Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Stick is a Stick is a Stick

You’ll find a lot of “commonality” in different branches of the martial arts - different traditions, styles, and weapons.  Sometimes this is a result of a direct relationship - such as the relationship between Chinese, Okinawan and Japanese martial arts - and sometimes it’s a complete coincidence without direct communication.

This is to be expected - after all, there are only so many ways to move, and as far as weapons go, many cultures settled upon the same basic style/shapes of weapons used in battle and for personal protection, depending on the availability of materials.

The same basic problems were solved in similar ways.

My teacher , +Mark Lynn at Hidden Sword is very fond of showing how you can use the Okinawan weapons - the bo, the sai, the kama, and the tonfa - using Filipino training methodology and techniques.  After all, when you look at these weapons (except the bo) - functionally, they are all very similar, and similar to the two swords, espada y daga, or double-sticks used in the FMA’s.

So, in the tonfa class I mentioned, he started off showing not how to do a form, but how to actually use the weapon, and he did it using several common double-stick techniques we teach in our Arnis program.

When you look at the tonfa, you usually see people hold it by the handle, like so:

Image from here.

Because we usually see this, most of us would “lock in” the idea that the tonfa can only be used this way, and that’s the way it’s been, traditionally.  That’s the way it’s always been  - it has to be done this way!

Well, as you can see, if you lock in your mind to this idea, you’ll miss the opportunity to do this:

Mark disarms Kevin with tonfa using a standard two-stick disarm from FMA's

Now, this is a little unconventional, maybe... until you check out some traditional forms and techniques.  Thanks to +Martial Arts with Colman for sharing these with me:

Click here if you can't see the video

Click here if you can't see the video.

In both of these videos, sure enough, you see the tonfa being gripped by the end versus the handle, just as you see Mark using them in the photo above. This shows can hold a tonfa by its handle or by it's tip - and I bet, by extension, the other end (near the handle) and even in the middle in a pinch!

You can “learn” how to use the tonfa just by using the Filipino Martial Arts training, if you have it, and not even learn a single kata.  It's not that far removed from how the weapon is really used in its original context.

I’m not claiming you can learn all there is to know about tonfa... but pick it up and use it?  You certainly can, very quickly.

Because a stick is a stick is a stick.  Two handed weapons like tonfa and sai are are not that big of a stretch for someone who’s trained in double-stick FMA’s to pick up relatively quickly.  I imagine the same is for the long weapons - different traditions and strategies of staff - and for edged weapons, too.

Have you applied the training you have in one weapon to another from a different tradition?  What were you able to discover about the weapon?  Did you learn something new about the old weapon you converted from?  I’m especially interested in the long weapons and how they translate - please let me know!