Archive for January, 2010

Are Bayonets Obsolete?

Posted in Commentary, Princples and Theory, Technique, Weapons with tags , , , on January 31, 2010 by bigstickcombat

WWII Marines Training

Recently there has been a debate in the army whether or not to continue bayonet training.

As I see it, there are two reasons for bayonet training:

  1. Developing a warrior mindset
  2. Actual combat

Remember what I said about the big stick developing a mindset of crushing power? Each weapon has its own characteristics, and rather than try to make the weapon an extension of yourself, the proper goal is for you to become an extension of the weapon. A soldier with a bayonet takes on characteristics of aggression, relentless forward movement (a bayonet is not an evasive or retreating weapon), intimidation, and ferocity. Several have argued in favor of keeping the bayonet for just these reasons.

But believe it or not, the bayonet is still used in combat. Often you will encounter the sloppy thinker who argues that because guns exist in the world, that empty hand and armed self-defense are therefore useless. One counter to this lazy argument is that even on the modern battlefield, it still comes down to knives and bare hands. For example, the British successfully used a bayonet charge in the Falklands Islands war. One military officer pointed out that in house-to-house combat of the sort the US armed forces have seen in Iraq, that the ability to use bayonet techniques in a house-clearing scenario could be the difference between life and death, –not to mention the added intimidation factor.

In May 2004 British soldiers in the Iraqui city of Basra were ambushed on the road by a numerically superior force. When they found themselves running out of ammunition, the order was given to fix bayonets, and they charged 600 feet across open ground and into the teeth of a surprised bunch of terrorists. The British troops killed more than 20 terrorists without any significant casualties of their own!

By the way, when I first trained with the long stick, I was taught to hold the stick in staff grip, with both hands down, which is what the vast majority of those using the long stick do. However, GM Maranga opened my eyes to the advantages of rifle grip, in which you grip the stick like a rifle, with one hand palm up and the other palm down. This means that the transition to bayonet techniques is seamless. (I’m not going to pretend that Big Stick Combat applies to every weapon and unarmed situation, but in this case there is a clear transition.)

Bayonet techniques are not just applicable to rifles, but to weapons like the umbrella. You will be much effective thrusting with the umbrella rather than swinging it like a stick. A fireplace poker would also be effective with bayonet techniques.

The late GM Giron fought with a machete against a Japanese bayonet charge in WWII. I remember him saying that a counter to the bayonet was to force the point downward, because if the opponent’s blade got caught in the ground, that would give an edge in defeating him.

Army Combatives Bayonet Series

Read the army combatives manual on the bayonet and other weapons here.


Eddie Van Halen, Martial Artist

Posted in Commentary, Weapons with tags , , , , on January 30, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Eddie VanHalen with "Frankenstein"

I remember how shocked I was when I read in an interview how rock star Eddie Van Halen grabbed his guitars (guitars that he had built by hand) and threw them into the bed of his pickup truck. The writer noted how Eddie threw his uncovered guitars as casually as he might have tossed a shovel.

I was stunned when I read the interview because I have only one guitar that I treat with great care like a holy object. While many guitarists buy guitars with fancy walnut veneers and glossy finishes, then polish them constantly, Eddie’s guitars have cigarette burns and tape on them.
And here is the lesson for martial artists. Too many martial artists view their weapons not as tools, but as treasures. GM Vasquez of Modified Tapado points out how some Filipino martial artists have heirloom sticks that are passed down from generation to generation. But Tapado stylists view sticks as disposable, and when they break a stick in training (as often happens) they casually reach for another. A Tapado stick is a tree limb with the bark still on it. People who see Tapado training are surprised at the power of a weapon that looks like “an old man’s walking stick.”
But we martial artists are attracted to nice looking weapons, weapons that are shiny, new, and look intimidating. I plead guilty to owning a long stick made out of different colors and types of exotic hardwoods. It’s a beautiful stick polished to a high gloss. But what we should keep in mind is that a weapon is a tool designed to crush an opponent.

