How to choose your sticks

Bob Hubbard

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Aug 4, 2001
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Land of the Free
When purchasing sticks, what should one keep in mind?

What is the ideal length and thickness?

Should rattan be the primary material?

How about synthetics? Hard woods?

the most important thing is that the sticks should feel good to you. Length, thickness, density all effect how you can move the stick. For me, my stick bag is king of like a golf bag, with everythig from a long riot baton to some 22 inch synthetic sticks. rattan is great as long as you have good rattan. I like the sticks from; the prices are good, and the rattan is heavy enough to last a while. Stickman products makes a great synthetic stick; I have had a pair for six or seven years and they are still in very good shape.
For training I think you definitely want rattan or something very similar. As to length and thickness, that's a matter of taste modified by the directions of the instructor and the preferences of the style. I prefer thin sticks myself. There is a speed vs. power issue; I like longer, thinner sticks in part because I like to stay at largo and abanico as much as possible.

If you imagine using these for self-defense/fighting, not training, you might consider harder and thicker sticks. In either event ask yourself if you'll be able to keep a good grip when you're sweaty. I find many of the fancy finished sticks are too slick for me.

I found the best thing for me personally was to cycle through Mr. Hartman's large and varied collection of sticks until I found a pair I really liked, then inform him that I was appropriating them. Use this technique at your own risk of course.
Thank you for the replies. :)

With the synthetics, can the grips be roughed to provide a better grip? (like lightly sanded)?

How can you tell if the rattan is good? I bought some cheeper sticks (3 pair) 1 is decent and holding up ok, another is great, the practically disolved on first use. Part that sucks is, the crappy one is the pair I really liked (longer, thinner, real light)

on appropriating Tims....I get hit in the head enough :rofl:


here are my 2 cents about how to find "good" sticks.

How can you tell if the rattan is good?

You can hear it. Hard rattan that lasts gives a dry hard sound. Difficult to describe when you sit and try to type a sound into a keyboard. But once you have heared it, you can pick "good" rattan from "bad" rattan.

A funny thing happened to me with Ernesto presas in 1986. A student gave me a stick and said, that he wanted one that matches the one. Thert was a bag with 100 stick in front of me. I tried so many, clicking and weighing them. Finally I gave him one and said: I would choose this one.
He looked at it and wasn織t sure. He put it bag into the bag and asked Ernesto to pick one. He also went through many stick and gave the guy a stick - it was exactly the one I picked too. I thought that was cool.

But coming back to the question:
what is good and what is bad?
Rattan that lasts is more dense and is heavier. Sure good for Sinawali. Lighter rattan, that is not so dense will easily disolve in sinawali, but may be good for twirling or when you want to practice with slight contact.
For beginners that have not yet trained wrists, I would suggest lighter sticks and only a little later heavier ones.
If you want to train your forearms and endurance, of course heavy sticks will be your choice.

But how about th vibrations? Especially impoportant for styles, that do a lot of sinawalis and bloocking techniques. Not so relevant for the styles that go straight for the arms or stay out of range.
If you have a very heavy stick, it is very dense. There is hardly any space between the fibers of the rattan. That means, that the vibration, that occur during a block or a technique, where sticks meet, will go straight into the wrist and the ellbow. Even more so with hardwood or synthetic sticks. Sure they will not break. But I織d rather let the sticks break, than letting this energy, that breaks the sticks, flow into my body all the time without being shock absorbed in some kind. And thats where the rattan comes into play. Rattan is flexible and can absorb part of this energy and these vibations. What happens is, that the little space between the rattan fibres are being crushed and that way the rattan absorbs the energy of a strike. The harder and heavier the sticks sare, the less space between the fibers and the less ability to absorb the energy.

If you ask me from health aspect, I would prefer sticks, that protect my body. I am sure when you practice for decades only with hardwood and do a lot of Sinawalis, it is not good for your joints. I do also prefere a little harder and heavier sticks too, but not too heavy though. The real power of a strike is gererated through the speed and not throught the weight of the stick anyway, even though that helps too. But then again, my wrists are trained and I pick the sticks that feel good for me.

But for different purposes there are different sticks, at least in training. In the reality it does not matter, what you have in your hands.

But the last and most important things for training sticks is, that you must like them how they feel. If you always think that they are "too heavy" "too thick" "too small" "too light" "too long" or "too short", you should change your sticks. You must be at ease with them, then they are ok.

One instructor of mine, Rene Tongson told me, that in the 50ies, they were not training with rattan sticks but with sugarcane. And at the end to the training, they ate up their sticks.
(What a great business idea! ;) New sticks for every training! I would like to be the supplier then!)

