With Dagger and Stick By Antonio graceffo

Bob Hubbard

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Aug 4, 2001
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Land of the Free
With Dagger and Stick
Philippine Kuntaw uses a combination of a stick and dagger combined with sweeps to finish an opponent.
By Antonio graceffo

In manila there is a lot of trouble on the streets. People learn street fighting as a kind of self defense. A few years ago underground fighting was still popular. They would meet in the cock fighting arena and bet money. Said Master Frank Aycocho.

I told the master I had heard that there were also fights with real knives.

I believe that would not be advisable, he said, gravely.

Frank is a master of Philippine Kuntaw martial art and an expert at stick and knife fighting.

Kuntaw is really a hand and foot fighting art, he explained. It doesnt have its own form of stick fighting. We practice some stick and knife fighting, but it comes from Modern Arnis and Kali. We practiced the old way, with one long stick and one short stick. We call the sticks, espada and dagga. This system was based on Spanish fencing, because during the Spanish colonial time our language absorbed many Spanish words. The Spanish used a short knife and a sword, but we use a short knife and a stick.

Philippine stick fighting is governed by the World Escrima, Kali, Arnis Federation. The head of the federation went to America and teaches our sports there. The Kuntaw Temple moved to Florida and became the Kuntaw Palace, Stephen Segal went and trained there..

Although all four martial arts use elements of stick, knife, and hand and foot fighting,
Kali generally refers to knife fighting, Escrima and Arnis to stick fighting, and Kuntaw to hand and foot fighting.

Similar knife fighting arts are prevalent in other Muslim countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. In Indonesia and Malaysia, they train with the Kris, a special curved knife with a serpentine blade. But in the Philippines, they usually use the bolo, a large hacking knife like a machete.

The stick can be used for blocking, and the dagger for cutting.

Each time we block the strike, we slice with the dagger. Always slice the hand that is holding the knife. Said Master Frank.

As a rule, Master Frank prefers the method of using only one stick or knife.

With both hands full, you cant grapple or disarm the way you would in single stick or single blade fighting. So the disarming technique here is the slice. You slice the hand that is holding the weapon. Each time he strikes, you block and slice eventually the weapon will fall out of his hand involuntarily.

We dont teach stabbing with the knife because it is too aggressive, too violent. We are not teaching violence. We are teaching self defense. Also, the Philippines is a Catholic country. People could be offended if we start talking about stabbing people.

Since the art of Kuntaw, like all of the Filipino martial arts, originated from the Muslims, a lot of thought is put into not offending the Muslim sensibilities. For example, in competitions in Muslim countries, they normally dont allow punches to the face. So, Kuntaw honors this religious sensitivity. Additionally, when the Kuntaw people tie their belt, they make sure there isnt a cross showing in the knot or in the back.

The Muslims of Mindanao never surrendered to the Spanish. They are proud people, and although they show respect to their opponent before they fight, they dont bow. Start in ready stance with one stick in each hand, step out to the left. That is the bow. Now step your right leg back and you are in the on guard position.

The stick is often referred to as a cane.

We have a cane techniques called cinco tirros (five strikes) and tres manos (three hands) and the twelve strikes, and the abanico.

In the abanico, you strike the temple, then do a quick twist, strike the other temple, and then a quick downward smash to the top of the head. This is done with blinding swiftness. The students practice this short combination thousands of times until the sound of the three strikes sounds like a triple tap on the trigger of an assault rifle.

Basic combinations have only three or five strikes, but advanced can build up to as many as twelve or more.

The twelve strike works like this. Number one strike is to the side of the neck, then the stick rotates around and hits the other side. This quick twist and strike to both temples is called the abanico. When the strikes are delivered to the temples, you must be in cat stance, with both knees bent and the front leg dragged in close to you. Next, strike the two sides of the floating ribs, followed by two strikes to the ligaments above the knee. The next strike is a thrust. Step forward and thrust to the center of the body, the solar plexus. Eight and nine strike above the elbow, ten and eleven temple from the other side. And number twelve is straight down on the head. But the top of the head strike is done with a huge powerful strike which goes all the way through like if you were cutting the man in half.

When using only one stick, you can grapple with your free hand. Master Frank showed me one technique where he blocked my strike with the stick pointing at the ground then insert the end of the stick into the crook of my arm and applied pressure. Using his stick for leverage on my arm, he forced my arm to hyperextend and my stick came right out of my hand.