Eddie's Guitar Close Up: Not Pretty

We must not let our attraction to beauty make us neglect simple, functional weapons. We are better off using crude, inexpensive weapons designed to get the job done, and banging them up in practice. If we choose weapons that look good (rather than fight well) and are hesitant to use them roughly in practice out of fear of marring their beauty, we may come up short when our lives are on the line.

Poser of the Week

Posted in Commentary, Poser of the Week with tags , , on January 29, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Candy Cane of Death

Supreme Tahong Fred Deutschenschlorfer announces an upcoming seminar in Hershey, Pennsylvania on the lethal art of Barquillo ng Kamatayan (Candy Cane of Death).

In a recent interview, Supreme Tahong Deutschenschlorfer pointed out that if he is attacked by a diabetic, repeated strikes to the mouth with the malaking barquillo (“big candy cane” in Tagalog) can cause his opponent to lapse into a diabetic coma.

The art originated with Filipino elves at the North Pole, who trained with readily available candy canes. Supreme Tahong Deutschenschlorfer’s uniform represents Santa Claus.

In his seminar, Supreme Tahong Deutschenschlorfer will also teach medyas at baga, a traditional arctic weapon featuring a lump of coal in a sock.

What the Hell Is Kali?

Posted in Commentary, Masters and History, Origins, Other Stick Methods with tags , , , , , , , on January 28, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I’m about to get controversial. There has been a rash of people using the term “kali,” which was popularized by Master Dan Inosanto. As far as I can tell, the Ilustrisimo group were the first and only people to use the term “kali,” and of course Master Inosanto is a part of that group.

Kali has become something of a fad, because I suppose it sounds hip and cutting edge, while terms like “arnis” and “eskrima” sound like old school stuff practiced by old codgers. Some have alleged that kali is the “mother art,” (which according to Inosanto originated with Muslims in the southern Philippines) and have implied that other arts are watered down, pale imitations of the “real kali.”

I should point out that the old masters, like GM Giron, GM Estalilla, GM Cabales, GM Presas, etc. did not use the term kali. My teacher, GM Estalilla, a highly literate man who was on a Filipino Bible translation team and who speaks several different Filipino languages, could only hazard a guess as to what the word “kali” might mean. Since GM Estalilla doesn’t use profanity, other, more blunt masters might ask, “What the hell is ‘kali’?” And we are talking about the who’s who of Filipino grandmasters.

Ned Nepangue rightly points out,

“Fact #9 The suggestion that kali is the root word of some words found in different Filipino languages and dialects is not based on linguistics, in fact a study on this claim is yet to be made.

Important pre-Hispanic household words like diwata, Bathala, datu, ulipon are still understood by many and this same is also true with words associated with the warriors, like bangkaw, baraw, tameng. So what is supposed to be the ancient name for the Filipino martial art? Kali? If it is kali then, why don’t we find this word in dictionaries of the different Filipino languages and dialects? In fact this particular word was just “re-introduced” years ago. Kali is never a traditional name for the native martial art. If one goes to a secluded place in Cebu for example and ask those eskrima old-timers there if they know what is kali, the will probably say they don’t know. And these people are supposed to know better.

Bontoc Igorot. No Kali Here.

The most compelling explanation I have heard of the origin of the Filipino martial arts is from the Cebu Eskrima Society. Find the book here. In short, they argue that eskrima originated with Spaniards in the Spanish colonial era of the Philippines. Due to persistent Muslim (Moro) raids, the Spaniards raised a Filipino expeditionary force and trained them in swordsmanship and hand-to-hand combat. Rather than being originated by Muslims, the Filipino martial arts originated in a group of Filipino warriors who raided Muslim areas of Mindanao and waged a bloody war of retaliation and deterrence.

Now there’s nothing wrong with calling your art “kali.” The Ilustrisimo people rightly have a high reputation among Filipino martial artists. You can call your art “hubu bubu” if you want to.

