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 🙂

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 🙂 ), 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 🙂

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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Taking a (forced) break over x-mas

Sorry for the lack of updates of late 😛 Last week ran away before I knew it!

So, update on how I’m going – erm, leg’s not holding up too well 😛 The issues that cropped up a week or two back have come back again, so it’s out with the walking stick again to keep me company 🙂 I’m not sure why the stump’s not healing up as quickly as it normally does, I suspect it’s to do with the location of where the split skin currently is and the fact it’s in constant pressure, whether it be wearing the prosthesis or not.

So, I have to exercise something I’m not all that good at – patience 😉

So, I’ll be taking an extended break, longer than I first thought when I took a week or two off in November. I’ll have to make sure I don’t indulge too much over the break as well, since I won’t be able to exercise as much! 😉

This does raise a couple of questions though – how do I exercise whilst trying to minimise excess physical impact to my stump? I want to use the next month and a half until classes start again in January to get back into weight training, and I reckon this might be able to float the balance between being able to have a good workout, but do it without excess pressure on the rear of the stump since I can do a slew of different exercises on the bench, rather than standing.

The other thing I’m considering doing is working on adapting some of my core techniques to being able to do them standing on one leg. Taking a note out of Jesse’s (of the Martial Explorer) book and his interest in practical application of martial to real-world scenarios, I thought this is something I should be looking at. While I’m generally wearing my leg while I’m awake and out and about, there will be times where I’m going to be without my prosthesis, whether it be because I’ve mangled my stump or damaged my leg. So, I’m conscious that, in the spirit of trying to be a well-rounded martial artist, it’s important that I consider broadening my skillset to cope with performing at least a handful of upper-body techniques if ever I need them. So, I figure while I’m a bit mangled, it may not be such a bad idea to roll in an exploration of some of these techniques with my condition.

So, while there are definitely some negatives with where things are at, there are also some opportunities in there as well. I’ll update as I go 🙂 I’m actually a bit excited about exploring what techniques can be transferred to training on a single leg, hopefully the resultant posts won’t be too convoluted!

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Stupid stump

As the heading suggests, I’m in a very mature and rational mood 😛 Was heading home from work yesterday looking forward to jumping into a good session last night at the dojo, and thought – “My stump feels a bit funny, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the prosthesis though”. By the time I got home and walked out the car though, I knew it was happening again – much like the problems I was having with my leg last week, where I thought the skin had healed over the split in my skin, it was in fact splitting open again. I was actually pretty confident that it was on the mend, but I must have gotten ahead of myself; I should have kept the bandaids over the wound a little longer, but to be honest, it was probably the great little training session I did on Tuesday that started undoing all the good I’d achieved by taking it easy over the course of the last week and a half.

The bummer is that this throws my training regime completely up in the air, as it means I definitely won’t be able to train outside of class, and wholistically, I definitely won’t be able to grade before the end of the year. I know martial isn’t all about the grading, but I like to set goals and achieve them, and am a little bummed that I’ll be falling behind that target I thought I could achieve. Not that it’s really something I could have avoided as I didn’t know the wound hadn’t completely healed over, but still, it’s a bit disappointing.

Still, all the extra effort has not gone to waste by any means – all training is good training, after all – so I’ve now revised my goal to grade up by the end of Q1 2010, and will try to train hard and get myself to a level of expertise so I can grade again before the end of next year.

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Mangling my leg (again :P)

So, no training last week (as alluded to in my previous post) – this was due to two things. First and foremost, I had a family dinner on the night I usually train, so that kinda knocked that out. But even if that wasn’t on, more serious than that was my recent mangling of my stump. Y’know, just for something different 🙂

The issue made itself pretty obvious by the time I got up Friday morning – on the back of my stump towards the upper part of the leg (the area that absorbs a lot of the impact when you walk in your prosthesis; I’ve also heard it called the “seat” of the stump, given the bone structure around the area allows the stump to sit on the rear supporting area of the prosthesis), I had a sore that had become inflamed and the skin had actually split open, meaning that whenever I walked with the prosthesis on, it was stressing and tearing the skin as I walked or sat down. I kept off the leg on Friday and took it easy over the weekend, using my walking stick wherever possible, I was hoping things were back to normal by the end of the weekend, so I took the dog for a walk Sunday afternoon around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I probably walked a little too much, because come Monday, I was only able to get half a day’s wear out of my prosthesis before I had to go home and remove it and try and rest it up for the rest of the day. While I was back at work the next day, I was heavily reliant on the walking stick for the rest of the week as I tried to get my stump to heal.

The scary thing about this is that the problems I had with my leg around the summer of 2005/2006 that eventually saw me taking nearly a year off from training started out very similarly to this – it starts with a small sore with split skin, and from there it eventually became a chronic injury that became exasperated by constant use and wear of the stump. It was bad for me for work as I had to eventually take time off to let my stump heal, we changed the interface in the socket to a silicone “sock” and I took nearly 12 months off from karate training. I’m not keen at all for a repeat of that, so I’m pleased that my leg’s manage to repair itself, and more importantly, that I’ve respected my leg’s need to heal.

So, even if I didn’t have family commitments on last week, it wouldn’t have mattered, as I needed to give my body time to sort itself out. Annoying and frustrating as it may be (I’m not overly patient with my body when it needs to heal itself :P), it’s something I’ve come to respect over the years.

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