The techniques work for both bladed and non-bladed weapons. If you opponent attacks you with a stick, you can block and grab his stick with your free hand. If he is using a bladed weapon you have to grab his hand. Master Frank stressed to always block with your stick first, then with the hand. Push the attackers hand or weapon down so it is not pointing at you. Then counter strike and disarm. If you block with your stick pointing down at the ground, you can rotate your hand around, insert the end of your stick in the crock of his arm and use leverage to disarm him. In this case, the attackers fingers become trapped between your stick and his stick. And he is forced to let go. When the attacker releases the weapon, you grab it. Now you have two sticks.

In Kuntaw, anytime you disarm the opponent, your next move is a sweep. A powerful hook sweep to the back of the leg is used. Your sweep follows through with such force that you wind up in a stork stance, with your sweeping leg coming up in the air. Once your opponent is lying on the ground, deliver the finish, which means a two-stick double strike, with your full body weight on your opponent who is now passed out o the ground.

Follow the flow of the stream. said Master Frank. This way, you will not waste any energy or any time in your striking. When you block, without stopping, allow your stick to bounce off his stick and strike him. Next, allow the energy to carry through and spin the stick around your head and strike him a second time. This is the multiple strike. If he grabs your stick, you can push forward. Allow the force of his pulling action to pull the butt of your stick into his throat or face. When that happens he will probably release, in which case you can continue the momentum with a double strike. After delivering your strikes, step back into on guard position and be ready.

In the movies, people love to twirl and spin the sticks and do all of these movements, but it is too much. It looks nice, but it doesnt win the fight. The object in stick fighting should be to defend yourself, and to finish the opponent quickly.

The master said you must always think, with every strike, what am I trying to achieve here? Which part of the body am I trying to destroy?

In the tournaments, these guys are just hitting, hitting, hitting to get points. But they should be thinking about effective striking and ending the fight quickly.

My first Kung Fu teacher, H. David Collins, once told me. You dont need a lot of techniques. If you master one kick, one punch, one block, and one throw, no one could defeat you.

Master Frank has a similar theory about winning stick fighting. His basic stick fighting strategy was consisted of only five movements: strike, block, disarm, sweep, and then deliver the finishing blow. When the Master was working in Saudi Arabia, he trained an American in this simple five step process. The American flew to Philippines to compete in the World Escrima competition. Just using this very basic strategy, stressing fundamentals, the student won the world championship.

We practiced Kali, weapons, against Kuntaw, open hand. When the opponent is armed with dagger and stick, and you are unarmed, you must wait until you see him flinch. He must flinch. In order to strike with either the stick or the knife he must first draw back, to get power. That is the moment you must attack.

When the Master was working in the desert, he was attacked by a big man, wielding a knife.

He tried to stab me. I saw him pull back first. I would have gone in then, but because of the sandy earth, I was moving too slowly. I kicked his arm, just below the elbow and the knife flew away. Next, I grabbed one finger and threw him. It was an overhead hip throw, but instead of grabbing his arm, I was only holding one finger. Afterwards, I told him dont ever try that on a small guy like me again or I will break all of your bones.

Do you still have that finger in a drawer somewhere? I asked.

Not a one dimensional purist, the Master believes you must train in several martial arts before becoming a master of one.

I like training with the Katana sword. But I want a real one from Japan. I bought one which was made locally, used it on a tree once, and it shattered. The katana sword is good because it locks in the case, and you can use the scabbard as a weapon. Also the blade is like a mirror. One reason why the Japanese have a lot of techniques where they hold the blade up at eye level is because they are looking behind them. If you have one opponent in front and one behind, you should attack the one behind first because he is not expecting it.

Winning a fight to the death is all about timing and technique.

You execute your strikes in between your opponents strikes. When he makes the motion that he is about to strike, you must get in. This is called anticipation of action by your opponent. This is the same for hand or stick. In stick fighting, he will retract first to get strength. That is the moment you have to get in and execute your disarming.

Antonio Graceffo is an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is a professional fighter and the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com see his website www.speakingadventure.com

Checkout Antonios website http://speakingadventure.com/

Get Antonios books at amazon.com
The Monk from Brooklyn
Bikes, Boats, and Boxing Gloves
The Desert of Death on Three Wheels
Adventures in Formosa

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