My problem is with those who want to suggest that those who don’t do “kali” aren’t practicing the real thing. My problem is with those who want to jump on the kali bandwagon not because they have historically called their art kali, but because they’re making crap up to cash in on the latest fad. My problem is with those who don’t know better, who are looking for a good kali school and dismiss anybody who uses the terms “arnis” or “eskrima.”

The Hidden Knife -SEAMOK

Posted in American Arts, Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Weapons with tags , , , on January 27, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Amo Guro Michael Blackgrave, Note the Hidden Knife.

I’m really pleased to get to know the SEAMOK crew. I must admit that I was put off by their logo, with the vivid tattoo skull, but at its core the group strikes me as rock solid. Visit them on my links. By the way, SEAMOK is an acronym for Simple, Effective, Aggressive, Methods Of Kombate. We are on the same page.

I’d like to share with you a snippet of their knife thinking, from Amo Guro Michael Blackgrave:

“A lot of systems teach to go up the middle and get into the gut of the situation. I teach the opposite…I try to avoid a center-line engagement preferring to cut and angle and slash….De’Cadena (chaining) with slashes and a few pops to vital areas. This not only keeps me from getting caught up in an inside game tussle where I can and probably will receive serious injury, it also keeps me in play with freedom of vision and movement to scope for potential multiple opponents. It is much easier to engage when the freedom of movement isn’t impinged by being confined to tight quarters (the inside). This also allows me to slash and pop and get the hell out of Dodge!” Amo Guro Michael Blackgrave

I can’t tell you how many styles are hell bent to get right inside the opponent, eyebrow to eyebrow, and duke it out. They are oh-so-confident that they can wade right into the teeth of an opponent’s attack–with a knife!– and emerge unscathed. Reason cannot penetrate these people, because they are so convinced of their ability to trade shot for shot (of course, in their telling of it, they will completely dominate the opponent so that not even a single shot will land).

Let us just say for the sake of argument that I can go inside an opponent, chest to chest, and totally control him, so that he cannot knee me, elbow me, bite me, headbutt me, grapple me, spit on me, or kick me, all at contact range. What about his homies behind me?

Amo Guro Blackgrave’s strategy (and mine) is the logical strategy:

  • Don’t go inside.

  • Don’t trade shots.

  • Given any sort of choice, hit and run.

  • Hit and zone to the outside, while looking for his gangbanger buddies.

  • If you don’t think he’ll be deterred by the sight of a knife, don’t let him see your knife until it’s too late.

Seeing the Unseen -Anticipating the Opponent

Posted in Princples and Theory, Real Life Combat with tags , on January 26, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Look Out for the Small Guy

I am a school teacher, and I’ve become very good at knowing when students are using cellphones, even though I can’t see them. From the student’s eyes, and the position of his hand and arm, I know that there’s a cellphone under the desk, or on the other side of his leg, even though the cellphone is hidden from my view.

One magician was performing one on one, dressed in a t-shirt, sandals and swim trunks, when he vanished a coin. The spectator replied, “I didn’t see you do it, and I don’t know how you got it there, but the coin has to be under your watch.” He was right.

In the martial arts and in street self-defense you can develop the ability to detect the opponent’s weapon or strategy, even when it isn’t visible. Let me give you some examples, beginning with one from the other day’s post:

  1. A gangster is sitting on one heel, with the other foot on the ground. He is making threatening statements, but since he’s crouching, and you’re towering over him, what could go wrong?
  2. A drug dealer is confronted by a smaller opponent. Because the short guy is wearing tight pants and a mesh shirt, he isn’t carrying a gun. No threat, right?
  3. A friend of mine who was a varsity lineman faces off against a short, skinny guy. The runt has his hands in his pockets. No danger here.

A Street Fight About to Go Down

In scenario number 1, the gangster is hard to hit, because you have to bend over. He’s hard to kick because he is a small target, and his arms and lead leg screen his body and head. His move will be to lunge into a tackle. If you are a cop with a gun, you are now in a struggle for your life, especially if you got overconfident and came in too close.

