I’ve been pleased to make the acquaintance of Guro Michael Pana of Atienza Eskrima, who e-mailed me in response to my Buford Pusser “Walking Tall” post.
At first I was puzzled by the name because I was familiar with Atienza Kali. It turns out that the Atienza group have two systems: Atienza Eskrima, which features the use of sticks, and Atienza Kali, which features the use of blades.
If you visit their site, AtienzaEskrima.com, you can see them training with baseball bats (See here). So Guro Pana and I were both surprised to see someone else who believes in big sticks (or clubs), of greater length and weight than the typical FMA stick.
Guro Pana’s teacher, Tuhon Carl Atienza, favors longer, heavier weapons also. I was familiar with Atienza Kali because I have seen the video (at 2:45) with Tuhon Carl using the “AK 37,” a thirty-seven inch blade. If you watch that clip, I can tell you it is the real deal. Although it is a blade, Tuhon Carl’s long blade moves just like the big stick in the hands of masters like GM Giron and GM Estalilla. “All my defensive maneuvers are attacks, not blocks,” in Tuhon Atienza’s words.
The big stick, like the AK 37, is elusive. Rather than meet, it merges, so that your strike hits only air, and you’re cut, but you don’t know how. The true long stick is one step ahead of you, so that you’re trying to hit and block, but you’re playing catch up. The big stick is like a ghost that your stick seems to pass through as if it were a shadow.
I was surprised when Guro Pana (a Filipino) told me how Filipinos prefer heavier weapons (i.e. clubs) to the light rattan sticks. In his words, “What many FMA practitioners do not realize is that traditionally, longer and heavier sticks were preferred by Filipino warriors for real-world combat.” This is especially true of those who have seen combat. I have seen masters who train with rattan, but whose combat sticks are much heavier and have handles (like baseball bats and clubs do).