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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

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.

Traditionally, and in many FMA styles today, the stick is always a blade, and never a blunt weapon.

Using the stick as a stick. I feel like I shouldn't HAVE to say this, but... don't do this with swords.

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 recreated from manuals, it's not something being taught by people who are many generations removed from using blades in life-or-death situations.

They used this stuff for real, in the ultimate pressure test.

Me, I live in the United States, which is absolutely not a blade culture, although knives are very common (lots of people carry them for utility purposes). So for me and my life, I often think of the stick as a blunt weapon, not as a blade.

This is a modern thing in the FMA's, and far from traditional.

When we train with an edged weapon we tend to focus more on the knife, versus longer blades. Knives are just the edged weapon I'm more likely to face than swords or machetes are.

Although in Florida, all bets are off.

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).  Power is 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).

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 since 2008, with some of the greatest teachers we have in our styles, and I still learn new stuff on the topic each time I attend a seminar.

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.

That'll work in a pinch, but it's not really how the weapon should be used (and I hope you aren't facing someone skilled in weapons if you're doing this, because you're toast if you are).

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 weapon in real life self defense... 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! 

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