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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Sumbrada With The Big Stick

Before I begin this...  as long-time readers of this blog know, I am very, very wary of people trying to learn martial arts techniques via video only.  Therefore, please do not attempt to copy what you see here unless you are already pretty well versed in the concepts and weapons.  What is shown here can be very dangerous if performed by people who do not have some experience already.

Sumbrada (sometimes called a box drill, or a six-count drill) is a drill in the FMA's where two people trade off a set of strikes and blocks.  Each partner "shadows" the other, back and forth, and eventually, each partner will end up trading the same set of strikes and blocks.

Here's the guys at the Kali Center explaining the basics of sumbrada.

There are tons of variations of sumbrada, including free-flow where the strikes aren't necessarily pre-determined and aren't perfectly shadowed.

It's a fun and useful drill. It was one of the first drills I ever learned, and we play it often. As a matter of fact, I was playing sumbrada when I had the worst injury I've ever sustained in the martial arts - a torn calf muscle - and ended up sitting on my butt reading books by Professor Remy Presas on the sidelines for six weeks.

It's a fast moving drill, and you can play it so many ways - long range, short range, using inserts, variants on the strikes in the pattern, interrupts for disarms and traps and takedowns...

Mr. Chick and I playing Sumbrada.

Classically, people typically play Sumbrada with sticks, or knives, or empty hand, or some combination of those (like espada y daga - stick or sword and dagger).

My teacher, Mark Lynn, has adapted the sumbrada patterns to Kobudo weapons. Many of us in his school - including myself - went through the AKATO Kobudo program, and the idea is to take what we learned there and fuse it with the Arnis we already know.

I wanted to share with you some clips of this work, as I think you guys will enjoy it - especially those of you who are Kobudo students - and I'm hoping it will spark your creativity in how you play this drill.

One of the things I like best about this drill is that you get to actually hit stuff with your weapons.

As an aside, if you do this with bo, make sure you don't have those super lightweight toothpick bo or a bo made of inferior wood, as they won't hold up very long. You need a good old fashioned bo (mine is white oak and has stood up to the beatings we've given it over the years).

The first one is what FMA players will recognize as a standard #1-#3-#12 sumbrada.  This is what we'd call the basic, #1 sumbrada with the bo.

I've removed the audio, by the way, because we were doing a lot of talking that isn't really relevant outside our training group.

You may have noticed that there are a bunch of "holes" in this drill - that is, lots of openings for attack and counter attack.  This is actually a feature, not a bug. Once the pattern is learned, the next step is to "see" the holes and then learn to take advantage of them.

We have deliberately kept our thinking in line with the one-steps and forms we've learned in our Kobudo studies - our Bo Ichi, our Shuji No Kon Sho, and a form called Shihon No Bo - in order to support the forms and to show how they are, in fact, applicable in flow. You could think of this as a way to explore bunkai in forms.

The #2 sumbrada with the bo takes a move out of our Bo Ichi and inserts it at the #12 strike - a "high low high" strike/blocking pattern.

As you can see, you really need to be on the ball with this one, as a mistake could end up with you getting a bo strike to the chin.

The #3 sumbrada we came up with takes a move directly from Shuji No Kon Sho.

I actually came up with this variant in class, and Mark, being the kind of teacher he is, incorporated it into what he's teaching.

This one, as you can see, has the potential to disarm your partner (as Mark does to me, and as we've verified playing this a bunch of times).  We actually have a second variant that we haven't filmed that involves a pass versus a block, but it's still the same exact set of moves out of Shuji No Kon Sho.

One more thing on the bo sumbrada - we were working another time on trying to incorporate other moves, specifically a poking strike.  This is where we were looking at one of the more obvious holes in the sumbrada and were speculating on ways to "fill" it.

This is another one where you really better be paying attention or you'll eat the bo.

Finally, I'd like to share with you Mark's really awesome bo vs. tonfa sumbrada.

What's cool about this is that it's not strictly mirrored, because it can't be.  The bo is a very different beast than tonfa, in terms of range, power and strategy.  Thus, it's not truly "shadowed" as a basic, traditional sumbrada drill typically is. Unequal and different weapons can't be used in exactly the same way.

I left the audio on this video, because Mark is explaining the tonfa side (for the most part) and I think you'll find that interesting.

If you think that there's a little bit of a pucker factor when he flips that tonfa at my head - you would be correct.

So, these are the ways that Mark has adapted the sumbrada drill to Kobudo weapons. This material - and a whole lot more - can be found on his YouTube channel HERE.

If you know sumbrada, and know other weapons - you can do it too!  This is one huge benefit of cross training - discovering where a different point of view might actually help you to learn what you already know a little better than you did.

Have you adopted the training methodology of one art to the weapons (or other principles) of another art?  I'd love to know your experiences!

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