Archive for the Other Stick Methods Category

DeCuerdas Eskrima: GM Tenio and Master Eliab

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods with tags , , , , on November 15, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Grandmaster Tenio of DeCuerdas Eskrima

I read an article on GM Tenio and Master Eliab in the latest Filipino Martial Arts journal.

I was privileged to meet these two gentlemen in the early 90’s. The two of them drove from Stockton to Fresno to train me and my friend and training partner Ryan Osborne. They asked for nothing, but showed up to teach.

And teach they did. GM Tenio demonstrated pressure points on Ryan, who repeatedly dropped like a rock. The pain was so intense that Ryan literally threw himself to the ground. I’m glad I was the one watching.

The two masters then demonstrated DeCuerdas technique. It was very direct and economical. A key idea I learned from them, and it’s influenced my thinking ever since, is to keep the stick in an upright orientation. I had previously studied eskrima styles in which the stick sometimes pointed up and then pointed down, alternating constantly.

A constant upright orientation of the stick cuts down on needless movement. This was later reinforced when I studied with GM Maranga. Keeping the stick upright also is a strong defense against stick disarms, and anytime you drop the tip of the stick downward you leave yourself vulnerable to a disarm.

We trained all day that Saturday, and then we invited the men in to eat. When I referred to Master Eliab as “Master,” he disclaimed the title and denied he was a master. I was impressed by his humility. 

Master Eliab of DeCuerdas Eskrima

I had put a couple of slices of Filipino hot peppers (sili labuyo) into the homemade pickles to spice them up. I warned Master Eliab as he was about to bite into one, and we all had a laugh as his face turned red and he gasped. I told him they were hot!

We gave the two gentlemen some money to try to compensate them for their time and the teaching they had shared with us. They were surprised and grateful.

I never saw them again. But these two masters were class acts and I’m thankful that they so generously shared their art with me and my friend.


The Hawaiian Martial Arts

Posted in Other Stick Methods with tags , , , on November 6, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Go Broncos!

The Boise State Broncos play the Hawaii Warriors today, which brings me to the subject of the Hawaiian martial arts.

As a kid I read in National Geographic magazine about the wars of ancient Hawaii, which were extremely brutal. The Hawaiians didn’t have metal, so they made “swords” and cutting weapons by embedding sharks’ teeth into wooden weapons, usually clubs.

Hawaiian War Club with Shark's Teeth Edge

The following appears at

One of the most interesting early arms of Hawaii is the shark toothed club. Although this name is some what a misnomer, due to the fact that the shark toothed weapons were used for slashing weapons. A round weapon may have 30 or more shark teeth around the edges, other varieties featured as few as 3 in a claw shape. Shark tooth also a proffered weapon of ancient Hawaiian nobles. Many weapons were hooked to grab limbs.

Short spears and stone clubs made up the bulk of Hawaiian close melee weapons. Short spears were not larger at the base like the longer pikes. Stone clubs were in fact stone maces, similar to European designs.

Hawaiian weapons also included wooden tripping weapons, or pikoi, which had long cords attached to variously shaped club-like heads with or without handles. The weighted part of the rope was thrown at an opponent’s legs to trip him, and then another weapon, perhaps a stone hand club shaped like today’s hand-held weights with bulbous ends and a slimmer connecting section to grasp, would be used to finish off the tripped enemy. 

Ancient Hawaiian Weapons

Daggers were unique to Hawaii amongst the polynesian islands. Five kinds of daggers were written about by early explorers. They were the heavy truncheon dagger with a hole in the handle for a loop made of olona fiber to be attached, long-bladed daggers, shark-tooth or marlin bladed daggers , bludgeon daggers and curved bladed daggers. Captain James Cook wrote about them himself: “They have a sort of weapon which we had never seen before, and not mentioned by any navigator, as used by the natives of the South Sea. It was somewhat like a dagger; in general, about a foot and a half long, sharpened at one or both ends, and secured to the hand by a string. Its use is to stab in close fight; and it seems well adapted to the purpose. Some of these may be called double daggers, having a handle in the middle with which they are better enabled to strike both ways.”

The ancient Hawaiian martial art is Lua. See the video here.

Maori Weapon: The Taiaha

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Weapons with tags , , , , on October 28, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Warrior with Taiaha

Reader Max posted the following story:

Bayonet versus Taiaha

“The old Maori weapon, the taiaha can be deadly when wielded by an expert. This was proved in a taiaha and rifle and bayonet duel at a small arms weapon training school at Maadi, the Middle East, in 1943. The school was an important centre in which soldiers of the 8th Army were given an intensive training course in every infantry weapon, from revolvers to bayonets. In this particular course there were Americans, Free French, English, New Zealanders, Cypriots, and Canadians.

