Monday, May 15, 2017

Of Blunt and Blade

I study Presas Arnis, which is a blend of Modern Arnis and Kombatan.  Like a lot of FMA players, I spend a lot of time with a stick in my hand.

Often, I am thinking of the stick as a blunt weapon - as a stick - versus a blade.  This is a modern thing in the FMA's, and far from traditional (hence "Modern" Arnis).  Traditionally, and in many FMA styles today, the stick is always a blade, and never a blunt weapon.

Where I live, blunt weapons of this length (or longer) - think the baseball bat - are more commonly found. When we do an edged weapon, we tend to focus on the knife, versus longer blades, as that's more likely to be something I'd have on me, or I might face, versus, say, a machete.

You cannot do this with a blade.  Oh, you could, I suppose, but not very long!

On one level, we need to train for the culture we live in, and that's my personal situation. However, if I don't spend time studying the blade as well, I won't get the deeper meaning of what we do in the Filipino Martial Arts.

It's a blade culture in the Philippines. It is not unusual for people to have short and/or long blades on them for a variety of reasons, depending on where you are. This is not unique to the Philippines, mind you - lots of other blade cultures out there around the world (and even in some places in the United States).

Filipino martial arts are a living, breathing set of martial traditions.  Our teachers, and their teachers one generation back, used these techniques for real, either in World War 2 or other more recent conflicts, either in the streets or in battle.  This is not theoretical stuff we're talking about, it's not sparring, it's not from manuals, it's not something being taught by people who are many generations removed from using blades in life-or-death situations.

I attended a seminar recently that focused on the stick as a blade (from +Prof. Dan Anderson and Grand Master Art Miraflor) that really brought home the huge HUGE differences between blunt and blade.

When the stick is a blunt weapon, you aim to smash things. You can trap and lock and grapple. You can grab and use any part of the stick (and have both hands on the stick, anywhere).  Speed and power are important.  A conflict might last longer than a second or two, and the risk of fatality, while there, is a little less of a problem.

Not so the blade.

Your targets vary, the effects are different, the risks are very different.  How you block, how you must move... very different.  You have edge awareness, not only due to needing to cut or avoiding being cut, but also to avoid blocking with your edge so you won't nick - or break- your blade.  Fatality is a huge risk (and you're always aware of it).

I can totally do with with a stick.  Just sayin'.

This is why you really need to seek out teachers who understand these differences if you want to study weapons seriously.  These little differences are not always obvious.  I've studied Arnis for nine years, and in that seminar I attended I learned stuff I didn't realize and I wouldn't have realized on my own without having it pointed out to me.

That's why you'll see serious weapons-based martial artists cringe when we see empty hand folks pick up a katana and start using it like a bo, or they pick up a knife and just start punching with it and defending against it as if it were an empty hand or a blunt weapon.

I am grateful that I can train with people who are so very skilled and knowledgeable in the blade and in blunt weapons. I may never use or face a blade... but I'm better prepared if I do.

What differences have you noticed between an edged weapon and a blunt weapon, if you study them?  If you study blunt weapons, do you have an interest in edged weapons?  Or if you study edges, how about blunt weapons?  Let me know in the comments!