Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Did Somebody say Stick Fighting?

The fire-burnt rattan stick is an instrument that has been a symbol to our culture and heritage, one that is commonly appreciated but widely misunderstood. It is easy to speak of a weapon-based system that catered to the archaic need for warfare, but what does it truly mean to grasp the arnis stick?

It is not unusual to hear that the blade or the stick is the extension of our arm, and it is also not unusual to ask why we train first with the extension in the first place. A simple analogy: a child uses training wheels when she learns to ride a bicycle, to get an easier grip of the dynamics of balance. We are such children enamoured with these training wheels, and we have grown up to be lovers of trikes. But why this attachment? The extension is actually a tool, adding distance, leverage and damage.

As mentioned before, the training stick is also a historical reflection of our nation’s ancient past time of tribal or clan wars, and the pragmatism that comes with it. Our ancestors would have been trained immediately for warfare, and would only sharpen his empty hand skills as he advances, or as he needs it. But in the short run, he need to be proficient with his blade to be useful to society.

Of course, it is implied that the extension is an impermanent tool for technique, as it also has its weaknesses, especially in the grounds of disarming, which leads to hand to hand (mano y mano) combat. It is, by all accounts, true that an arnisador who confines his technique to the stick does not fully understand the totality of his style.

But in fact, there are a few criticisms to this query. Some styles profess a stick-oriented or tournament-oriented approach. Of course these are specialized styles with their own pragmatic utility, but my previous query was about the older tribal or clan styles that have survived today, like Dekiti Tirsia Siradas. As such, there can be no doubt that the ascendants of these specialized styles have also well-rounded and complete formulations on technique that demonstrate my query.