Hold Your Stick

A young Eskrimador was excited to meet a local champion, who was a hero of his. After meeting him, he jumped at the chance to ask him his opinion about which skill he should emphasize to improve his fighting performance.

To the young man’s disappointment, the champion simply told him, “learn to hold your stick”…

It took many years before this simple, but profound, lesson sank in and the young man finally matured with this tidbit of knowledge. First, he did not know if the master was brushing him off or unwilling to share technique with him. But after years of reflection and intense thought, he realized the wisdom in this piece of information.

Often, as martial artists, we worry too much about complicated drills and techniques and strategies while ignoring the most simple skills that can make or break one’s technique. At its most basic level, if one cannot hold tightly to a stick, no amount of strength or speed–not even the most well-thought out strategies–can make a difference. At the root of striking power in Eskrima is the grip. At the root of one’s effective speed with a stick or knife is the grip. We can twirl until our wrists swell and turn blue, play patty cake until our palms callous, dance around triangles until our feet chafe… and if we have a weak grip on our weapons, we will lose all effectiveness.

In my sparring classes, I have four basic skills that we train–the probe, the rear hand punch, the front leg kick, and the rear leg power kick–hundreds of times each class. Regardless of what skills I am teaching in a particular class session, we will always drill one of these for skills. And these four skills make up my “grip”:  those basic skills that all other skills within my art spring from. At a minimum, a fighter in my school will have these skills trained to perfection. All other techniques are secondary. You may choose another set of skills to specialize; as long as you have developed a foundation in something that supports all other techniques in your arsenal you are staying true to this philosophy.

I would like to offer some basic pillars of skill you may want to incorporate into your training philosophy:

  • advancing attacks
  • retreating attacks
  • simultaneous block and counter
  • rear leg snap kick
  • reverse punch
  • hook punch (either front or rear hand)
  • rear leg round kick
  • front hand blocks
  • parries
  • front leg sweeps
  • sidestep/evading techniques
  • quick counters
  • correct formation of the fist

Of all these skills, the final skill listed is your most important skill… the ONLY skill you absolutely must have. All the others are secondary. Like the champion in the story, I have just given you a very valuable gem. Reread this article and ponder over this advice.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Don’t forget to check out my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months! (It’s on the “Offerings” page)