Effective Stickwork In A Nutshell

John Styers demonstrates a lethal stick attack. From his Classic, COLD STEEL. Styers was a USMC instructor and the protégé of Anthony J. Drexel Biddle.

John Styers demonstrates a lethal stick attack. From his Classic, COLD STEEL. Styers was a USMC instructor and the protégé of Anthony J. Drexel Biddle.

It takes about twelve to twenty hours total teaching and practice time to gain a working knowledge of,  and practical ability with good, basic modern combative stick technique. And while it can take 50 to 60 hours of regular, hard training to make an expert, one does not need to become an expert to be able to use a stick reliably as a weapon of self-defense or offense.

What we are speaking of when we discuss “modern combative stick technique” is not the sort of stick fighting taught in such arts as Filipino escrima or kali, or in Japanese bo or jo-jutsu. Nor are we discussing the kind of quarterstaff work that was utilized widely during the middle ages in Western Europe. We are speaking of military-type combat with the short and with the walking stick. This is the kind of simple, practical, reliably usable stick fighting that, for example, was taught by the WWII era giants (ie Fairbairn, Sykes, Applegate, Pilkington, O’Neill, Biddle, Leather, and others) and that was carried on with the same purpose and intent by post-WWII teachers such as Applegate, Tegnér, Yerkow, Styers, Nelson, and our self — usually with the introduction of additional and expanded methodologies that enhanced the spirit and techniques of the WWII masters.

One of the more impractical publications on stickwork, in our opinion. The late Michael Echanis was a fine soldier and a totally dedicated martial artist (emphasis upon the "ARTIST", and not upon the "MARTIAL"). In our personal opinion, despite its popularity, Echanis's method is almost 100% too fancy, complicated, and elaborately acrobatic to be of practical value in honest-to-goodness hand-to-hand combat. We'd recommend this book as a reference for professionals regarding what does NOT work in real world stick fighting. Please note: In no way is any of this to be taken as a personal attack. We have nothing but respect for the late Mr. Echanis's abilities and his record as a soldier. This is purely a technical criticism of his method. And, we would add most emphatically, it applies to his KNIFE SELF-DEFENSE book, as well.

One of the more impractical publications on stickwork, in our opinion. The late Michael Echanis was a fine soldier and a totally dedicated martial artist (emphasis upon the "ARTIST", and not upon the "MARTIAL"). In our personal opinion, despite its popularity, Echanis's method is almost 100% too fancy, complicated, and elaborately acrobatic to be of practical value in honest-to-goodness hand-to-hand combat. We'd recommend this book as a reference for professionals regarding what does NOT work in real world stick fighting. Please note: In no way is any of this to be taken as a personal attack. We have nothing but respect for the late Mr. Echanis's abilities and his record as a soldier. This is purely a technical criticism of his method. And, we would add most emphatically, it applies to his KNIFE SELF-DEFENSE book, as well.

Ine of the most sensible and realistic books on stickwork is this one, authored by Bruce Tegnér. Our only disagreement with it is that its methods are not quite as vicious and destructive as that which we prefer, and there is inufficient emphasis on followup. Note that Mr. Tegnér also wrote a book on the stick in sporting contest, and that is irrelevant for personal combat. Two other highly recommended books are: COLD STEEL, by John Styers (in which the Kengla technique is described), and GET TOUGH!, by Fairbairn (in which part of Fairbairn's stick technique is described). All three of these books are excellent if you train on your own and do not have a qualified close combat teacher with whom you can work.

One of the most sensible and realistic books on stickwork is this one, authored by Bruce Tegnér. Our only disagreement with it is that its methods are not quite as vicious and destructive as that which we prefer, and there is inufficient emphasis on followup. Note that Mr. Tegnér also wrote a book on the stick in sporting contest, and that is irrelevant for personal combat. Two other highly recommended books are: COLD STEEL, by John Styers (in which the Kengla technique is described), and GET TOUGH!, by Fairbairn (in which part of Fairbairn's stick method is described). All three of these books are excellent if you train on your own and do not have a qualified close combat teacher with whom you can work.

The stick, like the knife, is an ancient weapon that is still of great practical value, today. The type of stick used in the modern setting is not the same as that which was once employed, prior to the age of arma blanca, or — later still — of firearms. Then, a five, six, or even as much as a nine foot pole was practical. Today, a “long” stick would be a walking stick, and a “short” stick would be, perhaps, a 26″-28″ hardwood baton (of the simple Koga design). The very short six inch yawara hand stick might also be included as a modern stick weapon, but for the purpose of this article we are not going to discuss any of the practical,  modern yawara techniques. We are going to describe some extremely practical techniques that, with a moderate amount of serious practice, almost anyone can learn to employ with devastating effect against a serious criminal assailant. These techniques will utilize either a walking stick or a baton length stick, or a convenient improvised stick implement (towel rack, umbrella, chair leg, tree branch, broom handle, plunger stick, axe or sledgehammer handle, etc.).

By no means is what follows a complete stick fighting system. However, it is an extract of stickwork methodology from the American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao) System’s stick fighting curriculum. It will place some solid ability in your hands, and some serious confidence in your mind, once you’ve learned it.

The techniques described are not to be played with, and they are not for sport. They should be employed with ferocity and all-out concentrated rage in any situation that is life-threatening, and in which you happen to be fortunate enough to be in possession of some kind of stick weapon. These are for emergency self-defense.