In one of the bayonet fighting sessions, Major Don Steward, a New Zealander, remarked to his hard-bitten instructors: “This is quite a weapon, I only know of one to beat it!”

“What’s that?”Asked the instructor.

“The Maori taiaha.”

“What the hell is that?”

“A fire-hardened wooden stave and fending spear, “replied Stewart.

Derision and scorn followed this remark, which stung the Maori to the quick. As a result, he offered to prove his point. Immediately bets were offered at great odds that the man with a Maori weapon would be dead within seconds against an expert with a rifle-mounted bayonet.

The Maori champion, Lieut. Aubrey Te Rama-Apakura Rota, luckily had one with him. Rota was warned that he would have to take full risk of being wounded or worse, and that the incident was to be officially regarded as an exercise in the combat school, where ‘accidents ‘were fairly frequent. There would be no holds barred on either side.


Stripping off his tunic, the young Maori stood facing the grinning ‘modern soldier ‘in much the same way his forebears had faced the British redcoats a century before.

The signal to start was given. The soldier lunged in and thrust in perfect precision, but each move was parried by the light-footed Maori who bided his time and stood on the defensive. Failing to penetrate the Maoris’ guard, the other soldier grew increasingly angry as thrust after thrust was tossed aside by the stout wooden weapon. Sometimes it was repelled with such violence that the European soldier was flung sideways.

Finally, he crouched and charged in directly at the Maoris’ midriff. This was Rota’s chance. Grasping his weapon firmly, he sidestepped, tipped aside the blind thrust, and caught the lunging figure a smart uppercut in the stomach with the bladed end of the taiaha. In a flash he whirled the weapon about, to crash the business-end on top of his opponent’s skull. Down he went, to be out of action for some days in the camp hospital—another regrettable accident from the small arms school.

The effect on those present was profound. Money changed hands at great odds, as the jubilant minority collected. The story was repeated with almost unbelievable astonishment throughout the Middle East.”

According to Wikipedia,

A Taiaha (pronounced [taiaha]) is a traditional weapon of the Māori of New Zealand. Usually between 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 m) in length, it is a wooden close quarters weapon used for short sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts. It has three main parts: the arero (tongue), used for stabbing the opponent and parrying, the upoko (head), the base from which the tongue protrudes, and the ate (liver), the long flat blade which is also used for striking and parrying. The New Zealand Army includes an image of a taiaha into its official badge.

Maori Warriors with the Taiaha

The taiaha has appeared on TV.  In the TV series, Deadliest Warrior, the Taiaha is one of the Māori Warrior’s weapons. It was tested against the Shaolin Monk‘s Staff. It impressed the experts as it could break cow spines (which is three times thicker than a human spine) and it was given the edge. It accounted for 151 kills for the Māori Warrior’s 308 kills in 1000 battles.

This weapon brings up the question of what is the ideal weapon. The taiaha resembles the short staff of Tapado, only with an added point. The question is, will a short staff wielded with two hands like a baseball bat be more effective than a weapon wielded like a staff? Or will the ideal weapon art use both techniques, depending on the situation?



Sayoc Kali and Stick Grappling

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Resources and Product Reviews with tags , , , on October 24, 2010 by bigstickcombat

The folks at Sayoc Kali have a DVD on stick grappling available here.

The sales copy makes several thought-provoking points, inspired by heavy contact sparring:

1) Rattan Lacks Stopping Power

It takes several HARD, CLEAN shots to the head before one gets KOd by a light rattan stick. Especially, if the opponent doesn’t want to get hit. That’s a FACT. The first shot can end the fight due to a cut or just unwillingness (tolerance) to take the pain, but there were no one shot KOs from a solo stick shot. Some fights went several shots before submission, no KOs. A stick has as much power as a kick or punch – the difference is that the stick doesn’t break like a hand would from impact, but it does NOT hit the head/jaw at the angles a limb shot can induce a KO with.

2) Corto (Close) Range, Is the Most Deadly –to the Practitioner! Padding, Helmets, and Armor Have Concealed This Fact

“FACT: All things equal, the most dangerous stick striking zone is CORTO.
Many people train in corto range but are misinformed in the zoning realities of utilizing corto. Corto Range is the mid range in which full power impact strikes can be exchanged within the reactionary gap of your opponent. The myth is that one stays in and finishes their opponent by exchanging counter for counter strikes as they flow beautifully.

