Power generation is most important when fighting with impact weapons. When fighting with swords and knives, minimal force is needed since it is the blade that inflicts the damage. In contrast, Fighting with a stick means you’ve got to be able to generate bone-shattering power.
There are roughly two types of strikes in Filipino stick fighting: follow through strikes and snapping strikes. While both required rapid muscular contractions for power generation, the latter is harsher to the joints particularly the elbows and the wrists.
Training of the muscles is crucial to power development in stick fighting. It is pretty well established now that an abundance of fast-twitch muscles is advantageous for martial artists because of the rapid nature and explosiveness of martial arts movements.
In simplest term, fast twitch muscles are for sprinters and slow twitch muscles are for distance runners. The dominance of either type of muscles is determined by genetics. While this is the case, some experts believe that it is poor predictor of actual athletic performance. The nature of stick fighting dictates that both muscle types be developed.
Various weights of sticks are employed in power stroking exercises
The most common method of developing striking power with the stick is through stroking exercises. This simply means that you practice each strike full-force with no target but thin air using a heavy hardwood stick or the stick you would actually use in a real fight. Besides power development, this exercise would result to economical form and would teach your body to act in a synergistic fashion.
While a high number of repetitions is the goal in this exercise, one must progress cautiously to avoid undue strain. The best indicator that you are doing it right is the swishing sound of the stick. Ireneo Olavides, founder of Eskrima De Campo JDC-IO said that his teacher, the late legendary juego todo (all out stick fight) champion Grandmaster Jose D. Caballero puts extra emphasis on this, “In all our sessions, Manong Jose wanted to hear the swishing sound of all the strikes made by the stick, which weighed about 150 grams. He believed that the swishing sound of the stick when striking is a manifestation of power and speed,” he narrated.
Hitting solid objects like sandbags, dummies and old tires could augment power stroking.
Olavides believes that relaxation is very important in delivering fast and powerful strikes. I will never forget his insight on the seemingly simple matter of holding the stick, “Being one with the stick means the weapon has become a mere extension of your limb.
If you have become one with the stick, then you don’t treat it as a slave, gripping it desperately as if it would slip out of your hand any moment,” he said. With his prowess in escrima, I find it a big surprise that unlike a typical martial arts old-timer, he has very smooth hands – almost like those of a woman.
The escrimadores of yore were known to test the power and snap of their strikes by cracking husked coconuts with their sticks.
The National Geographic Channel through its program Fight Science once aired a special on the Filipino fighting stick featuring Dan Inosanto. In the interview with Fight Science, Inosanto explained the potential of the stick as a weapon, “When you look at the stick it looks very innocent. But this thing can travel like a baseball pitch sometimes at 90 miles an hour,” he said.
Inosanto explained that the simple motion of the stick could be very deceiving because done full-speed; it could deliver a succession of six blows in one second. He demonstrated that to generate power, one could use just the wrist, then the shoulder, the waist and finally the entire body. Inosanto’s demonstration showed that a minor strike (power generated by the wrist) could easily lead to a major strike (power generated by the waist or the whole body).
The program’s use of sophisticated motion-capture technology also revealed that the stick extends the user’s range by nearly three feet in every direction. This advantage is further magnified by the increased leverage that creates a whip-like effect into the target.
While there is yet to be done a study on the kinesiology (science of human movement) of Filipino stick fighting movements, I believe it is worthwhile examine a similar research done on western fencing and kendo since these martial arts display similar movements.
Jonathan Riddle, in his article “Kinesiology of Fencing and Kendo,” published in the December 2007 issue of Iaidō Journal concludes, “In both systems the power of the attack comes from the force applied to the ground, causing a reaction from the ground into the legs, causing an acceleration of the body and arms towards the target.
This would be important especially if an actually sharp weapon were either cutting flesh or penetrating a body. The other fact is, it is hard to defend against a strong attack. If the weapon accelerates, this affects the timing of a parry, relative to the distance of the attack.”