In scenario number 2, this was a real-life incident. What the drug dealer didn’t know was that his rival had a 9mm automatic at the small of his back. Lulled into complacency by the mesh shirt (“If he had a gun, I’d see it.”), the drug dealer was shot on the order of 8-12 times, and barely survived the shooting.

Scenario number 3 happened to a friend of mine in high school. Once again, he saw the tiny guy with his hands in his pockets, and thought, “No danger here.” I have to admit that my first guess would be that the guy is actually holding a weapon in his pocket, such as a folding knife, a gun, brass knuckles, or a roll of quarters, that he can pull out in an instant.

What actually happened was that the short guy launched a kick right at my friend’s groin, catching him completely off guard. Then he followed with several more kicks to the groin, then topped it all off with punches. My big, strong football-playing friend was beaten by a runt. I don’t even think my friend was able to throw a single punch.

What happened in each scenario was that one person got overconfident, and underestimated an opponent who seemed weak and non-threatening. Each person failed to see the obvious –although hidden– strategy his opponent was about to employ.

Learn to read the signs. Could that cup of coffee be thrown in your face? Could that cigarette be flicked at your eyes? What is behind the coat that’s draped over his arm? Is there a weight or razor blades fastened to his baseball cap that he’s gripping? He’s calling you out –Does he have gangbanger buddies you can’t see waiting to jump in?

“Bring the Wood”

Posted in Commentary, Princples and Theory with tags , , , on January 25, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Reggie Bush with Baseball Bat

Why would a football coach give each of his players a baseball bat?

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton gave each member of his team a baseball bat with the inscription “Bring the Wood” on it. This may seem crazy –I mean, what does a baseball bat have to do with football?

Payton’s idea was to fire up his team in their playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. The results were spectacular.

  • One newspaper reported, “The New Orleans Saints found the ‘on’ switch.”
  • Not only were the Saints healthy, but they were so fired up to play a meaningful game for the first time in three weeks that everybody on the field looked as if he was shot out of a cannon…”
  • More than anyone on the field, it looked like Bush couldn’t wait to break out of the starting gate once the playoffs had finally arrived.
  • [Reggie Bush] sprinted past honorary captain Deuce McAllister after the team was introduced, holding a baseball bat with the inscription “Bring the Wood” that Payton had handed out to all the players Friday. Then he stayed out on the field, bat in hand, firing up the kickoff coverage team before the opening kickoff.
  • “These types of games are the games you live for. As a competitor, as an athlete, this is what you work for through the offseason, training camp, the preseason, ” said Bush, who showed as much toughness as he did speed Saturday, fighting for first downs on short gains and lowering his shoulder into defenders. He finished with 84 yards on five rushes and 24 yards on four receptions, plus 109 yards on three punt returns.
  • The Saints’ defense brought the wood, too.”
  • McAllister was supposed to lead the Saints out of the tunnel and onto the field. Instead, it was Reggie Bush, once and now again his teammate, holding a black baseball bat, with the words inscribed, “Bring The Wood.”
  • The Saints brought the wood, all right. They crushed the Arizona Cardinals, beating them up and down the field in a 45-14 rout that sends the Saints to the NFC championship game for just the second time in the franchise’s 43-year history.

    Reggie Bush ready to "bring the wood"

Why would giving baseball bats to football players be effective?

The baseball bat embodies and inspires a mentality of crushing power.

You’ve heard me say this before, but if Payton had handed out 28 inch rattan sticks (or even hardwood sticks), the ploy would have fallen flat, and resulted in zero inspiration.

This is why it is important not to view the weapon as an extension of the hand; each weapon has its own unique characteristics, its own spirit. A fighter who grasps the essence of the rapier will fight differently than someone who is attuned to the baseball bat. Picking up the baseball bat is not just a matter of swinging a bigger stick, even though I have seen some treat the big stick as just that, a short stick, only longer.

In reality, the bat and the big stick guide the warrior toward power, toward simplicity, toward a sense of overwhelming power. It is a matter not of hitting, but of crushing. It is a concept that spills over into all other areas of contending, so whether you are swinging a bat, or punching, or playing football, you “bring the wood.”