What pushes this myth along are people wearing headgear staying within the contact zone too long and receive TOO MANY impact shots to their head than they would like if it was real. So they stay in and get clocked. In a real fight between trained combatants, they will not engage the fight this way. All things change when you KNOW your own head can get hit. No one acts like a stick robot anymore. Once they get hit hard they submit or close. They do not trade shots at full power, because the body doesn’t work that way. You need to pad up to get that type of incorrect reaction from BOTH parties.”

3) Because of the Danger (i.e. Punishment) at Corto Range, Fighters Either Move In to Grappling Range or Out to Long (Largo) Range.

“Guess what happens? People stay at safer long or grappling range.

No one stays in the corto range.
Corto is the mutual aggressive space and can no longer guarantee you will see a shot coming in time to counter it.

However, after several shots to the hands or close calls to the head, the long range fighters realize there’s no advantage in staying out there. Conditioning and stamina become factors. If BOTH fighters stay at long range, there won’t get a KO, because it isn’t a blade. They merely get nicked here and there. Only when you get a fighter who can’t stand the hand hits anymore do you ever get a submission at long range (BOTH fighters staying outside). So they close to corto or grappling range.”

4) Corto Range Is Dangerous.

“The best reason to evade corto range, you are open to all the other limb strikes, take downs, and stick strikes at power arcs as well. The students reassess their timing and conditioned responses. So when two people good at corto range fight, the fastest way to win is to close by baiting corto and taking them down.

If the takedown fails you are BACK in corto range so do not try to stay in grappling mode and try again. Even if you think you are attempting another takedown… You cover/clear and escape to largo as FAST as possible. At any time you are in corto and you are NOT the one making the ONLY contact (before and after the strike) that means your tactic is flawed and you need to close or evade.

Body shifting is excellent for ONE counter as you make impact. If you do not make impact and maintain corto, the highest probability is that a stick fighter with grappling skills will gain guard, sweep or do a takedown. When one is swinging with power it is tougher to evade a takedown. When you reset the range away from corto, and the grappler attempts to do a takedown then THEY are in corto range.

Avoid the corto range unless you make the only impact strike, with equal corto skills you should flow to grappling or largo depending on how much better you are in those ranges against the other person.”

5) Smart Fighters Will Bait You (Feign a Strike, Typically High), to Enter and Grapple. If You Block and Strike, You Are Toast

“You HAVE to maintain PROPER RANGE to make the next shot count. The other guy KNOWs how to cover and CLOSE … FAST. They will come in swinging as well or at least make you respond to their attack… perhaps make you block before you counter. Enough time for them to enter your half beat timing and close. In Sayoc Kali it is called, “Keeping your opponent honest”.”

Going to the Ground Is a Poor Strategy

Posted in Commentary, Other Stick Methods, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I stumbled across the site of Don Rearic, who has a great post on reality, survival, and grappling. I’ve posted a large chunk of it here. There is a lot of interesting material on his site, which is well worth a visit.

Read the next-to-last paragraph for some interesting context on the old adage, “Most fights go to the ground.”


· While you may be able to control the person you are fighting, you cannot control the possibility that he will have a weapon you did not know he had until it is too late.

· While you may be able to control the person you are fighting, you cannot control the possibility or presence of multiple attackers, people other than him that might help him.

· While you may be able to control the person you are fighting, you may not be able to control the environment and who lands on what.

This will be incredibly unpopular with some people; I know that before I say it, yet I feel it has to be said. I know some people consider loyalty to system, style or teacher is paramount. I’m not trying to change you or even reach you. If you think what you are doing is the thing to do, by all means, do it. This is my opinion based on what I have observed. It is a warning to people getting involved in some systems and styles, people who are looking for a method of Self-protection.

Two more things to consider

1. Most people who are killed in streetfights by being punched in the face or head are not killed by the strike; their head impacting the ground kills them. I have observed this for a very long time in newspaper and other, local, news stories. I wish I had some online source to direct you to in order to “prove” it, but it is a reality that I have watched play out in the news time and time again.

2. In cases where multiple attackers are concerned and someone is beaten to the point they are in critical condition, or beaten to death, invariably, it ends up on the ground with the attackers kicking the person to death, etc. That being the case, the reality of the situation, why would you want to do half of the attacker’s job for them and favor the ground to begin with?

Going to ground is not an “advantage” on the street or Battlefield, this is where the clear difference is seen between Sporting and Combative.

