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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

One Awesome Thing About Sticks

In the Filipino Martial Arts, some styles insist that the stick can only represent a bladed weapon.

If that's your perspective, I'm not here to criticize it. Not only is that traditional, but it's one of the key features of most styles of the FMA's. It's sort of our... thing.

But we can't ignore that sometimes, not only is a stick a stick, but it's desirable that it's a stick.

Take this video from Brian Johns on the idea of stick exchange.

Here, Master Brian is talking about one of my favorite little skills that we have in Arnis - a stick exchange from one hand to the other, here, done off of a punyo entry to the face (and doing it well versus poorly).

I practice this technique a lot in a variety of ways, because I have found that its easy to short-circuit someone when you are "suddenly" left handed. It's a great way to disrupt what your partner was planning to do (although of course there's counters to this, and experienced players will just adjust).

I have used this successfully many times, especially against people taller than me, because the punyo entry can "hide" the exchange until it's too late.

Many people rarely, if ever, train with the weak hand. In Modern Arnis - perhaps because our founder was left-handed - our training is ambidextrous. We can use our weak hand nearly as well as our strong hand.

So, in thinking about the punyo entry stick exchange that Master Brian talks about above, I was thinking about the obvious - how it's impossible to do this with a blade.

I know, I know, I'm Captain Obvious, but bear with me.

We can, of course, do the punyo entry as shown with a blade, but not the exchange - you can't change weapon hands this way (well, unless you had a dull blade and a thick glove on, I guess...?)

In my opinion, this is a huge advantage - disrupting the plans of your opponent with a smooth surprise stick exchange is gold. I've done it successfully many times in free-flow tapi tapi play.

Four ways to do punyo entry to stick exchange. Top Left: Right hand outside to inside Top Right: Left hand outside to inside Bottom Left: Left hand inside to outside Bottom Right: Right hand inside to outside

One cool thing is that the inside-to-outside punyo entries are a lot like deflection wing blocks, so you are also practicing doing a stick exchange using a wing block, too.  I have also used to great success - wing block, exchange, and whip that backhand right back out - POW!

So, if you do the punyo entry stick exchange, do it like Master Brian says, and treat it like a blunt weapon (because it is).

There's a lot of other ways to do stick exchange, by the way, and it's actually a skill I drill quite a bit in warm-ups in my classes. While I don't believe that a stick exchange will win you a fight outright, it is disorienting enough sometimes to give you an upper hand.

Besides... it's fun.

Do you practice stick exchange if you do Arnis / Eskrima / Kali / Escrima or not? Do you do something like this in your martial arts style? Let us know in the comments!

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