Stick Art or Blade Art?

It’s a Stick, Not a Sword. Many Filipino martial artists have blade awareness, in which they are able to view a stick like a sword, and intuitively know where the blade edge would be. They also don’t use certain blocking or checking techniques if they can’t be applied to a bladed weapon. For instance, some Filipino stylists won’t grip the stick like a rifle or a staff because you can’t do that with a sword.

Limiting the stick to sword techniques may make sense in the Philippines, where machetes are common, everyday tools. I have been surprised to see Filipinos walking along the road nonchalantly wearing a machete at the hip, or using a machete to chop firewood in downtown Cebu City. However, in the United States you’re far more likely to be attacked by a thug with a baseball bat than a hoodlum with a samurai sword. Treat the long stick (or any stick) as a stick, not a sword.

Before I trained in Modified Tapado with GM Mike Vasquez, I met a Tapado teacher who asked my about my style, Kabaroan. I explained that the root of the style is in sword technique. I know that both GM Estalilla and GM Giron were very much blade aware.

I remember an earlier discussion of what makes an FMA an FMA. I would say that one hallmark shared by most Filipino styles is blade awareness or blade consciousness.

So I was surprised when the Tapado teacher said that you should treat a stick as a stick. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was saying. But as I thought about it I realized that by embracing the long stick as a stick, I use the techniques that are unique to the weapon. If I treated the stick as a sword, I would limit my techniques, but at the same time I really wouldn’t be wielding the big stick in the most effective manner.

Try wielding the nunchaku as a blade, or understanding the chain in light of stick principles, and you will be lousy with those weapons.

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