First — A Caution

It is almost reflexive for the novice who takes hold of a stick for the purpose of striking another individual to swing the stick — grasping it powerfully at one end, either with one or with both hands. If one has had some exposure to the Filipino arts of stickplay then one has actually been taught considerable “swinging” with the stick. This use of the stick, literally as a clubbing implement, is not actually the best way to utilize this weapon in hand-to-hand combat. Think first of the stick as a jabbing and as a thrusting or “spearing” type weapon; then, secondarily, as a smashing or clubbing implement. Swings are very difficult not to telegraph. They are also relatively easy to counter, unless done with incredible speed and skill. About the only time we’d “open the action” with a swing when using a stick in combat would be when we were smashing an enemy over the head from behind, in the context of a military type attack on a sentry, perhaps.

The swinging action has its place. Our caution to you is: see that the swing is kept and used only in its place!

A Mini-Course In “Instant Stickwork”

Here is a description of some excellent, reliable ways in which you can save your life, or someone else’s, using a stick:—

1. When attacking, use a wide over/under two hand grip on your stick. Both palms should not be facing in the same direction. This reduces the strength of control you have over the stick, and it eliminates some of the versatility possible to you in how you strike and maneuver in followup. Leave about four to five inches protruding from each hand (if a walking stick) and about two inches (if a baton-length stick). These protruding ends serve the purpose of protecting your hands, while providing a substantial exposed end for hitting (jabbing, butt-stroking, etc.). The two-hand grip employed in this manner also gives you the best possible leverage for using the stick with maximum power. Also, attacking while holding the stick in this manner permits a completely relaxed, non-telegraphed opening action.

2. Hold your stick with arms relaxed, hanging in front of you, apparently maintaining only a casual hold on your stick. (Note: It is sometimes possible to hold the stick in a modified “high port” type position, while appearing merely to be concerned to prevent the stick from getting in anyone else’s way — perhaps in a fairly crowded area.  Just be certain that holding a stick in this fashion is done with convincing relaxation and a non-aggressive appearing demeanor. One might also utilize this position as if withdrawing and cringing in fear, against, for instance, a couple of thugs — pleading that they not hurt you — while actually planning a surprise attack).

3. Once making the decision to attack be certain not to give that away by any subtle gesture or look in your eyes. This can be practiced in front of a mirror, or by having practice partners observe you, and having them advise you when and where you are “looking obvious” about preparing to move. The best attack — with bare hands or with anything — is one that “comes out of nowhere” and blasts into the enemy before he realizes what is happening.

4. Suddenly — drive an end of the stick, like a spear or bayonet, directly into the opponent’s abdominal or sternum area. It is also possible to direct this surprise thrust into the adversary’s throat, mouth, or general facial target area. In certain instances (perhaps in semi-darkness) this higher thrust to a smaller initial target might require somewhat greater precision.

5. Immediately after the thrusting jab solidly “connects” use one of the following actions:—

a) Snap the stick back toward your chest area and, maintaining a strong two-hand grip, execute a butt stroke upward and under the enemy’s jaw. Alternately, you might apply a laterally striking butt stroke, slamming across the side of the adversary’s head or face. How far forward the initial thrust causes your enemy to double over will determine which butt stroke to use. If you thrust the end of the stick into the enemy’s face or throat, then you might step in while smashing him laterally acriss the face or head as he reels backward.

b) Shift the rearmost end of the stick forward, after thrusting to the adversary’s mid-section, and using a full body swing and all of your strength, smash the center of the stick viciously upward into the throat or face of your adversary.

6. If necessary, after executing either “a” or “b” above, by sliding one of your hands close to the other at one end of the stick, you will now be holding your stick in a manner approximating how you might hold a baseball bat.

7. Now you may make effective use of the swinging type blow! Use either of the following:—

a) Using all of the power you can generate, smash the stick across the adversary’s knees or shins, swinging it like a bat. After doing so, bring the stick up high, still retaining that strong, close, two-hand grip, and crack him solidly across the brain stem or skull. —OR

b) Should your attacker be doubled over considerably, simply bash him with every ounce of strength you’re got,  across his skull or brain stem. Note: A crack across the kidney area (or several cracks) might also be effective, but the skull or brain stem should turn out his lights every time, if you use a hardwood stick and do it right!

Note A: With a little bit of practice you can develop the ability to snap a walking stick from a natural one-hand-on-the-pommel, end-of-the-stick-resting-on-the-ground position instantly into the two-hand grip attack position.

Note B: Should any attempt be made to control your stick by seizing it when you have a two-hand grip, simply snap the stick in close to your chest, butt the enemy in his face with your head, knee him in the testicles, then stomp on his shin and instep, jerking the stick free and attack!

Note C: Never forget that you have two hands and two feet in addition to your stick. You can kick a man in the shins, setting him up for a stick attack. Or, after initiating the attack with the stick, break his knee with a side kick. Etcetera. Be fluid, creative, spontaneous, fierce, aggressive, and relentless!

Wa r n i n g !

THE MATERIAL PRESENTED HERE IS FOR SERIOUS SELF-DEFENSE AND WARTIME COMBAT ONLY. NEVER HORSE AROUND AND NEVER SHOW OFF OR ATTEMPT TO “PLAY” OR “COMPETE” USING THESE ACTIONS. THEY ARE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. THEY WOULD BE OF NO VALUE WHATEVER IF THEY WERE NOT.