This is where we see the Point of Demarcation between “Survival Arts” and “Sporting Arts.” The words, “Martial Arts” have been whored out to the point you don’t know what you are getting into anymore. It might be Sport, Spiritual, Cultural or Survival Oriented. Very few have several of the components at once, but they do exist.

So, to those that train to go to the ground to get some sort of “advantage” over an attacker because you think it is cool and you believe the hype, hey! You might just win! But what if you are fighting someone who does not play around? What happens when that folding knife, pocket screwdriver or boxcutter comes out that you never knew existed? It’s not going to be like sparring or a demo where everyone gathers around and they all know for the most part this is now shifting to the “Knife Defense” portion of class.

No, you’re going to feel it in most cases before you ever see it because smart, violent people don’t let you see anything, you’re already bleeding and maybe dying in some cases, before you even realize what happened. Understand that it is a myth that everyone will threaten you with a weapon before they use it on you. Especially if they are losing because you are more skilled than they are and you are actively beating them or humiliating them. Understand what I am saying, a common boxcutter that can be found everywhere, a little bit larger than a stick of chewing gum, can kill you. Understand, precisely, what I am saying…if you can feel your pulse, a boxcutter with intense pressure from the attacker, can sever that vessel. In general, if the pulse can be felt, you can cut the vessel with a very small but sharp knife.

Same thing holds true for the attacker having a concealed handgun that you did not know about. It is hard to get the “advantage” when you’re shot three times crossways through the thoracic cavity before you even knew what happened.

On the ground, you are vulnerable to weapons you did not know the attacker had to begin with. You are vulnerable to multiple attackers, the guy you are fighting, and he might have friends, relatives or associates that you don’t know about. Perhaps someone will just come up and kick you in that thick head of yours because they want to get a hit in and you’re there and you’re not supposed to be in that neighborhood. You know what I mean? There won’t be any opportunity for cool sporting movements when your head is punted like a juiced up NFL Player would boot the pigskin during the Super Bowl.

And, like it or not, even if you are crazy enough to say, “I’ll fight on broken glass!” Or perhaps you are nutty enough to claim; “I don’t care if you gouge one of my eyes out!” You’re not tracking properly on the concept of survival; you’re stuck in the game! Life is not a game, the street is not a game and the battlefield is not a game.

The Unforgiving Environment

I have been in areas where the ground was littered with used syringes, broken bottles of Night Train and Mad Dog 20/20, busted chunks of brick and cinderblock. Shattered and discarded heavy lumber with and without nails sticking out of it, used car parts like intake manifolds, water pumps and transmissions. All sorts of sharp, jagged and dangerous objects.

Fire Hydrants, curbs, cars, trashcans, all of these things can damage you and the only thing the grappling gods have to offer in response is, “Well, I want to let him land on that stuff…then I’ll land on top of him!”

Well, if your mindset is “grappling,” that’s what you are going to do, except you might not be in control like you think you will be. You might be the guy landing on that shit and be the one that gets damaged by it.

Certain people in the Military are giving BJJ and Variants of it a whole new audience and a whole new life now that interest in the UFC has waned. Now, some sectors of the Military are embracing grappling as a viable method of Combatives. This is not Combatives; it’s a sporting method.

The typical Battlefield environment is even worse than the street. With blasted out tree trunks/stumps and all manner of wrecked equipment, some people in the Military actually think going to the ground is not only viable, but also a great idea. Again, people are not tracking.

What really becomes a perversity is the concept of MOUT, Military Operations in Urban Terrain. With all of the aforementioned debris lying on the ground and the added element of blasted out chunks of concrete with rebar protruding from it, glass everywhere, steel “I” beams and twisted wreckage…you name it and it will exist in an urban environment that has been bombed or shelled. Yet, these sport adherents insist grappling is not only viable, but also preferred. It’s a particular bit of insanity that strikes the “True Believer.” I’m a True Believer in survival and not much of anything else.

Even if you know how to fall and even if you manage to land on your enemy, you may still be severely injured in a streetfight by the environment… But on a Battlefield with all of this garbage on the ground? Good grief, these people are shameless in their promotion of a “solution” to the “problem” of Combatives Training being “unpopular” with the Soldiers!

These Combatives Programs defy logic. Even the Gracies are fond of saying, “More than one? Get a gun!” This seems to be lost on the Military proponents of grappling in that environment.

