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.