One of the most common, trite, and downright aggravating clichés in the martial arts is the phrase, “the weapon is (just) an extension of the hand.” This is supposed to mean that you just punch or kick as you always do, and the weapon enhances your “natural” movements. I must emphatically disagree.

One martial artist, posting online as “Tellner,” put it very well when he responded to “Weapons are an extension of your hand”:

They are not. Weapons are an extension of your will. Every weapon has physical characteristics which demand changes in the way you move. Anything with length changes your range. Anything you hold in your hand adds an extra joint. A blade changes everything because you do not have to hit hard or repeatedly to cause fatal damage. The kind of damage you cause and the way you move to inflict it by stabbing is different than cutting, and both are different than blunt trauma.

The absolute worst weapons players [martial artists] I’ve met are the ones who say that “the weapon is just an extension of the hand”. They don’t understand the differences. Because they think they know it all it’s nearly impossible to break them of the bad habits they can’t believe they have.

In other words, instead of thinking of the weapon as amplifying your abilities, you should consider the qualities of the weapon you are using. For example, if you try to stab with a baseball bat, try to swing a knife with two hands, or attempt to slash with a foil (which has a point but no cutting edge), you will be ineffective. This is the problem with stick fighters who want to use the stick to apply locks or to throw, –the stick is a hitting weapon, not a wrestling weapon.

Learning to Get Comfortable with the Big Stick

When I first picked up the big stick, it felt very uncomfortable. At the time I was studying the Filipino style of Serrada, which uses a very short (19-20 inches) and light stick. I once heard the late GM Giron refer to the Serrada stick as a “chopstick”!

Eventually, though, it occurred to me and my training partner that the keys to the big stick were reach and flow. Instead of short, tight movements, like fighting in a phone booth, the long stick is ideal for fighting in an open field. I learned to “open up” and extend my arm to get the greatest reach.

Another key to the long stick is flow. Because a true long stick is also heavier, you cannot start and stop it with wrist and forearm movement alone. You must control the long stick with your whole body, by letting it flow, by moving with the momentum of the stick, and stepping to let it whip around. Rather than stop a strike, you learn to redirect it in a continuous arc.

A good idea is to go for a walk regularly and carry your stick with you. Practice swinging and hitting with it. Not only is this good exercise, but in time you will get comfortable with the big stick. Rather than seeing the stick as an extension of your puny hand, you become an extension of the powerful stick.



  1. that’s funny! you used “chopstick” too! look at the comment i just put in your last article.

    people have to understand, that a weapon is a weapon, a blade is a blade, and thats it. a stick is a stick and a punch is a punch. too much theory in the arts, so they dont have no idea how to kick somebodys ass with those weapons. and they are afraid of sparring, even light sparring. i know you cant spar with some weapons in a realistic way, but they have to do something. so instead of doing some kinds of sparring, people just talk against it and go back to holding hands in those seminars and taking pictures and smiling and listing resumes on the website.

  2. I know I’m responding a two year outdated post, but if you’re opinion is still the same I would mind offering a counter outlook. I’ve been training in Serrada since last march under manongs Sergie Albino and Eric Magie, who both come from the Tacosa lineage, and the emphasis we’re taught is that the “extension” is with “modification” and is imparted for instructional purposes only. I’ve found that I innately handle a blade or knife different from an impact weapon unless I consciously treat the stick as a blade.

    I think the misconception that the weapon is merely an extension of the hand is that many players don’t understand that the theory is applied so that one doesn’t completely abandon their training whenever they pick up a new item. We spend a considerable amount of time learning the minute changes of weapon to weapon (from stick to knife to improv such as pens, to empty hand) while still remembering that out angles of attack are more or less similar.

    • *three year outdated lol.

    • Sean,

      I’ll eventually move all these posts to the new blog.

      But when you say “extension” and “modification” it says to me that we are in agreement –that you can’t just “hit” with the screwdriver, baseball bat,knife, or beer bottle, but that the strike must be modified to take into account the particular qualities of the weapon.

      “Don’t completely abandon the training.” Good point. So that overhand right strike (#1) is similar from weapon to weapon to empty hand, but still must be modified.

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