Stick versus Club
If you study the Filipino martial arts, you are used to wielding a stick or a machete, and have probably never considered a club as a weapon. You should.
First of all, let us look at the difference between a stick and a club. A stick is generally a long tube, a cylinder that is the same diameter from one end to the other. The rattan training stick of most Filipino martial arts is a classic stick, in that you can grip either end and wield the stick effectively.
On the other hand, a club is heavier than a stick. It is typically larger in diameter (Think of the old style policeman’s billy club). A club is also what I call a weight forward weapon, in which one end is heavier than the other. Examples of weight forward weapons are the baseball bat, in which the far end is larger and heavier than the grip end, and the shillelagh, with the heavier knob end. The shillelagh-type of weapon is a natural weapon found in many cultures, in which the root of a tree forms the weighted knob end of a combat club.
Which is the Better Weapon, the Stick or the Club?
For many martial artists, you may never have considered this question. Although I trained with very short sticks in Serrada, medium sticks in Combat Eskrima Maranga, long heavy sticks in Kabaroan, and a short staff in Tapado, I always trained with a stick. A stick is easier to whip around with the wrist and forearm in the abaniko or witik strikes of the short stick styles –a heavy club isn’t suitable for those strikes.
In Kabaroan, the walking length stick can be switched from hand to hand, and from grip to grip. GM Estalilla switches from one handed grip to staff grip, and will often change grips to wield the stick left-handed. Japanese hanbo styles use similar techniques, sliding the hands along the shaft of the 36 inch length stick, varying the grip and the striking end. These techniques just aren’t practical with a baseball bat, for example.
An interesting variation of the stick is the short staff of Tapado, which reaches from the ground to the height of the practitioner’s armpit. The Tapado short staff is made from a branch of the kalamansi (Filipino lime) or coffee tree. The stick is thicker at the handle end and tapers slightly at the striking end. This makes for a stick that is faster and cuts deeply when it hits.
The advantage of the club is that it hits harder. The weight forward design of the baseball bat means that it hits harder than a bat or a stick of a uniform diameter from one end to the other. The club is more powerful than a stick.
While a club is clumsier when gripped by the heavy end, and doesn’t lend itself to grip changes, you really have to ask yourself if the ability to change grips is really worth the corresponding loss in power. In Big Stick Combat I have just three grips, and these grips are perfectly suited for use with a club, such as a baseball bat.
A problem you may have never thought about is that most impromptu, emergency weapons such as a baseball bat, hammer, flashlight, oar, etc., are actually clubs, with one end that is decidedly heavier than the other. If all of your training is with sticks, you may not be adequately prepared to use a club as a weapon.