On self-defense with a walking stick

Patrick over at Mokuren Dojo fired across an e-mail to me the other day about a post he wrote on tantojutso (a walking-cane adjunct to SMR jojutsu). Given the state of my stump at the moment (read more here), I’m currently using my walking stick where practical to get around the place, which meant Patrick’s post was eerily relevant to me πŸ™‚

In 2008 I experimented with learning some stick fighting principles as an adjunct to my usual karate training. While the style wasn’t a strict or traditional one (despite some traditional aspects from the various systems present thrown into the mix), it was focused on some basic stick fighting principles, incorporating eskrima/kali elements with the rattan, bojutsu, defensive techniques with the hanbo and jo, a little bit of yawara training and a walking stick style that had its roots within a French system. The aim of the training was to give the practitioner the tools and principles to defend oneself by using any varietal of stick or pole as a weapon. I feel that, despite only spending a small period of time training in it, that it succeeded in teaching me some basic tenets for defending myself with varying weapons. While the eskrima stuff was probably the most fun (and made cool noises when training πŸ™‚ ), the most relevant was arguably the walking stick techniques I learned.

The basic training showed how to use a hooked walking stick in a variety of ways. It demonstrated basic blocking and striking using various aspects of the walking stick, even down to utilising the different ends of the stick to achieve different ends. For example, if performing a thrusting strike, using the bottom of the stick concentrates the kinetic energy to a smaller surface of impact, giving rise to a variety of fast, poking strikes; however, depending on the walking stick, I found that this technique put excess stress on the shaft of the walking stick and required greater accuracy to achieve a worthwhile result. Going the other way, you can thrust using the hooked end of the stick, which is useful for creating more of a clubbing motion even when thrust. I found this to be quite effective given I found it quite intuitive to do a re-enforced two-handed thrusting strike with this technique from a utilitarian perspective, since I’ll normally have my hand on the hook and can easily use my other hand to grab the other end of the staff and use both arms for the strike. While the greater surface area means you get a different kind of impact than with the butt-end of the stick, it also requires less accuracy, which means it potentially has a greater degree of utility in a self defense scenario where the adrenalin or panic may hinder your usual level of accuracy.

What I found quite interesting is that it wasn’t too difficult to translate some of the broad striking motions and diagonal patterns of attack from eskrima to the walking stick. The difference of course is that a walking stick is generally longer than your average rattan… but that being said, if you’re familiar with short staff techniques (like jo or hanbo) and you have a longer walking stick, then you can also truncate your walking stick skillset with some of these other techniques (some of my favourite techniques from jo and hanbo were the trapping and joint-manipulation techniques, which I think would prove useful with a walking stick).

I guess it shows the level of inter-connectivity with different styles and the relationship between them. I have a feeling my Sensei would be pleased to know I joined the dots in my head and found the commonality in the tools he gave us πŸ™‚

It also demonstrates a strong focus on utility (something that’s a core focus on the posts at The Martial Explorer) and that, as a martial artist, you should be able to not only demonstrate the finer aspects of the forms you learn in class, but be able to take away those core principles and utilise them as essential tools in any instances of self defense, or if we’re getting a bit more philosophical, utilise those precepts as an approach to everyday life.

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I want a kuwa

I was just over at Ikigai and read Matt’s recent post on the Okinawan hoe, the kuwa, as an element of kobudo training. Intrigued, I then watched the bunkai clip he posted from YouTube; I can now confidently say that the kuwa if officially awesome. I’m sure Wifey is going to be just thrilled to see me waving around and twirling the garden hoe my Dad left at our place when he was over helping me with a while back, because I can guarantee I’ll probably do it the next time I have to bring it out of the shed to do some work in the yard πŸ˜‰

… and this once again reminds me that I’d love to take up kobudo, but it isn’t something I’ll be able to do until next year at the earliest. Between all sorts of stuff (i.e. money and time :P), it’s not something that’s practical at this point. Doesn’t mean I can’t keep watching clips on YouTube and read kobudo-related blogs though πŸ˜€

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Training round-up

Training this week was a little bit different – Sensei wasn’t able to make it, so we had training with Dai-Sensei (the Big Sensei), who is actually my usual Sensei’s father (and who I trained under during 2007-2008… which reminds me, I really should add a couple of posts to fill in the blank spaces between the old Gisoku no Jutsu and the new Gisoku Budo blogs).

Anywho, training was different, as it sometimes is when Dai-Sensei takes our class. This time, we focused on bunkai from some of the lower kata, which was good as I’ll be required to demonstrate it in my future gradings. Now, this is all well and good, but Dai-Sensei brought in some goodies to accompany training – kobudo weapons πŸ˜€ We had a few options to work with, including jo, hanbo, sai, nunchaku, tonfa, katana, wakizashi and kama. What Dai-Sensei was trying to demonstrate was the relationship/connection between open-handed forms and kobudo forms, showing how one complements the other and that your open-handed karate kata has forms the work well with weapons. More importantly, it demonstrated that the principles of attack/defense/counter in kata can be re-enforced by applying the same principles in kobudo.

But the best part of the evening was playing with these:

SaiImage sourced from Wikimedia Commons, original image by chris ?

πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Sai are awesome, and that’s probably because I watched too much TMNT as a kid πŸ˜€ Was great fun using them in class, and while I didn’t learn much that was all the useful due to the short period of time using them (though I learned a basic method for how to trap a Bo!), it was still so much fun πŸ˜€

It also brought to the fore my interest in kobudo, and that I’d really like to get into it down the line. Though I can imagine the look Wifey would give me if I came home with more stuff to complement some of the staffs I have around the place from when I started doing mixed-style stick fighting last year πŸ˜‰

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Okinawan kobudo

I’ve wanted to learn Okinawan kobudo for years now – last year I got into weapons training at my current school, which emphasised some aspects of traditional Japanese weapons, but in a system fused with other stick-fighting techniques to emphasise a practical approach to the syllabus.

Anywho, weapons classes ended at the end of last year, and I’ve been contemplating going the full Okinawan Kobudo route, either later this year or next year, depending on the whole time/money/availability of classes thing. I was reading up on a few things today that have really inspired me to start looking into it though – Hanshi Heilman’s guest blog on BBM “There Are No Stances in Kobudo”, BBM’s recent post “A Comedy of Errors, Form of Weapons”, and Matt’s recent blog on Ikigai “Holding a Bo – So Simple It’s Complicated”.

So yeah, it’s on my “to-do” list. Mind, it probably doesn’t help that I’ve been watching the original TMNT cartoon from the 80s of late. Y’know, the one where they say “Cowabunga” and stuff? It’s awesome. What’s even more awesome is that Wifey’s the one who bought it for me πŸ™‚

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