefer not to lower my hands. By throwing the rising knee (which comes both up and in from my lower left), I increase my chances of coming in under the opponent’s guard.

Technique: The Power of Diagonal Strikes

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , , , on December 27, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Diagonal strikes have advantages over horizontal strikes. If one does Cinco Teros (“5 strikes” or “5 shots”) in an X pattern, you have a simple means of outlining the major strikes one may encounter in a fight. GM Giron’s Bahala Na group uses the basic X pattern in long stick larga mano applications. The Portuguese staff art of Jogo do Pau also uses the X pattern.

Using GM Estalilla’s terminology, we can break attacks down to just 5 types of attack:

1) An overhand right blow, or an overight

2) An overhand left blow, or an overleft

3) An underhand right blow, or an underight

4) An underhand left blow, or underleft

5) A thrust

But what about horizontal blows? I believe that the diagonal X pattern teaches more effective strikes.

Depicted above, the horizontal strike is easily blocked by the defender. In fact, he almost has to do nothing.

Here I attack with an underleft strike. Note how it tends to come up under the defender’s guard. While he can block the strike, he has to work at it.

But let’s ask, “Why am I using a stick?”

“Why am I only hitting one-handed?”

Here I am striking at the same underleft angle, but I am using a baseball bat. I am also hitting two-handed.

This is the power swing in baseball. I will talk more about baseball and the martial arts in upcoming posts, but in baseball, too, the power strike is not horizontal, but ascending.

Although I can execute an underleft strike to the knee with a short stick, I must crouch, which places me in a vulnerable position.

With the long stick it is possible to strike with an overleft or underleft to the opponent’s knee, without crouching, and prepared for an immediate follow up.

Real Life Combat: Choking a Terrorist

Posted in Commentary, Real Life Combat with tags , , , , , on December 26, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Hero Jason Schuringa

What Went Down

On Christmas day a terrorist on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit ignited an explosive device that he had concealed on his leg. Passenger Peter Smith described the muffled explosion as “a firecracker in a pillowcase.” “First there was a pop, and then (there) was smoke.”

There was a commotion and panic. The terrorist’s clothes were on fire, and passengers could see flames. Jason Schuringa bounded over seats to get to the terrorist and saw that he was holding a burning object in his hands. Jason pulled the burning object from the terrorist (burning his hands in the process) and yelled for water.

Accounts have Jason getting the bomber in either a headlock or a chokehold and dragging him to the first class section. Some accounts have other passengers helping Jason subdue the terrorist. At that point the terrorist was bound and searched for explosives.

Hero Todd Beamer

Lessons Learned

Learn to Choke Someone Out. Regardless of the type of martial art you do, and even if you don’t practice the martial arts at all, you should be able to apply a chokehold. The beauty of choking someone is that it doesn’t matter how doped up and impervious to pain he is, he still needs to breathe. Properly applied, a chokehold enables you to subdue someone without injury.

I have found a great article here that details the basics of choking.

We Have to Fight Back. Just three days before this attack I said:

How long is it before terrorism comes to America? …Let me suggest that it’s not enough to teach the martial arts, but that we as martial artists must advocate for a strong society that reacts to violence with overwhelming and disproportionate force. I think it’s time we started fighting back.”

The old platitudes about “Just give him your wallet,” “Don’t resist, it only makes things worse,” “Don’t resist, you’ll just enrage him,” “Don’t take things into your own hands,” “It’s a police matter,” “Let the police solve it,” and so on, are prescriptions for disaster.

Like Captain Gaffaney, Todd Beamer, and Jason Schuringa, you may find yourself defending not just your own life, but the lives of dozens or hundreds of others.

David Alan Basche as Todd Beamer

I agree wholeheartedly with this blogger:

” How long will it take Secretary Napolitano (at least) or President Obama (my preference) to visit [Jason Schuringa] in the hospital if these facts turn out to be true?  Passengers are the last and most effective line of defense in cases like this.  But the incentives to sit tight are still great.  We need to honor the heroes who react quickly to thwart attacks in the air.

Christmas -A Reminder of the Spiritual Side of the Art

Posted in Commentary, Masters and History with tags , , , , on December 25, 2009 by bigstickcombat

GM Ramiro Estalilla

GM Estalilla’s father fought against the Japanese in WWII. His unit had two Bibles with them, one in English and the other in Ilocano. They left the Ilocano Bible untouched because it was their first language, but eventually wound up using pages from the English Bible for cigarette papers.

The elder Estalilla had left for battle an agnostic, but returned as a Christian. He explained, “Son, there are no atheists in the foxholes.”

There is a good reason why there should be a spiritual component to the martial arts, and all of my Filipino teachers are devout Christians. GM Maranga said to me one day after training, “Forget about me, forget everything I’ve taught you, but never forget God.”

GM Drigo Maranga

The spiritual component of the art, rather than draw warriors away from reality, in actuality grounds them in reality –that they are human, and therefore mortal.

Too many martial artists use the arts to fuel fantasies, such as fighting bare handed against six men with swords and emerging unscathed.

The fantasy martial artists imagine that they are the world’s deadliest man. I’m reminded of the psychiatrist who had several patients in a mental hospital, each of whom thought he was Jesus. The psychiatrist had the idea that he would put all three into the same room, and that in time they would realize, “Hey, wait a minute, we can’t all be Jesus, I must be delusional.”

The psychiatrist was disappointed when each man told him, “I’m the real Jesus, those other two guys are imposters.” That’s the situation we have today, with hundreds of fantasy martial artists each claiming to be the world’s deadliest.

Not only does the fantasy martial artist need to delude himself about his invulnerability, but also needs to puff himself up above other “lesser” martial artists. The result is a proliferation of outlandish costumes and ever more grandiose titles. Acknowledging the debt he owes to his teacher(s) implies that there is someone greater or better than he is, so he is compelled to invent his own style and to pretend that he never had any teachers, or that he has surpassed those who were practicing the art before he was born.

I’m using the occasion of this holy day of Christmas to point out certain spiritual truths:

We are all human, and therefore mortal

We are not superior to anyone else

Regardless of our skill level, life and death (particularly when

weapons are involved), hangs by the most frail thread

Regardless of our skill level, we can learn from anyone, and anyone is

capable of defeating us in the right circumstances

Life is a fragile and therefore precious thing

In the light of an all powerful God, we are compelled to be humble and to

respect others

God bless you all, and Merry Christmas

Maligayang Pasko (Tagalog)

Naragsak nga Paskua (Ilocano)

Maayong Pasko (Bisaya)

Feliz Navidad