Anyway, I hope that helped a little

Best regards from Germany

Datu Dieter Kn羹ttel
Ok I agree that rattan is what most prefer however I like to go into the woods and cut my sticks.Yes I live in an area that has woods. I prefer hickory, maple, and oak. I have tried to fire harden then but still am far from prefecting this approch. Usualy I cut, peel the bark off, soak in linseed oil for a week,dry for about 2 week or till they stop dripping and feel dry in my hands.
I prefer to do this because I am not going to find rattan sticks on the street or lying along side any of the roadways in this area if I need one. Because of this I also use sticks that are bent crooked and verry misshaped. Makes for a more real approach to trainning. I like useing drift wood also.
I think rattan is also one of the safer materials to use. Rattan will probably not shatter like most woods, sending shards and splinters flying at people's eyes. Rattan tends to 'fray' instead.

I tend to prefer thick rattan sticks. One of the FCS guros I train with prefers thinner sticks, the other, thick sticks like the ones I picked up. I've tried the thin sticks, but I've got pretty good sized hands, and I like the club-like feel of the thicker sticks. Also, even though abanicos and witik strikes may be a little harder with thicker sticks, I feel the difficulty helps me gain better control with the sticks over time.

Ultimately? Personal preference.

I have used synthetics sticks, and I find them slippery when sweaty, and after long training sessions they tended to leave blisters. I also broke someone elses light weight cane with them.

I use short, lighter canes for extended sessions of abanico, or freestyle twirling. I always have rattan canes to practice with.

I recently purchased several sets of canes from Mr. Hartman,
I picked out the sets I wanted, and then took the rest to my classes. My students were impressed, and they are using the same canes. When noticed a difference when we started Sinawalli practice. I had told them about the smell of burning rattan, now they know it first hand.
Originally posted by DWright
When noticed a difference when we started Sinawalli practice. I had told them about the smell of burning rattan, now they know it first hand.

I've heard about that before, but didn't experience it myself until this past Sunday. I was working out with the FCS guys and kept smelling what I thought was lit matches. Finally, I mentioned that something must be on fire, at which point, one of them shoved a stick under my nose and had me take a whiff.


the first time we used our new ratan sticks you could see the smoke coming off them during sinawalli.
one of them shoved a stick under my nose and had me take a whiff.


I remember that smell from my first Professor seminar. I said the same thing. "whats burning?"

I haven't ever seen any other types of sticks have the same effect. So I try to find rattan so I can make em burn.

I have also been told that in the right light you can see small bits of smoke. I haven't seen it myself.

I have also been told that in the right light you can see small bits of smoke. I haven't seen it myself.

This only happens with unpeeled Rattan. But not only that. When you have these kind of stick where you can see the "smoke" when they hit each other, try to do the same thing when it is totally dark. Then you might be able to see small flashes.
Then you know why you smell the "burning" rattan.

Best regards from Germany

Datu Dieter Kn羹ttel
I will have to try sinawalli in the dark with my rattan. I love to watch sparks fly.

One of the demos my instructor and I did together we used machetes while doing sinawalli in a darkened gym. Very impressive! We got many ooooh's and awwwww's.
can i suggest choose the stick by how you train? if you do a lot of stick to stick, i recommend the hard plastic ones because they dont break. but some people miss the smell of the rattan when they do it, but they last longer than rattan which get expensive (i seel them for 5 bucks). when i was a teenager in the philippines you can buy rattan for almost a quarter, so we buy sticks almost every week because the sticks break every workout. but you cant do that here.

if you train using live training, and i mean you train in full speed with full power attack combos, you should start with light sticks until your wrist gets strong and move up to heavy sticks. dont be a macho man and choose heavy from the beginning, becuase you cant develop your speed and coordination that way. my students use this method, and they use the very skinny sticks for 3 months and move up the weight every three months. but when we stick train, we swing full power for 45 minutes and the skinny sticks let you develop slowly.

for me i have two kinds i use. i use 3/4 to 1' rattan for most of my training, and i hit tires or a tree or solo. i have a pipe one of my students who works in construction gave to me, i do this only sometimes for a burn out, when i go until i cant even hold on to the pipe.
In addition to what thekuntawman man posted about the way you train, your style will dictate what kinda of stick. If your style as alot of witik, abanico and flourishes and you are beginner you may want to start with a light stick. If you come from a method that concetrates on more power shots you can go to heavier one.

Thickness is just personel preference. If you have small hands you may not want to use fat sticks because your hand is fighting to keep a closed grip not because its too heavy. You can train with real heavy dense thin sticks.

Black Grass
Any suggestions on where to buy good rattan sticks online?
Originally posted by DWright
I have also been told that in the right light you can see small bits of smoke. I haven't seen it myself.

Well, I finally saw this for myself this past Sunday! We train outdoors in a large park and me, the guros, and the sun were lined up just right so as to allow me to see (fairly large!) puffs of smoke as they did sumbrada.

Later that morning, I got to see the puffs up close as they came off my stick when working with one of the guros.

Next, to see the sparks in the dark!