Wednesday, March 8, 2017

More on Why the Weapon is NOT Just an Extension of the Empty Hand

As you long-time readers of this blog know, I'm a weapons-oriented martial artist.

Oh, sure, we do empty hand stuff in my style, all the time.  And I've taken up study of Okinawan Karate to help fill in some of the gaps in my empty hand game.

But ultimately, I like weapons.  A lot.

There literally isn't a single weapon I don't have some interest in, to be honest. I get just as excited watching an expert work a Chinese gun (staff) as I do in watching a good HEMA fencing match as I do in watching nguni or jogo do pau matches as I do in watching someone who really knows how work Okinawan weapons like sai or kama.

Weapons are fun, weapons are practical for this short, dumpy, middle-aged woman, and weapons are just plain cool.

And all y'all know, if there's anybody who's "cool", it's me.

Don't you wish you were this cool?

I am always happy when my empty-hand friends take an interest and start to seriously study weapons.  If you're a primarily empty hand player, I encourage you to find a competent teacher and study the weapon(s) of your choice.  It opens up your game and adds dimensions to your understanding that you can't get if you only train empty hand.

Note I said "find a competent teacher".

There's plenty of empty hand folks out there who take the maxim "The Weapon is the Extension of the Hand" a little too literally and think they can start doing their art with a weapon in their hand and call it good.

I wrote about this problem some time ago.  After two years of studying kobudo (bo, tonfa, nunchaku and soon sai), and a year of jo study on top of all of my Arnis training (stick, short sword - machete or bolo - and knife for the most part), I know how similar but how very different weapons training can be from the empty hand (and from weapon to weapon, actually).

The thing is, when things go wrong in weapons, they can go very seriously wrong.  There are enough fail videos out there of people beaning themselves with nunchaku, or accidentally popping someone with a bo, or someone getting cut with a sword to prove that this is true.

This is why you need a competent teacher.  Someone who has studied a weapon seriously with experts and can help you learn whatever weapon you are interested in, and show you the little things that make a weapon work safely.

I can tell you, from experience, that those little things matter.  For example, an easy way to hit yourself with a weapon is to have a wide front stance like so very many of our empty hand arts use. I don't use that super-wide stance a lot but just being slightly too squared off once resulted in me hitting myself with my nunchaku right above my right ankle, on the bone.

I know better, and I did it.  And I do not want to do it again as it took a while to heal.

Hitting yourself - or hitting someone else when you don't mean to - sucks. It sucks when it's a bo, it really sucks with nunchaku, it sucks with sticks.  God forbid you do it with an edged weapon like a knife or a bolo or a katana.  You might end up like dude here:

So please, if you want to study weapons - and I encourage you to do it, because it's awesome - please, don't just copy what you see in a video online, or pick up a weapon and start swinging it around like you see people do in movies or on television.  What you see in movies and TV are weapons work designed to look cool and keep the fighters safe, not to be effective in the use of the weapon.

Take the trouble to find a good teacher, and learn from experts.  You'll be glad you did, and then you can be cool like me and keep all of your extremities intact.

Have you considered weapons study?  What are you interested in?  Let us know in the comments!