What you need to know

So, does grappling have a place in Self-defense and Modern, Military Combatives? Yes it does! It always has and it always will. The difference being, you do not plan to go to ground nor do you train to go to ground. You train and make contingency plans for those times when, for whatever reason, you will be taken to ground by force. It’s really that simple. Any Self-defense or Military Combatives Program should be geared toward competency not in “grappling” but in knowing enough to get back on your feet where the “advantage” really is. There is no “advantage” to being on the ground because incredibly skilled athletes can demonstrate the “advantage” in a sporting environment that has rules, a forgiving surface, no multiple attackers and no possibility of hidden weapons…

By all means, learn how to counter, escape and counterattack from those positions! Do not, however, embrace the grappling mindset, it’s a killer in the real world and the fact that some people have used it and succeeded won’t make much difference when you encounter something they never did, like two more guys exiting a car, and you get killed.

I think everyone knows the often cited, “Most fights end up on the ground” is a statement not of fact, but taken out of context from a Los Angeles Police Department Study they conducted about how fights progressed with their Officers apprehending Suspects. Most aggressive people have to be taken to the prone position to be handcuffed; this is where that interesting statistic came from. Not from fights in general.

You are not apprehending anyone as a Private Citizen, you must survive and you must survive with as little damage as possible and grappling is not the recipe for that to become a reality.

A Power System

Posted in American Arts, Commentary, Other Stick Methods, Resources and Product Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 14, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Reader Old Dave shares the following:

I came across an article recently that nicely summarizes what I’ve been reading about for the last few years: Resistance Training to Develop Increased Bat Velocity.

“Strength/power can be developed by implementing various forms of resistance training. Baker (1) stated that resistance training exercises can be classified into three categories; general, special, and specific. In order to develop strength/power, a combination of the three resistance training exercises should be implemented. “General” resistance training increases overall strength by using traditional exercises such as squats, deadlift, bench press, and rows. “Special” resistance training is designed to develop power, once strength has been improved, through the use of explosive exercises such as the snatch and clean and jerk lifts, ballistic resistance training like throwing medicine balls, and plyometric exercises. Finally, “specific” resistance training incorporates a training stimulus that mimics actual game motions and their velocities. For hitting, this can be accomplished by using underweighted and overweighted baseball bats.”

Given a reasonable range of weight and length for a bat (or your stick), increasing the speed produces the most significant increase in power. And given a reasonable level of strength and fitness, practicing your swing is the best way to deliver the most power to your target. So, spend a little time with general and special training, but put most of your time in the sport itself.

There is a chart of general exercises at the end of the article…maybe a little more than you need to do. I like the whole body exercises, and one of the best is a low-tech easy to do, Farmers Walk. Grab a couple of heavy objects, like large full milk cans, or dumbbells, or pails of water or sand, or large bags of water softener salt, and walk with them for, say 60-90 seconds. The big boys on the World’s Strongest Man contest have their body weight or more in each hand. You know if you’ve got the right weight if you’re not sure you can make your time or distant without dropping them. It’s a total body exercise, including your grip.

Strength Is King

For me, the critical quote is here:

“Given a reasonable range of weight and length for a bat (or your stick), increasing the speed produces the most significant increase in power.”

All else being equal, you want to get the bat/stick moving as fast as possible. From articles similar to Dave’s, the ideal bat weight is between 13 and 17 ounces.

The article makes the point that weight lifting, strength training, resistance training does positively affect performance. For years misconceptions prevailed that weight lifters had no flexibility, that they had big muscles but no real strength, or that you could be more muscular without it improving your performance in the sport or sports you participate in. Author John Little helps to dispel these myths in his book here.

And you should be swinging the stick like a bat, with both hands. This may be controversial. It was not the way I was originally trained. I know it runs contrary to the methods of some masters. I am not going to get into “my style is better than yours” arguments. I just think we need to look objectively at what is the most powerful strike possible.

Against a charging opponent you may get just one shot. I want to make that shot as strong as possible.

Jane Fonda Meets Kill Bill Sword Workout

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Resources and Product Reviews, Weapons with tags , , , , on October 12, 2010 by bigstickcombat

A point I was getting to in my last post was that I not only see the big stick as a means of combat, but as a means of physical conditioning. With the short stick you can get by with the wrist and arm, but the big stick relies on the waist, hips, and legs to a greater extent. I also think that if you’re doing the big stick correctly, you’ll be using both hands rather than just one.

The other day at the book store I stumbled across this book, available from Amazon. The author outlines a workout with the wooden sword. I note that the lowest ratings come from martial artists, especially those who study sword styles.

I’m wondering how this applies to the big stick, particularly a workout that can be done in the living room, maybe with a heavy (weighted) stick.


Your Worst Nightmare: Martha Stewart with a Sword