Stick Fighting Skills

Stick Fighting Martial Artist

Stick fighting is a form of combat where practitioners use hand held wooden sticks (often called kali or escrima sticks) to fight each other. “Stick fighting” is actually a nonspecific term referring to the various weapon based martial arts styles that use stick combat in their fighting systems.

However, stick fighting should not be confused with Cane Fighting, as this is a completely different form of combat, requiring completely different skill sets.

Believe it or not but there are many different martial arts that practice various forms of stick fighting. For example, “intonga” is an ancient stick combat martial art practiced in South Africa. There is also the French stick fighting martial art called “Canne de combat” as well as many others. However, the most popular stick fighting arts can be found in the Filipino Martial Arts systems (or FMA). They include:

Stick Fighting Video
  • Kali
  • Arnis
  • Modern Arnis
  • Escrima

What follows are some of the best tips and techniques for real-world stick fighting applications. These skills have been taught to thousands of my students and I’m certain they can help you improve your stick fighting skills. You can learn more by following the link to my Stick Fighting Video, check out the teaser video below:

Stick Fighting Martial Arts & Self-Defense

Fighting with sticks might seem like a primitive and ancient form of combat but it actually has a lot of importance for modern reality based self-defense. Actually, stick combat offers numerous benefits for the practitioner and it’s an essential component of my Contemporary Fighting Arts combat system.

Benefits of Stick Fighting Training

Stick Fighting Training

As I stated previously, stick fighting skills are important for modern day self-defense applications for the following two reasons.

  • Using a Stick to Protect Yourself – When used correctly, a stick can be a very effective self-defense weapon. Generally, stick strikes can cause severe blunt-force trauma injuries. Sticks are also ubiquitous and can be readily employed in many self-defense situations. Fighting with sticks will give you the skills necessary to use the weapon effectively and efficiently under a variety of combat situations.
  • Defending Against a Stick Attack – There is always the possibility that you can be attacked by a stick wielding criminal. Stick combat actually teaches you about the weapon’s strengths, weaknesses and limitations. This information is vital if you are going to effectively defend against the weapon or perform a stick disarming technique.

Sparring with Rattan Sticks

One of the best ways to sharpen and improve your stick fighting skills and techniques is through regular sparring exercises also called “stick sparring.” To accomplish this you will need a skilled and trustworthy training partner, lightweight rattan sticks and lots of protective gear. You will also need a room that will allow the both of you to move around freely without running into windows, doors or other potentially hazardous objects.

The Kali Stick

Kali Sticks

As I mentioned earlier, you will need a good pair of rattan sticks (also called kali sticks) to spar with your training partner. This weapon is approximately 26 inches in length and is relatively slender. It is hard, yet lightweight, durable and relatively inexpensive.

Most importantly, the rattan stick is also safer than wood because it does not splinter on impact. It simply frays and shreds apart over time. This is especially important when performing full contact stick combat techniques with your training partner.

Kali sticks allow the fighters to engage in full contact training, however protective gear (i.e., fencing masks, mouth guard, hand protection, arm and elbow pads, throat and chest protectors, groin cup, etc) must be worn at all times.

Holding a Stick for Combat Purposes

There is a right way and wrong way to hold a kali stick when stick sparring. Knowing the difference can save your life! When holding your rattan stick, always allow enough room (approximately one fist length) on the bottom portion of your weapon.

First, when you hold your kali stick in this fashion, it actually converts one stick into two weapons useful weapons. The end portion can now be used for butting techniques at close quarter combat range. Second, it provides greater leverage which improves your impact power. Third, it significantly enhances your weapon retention when fighting.

A moderate amount of pressure should be applied when gripping your rattan stick. Grasping your kali stick too tightly when fighting can be problematic because it will tire your hands and cause unnecessary cramping. Your stick strikes will also be telegraphed and the speed and power of your strikes will be significantly reduced.

“There is a right way and wrong way to hold a kali stick when fighting. Knowing the difference can save your life!”

Stick Fighting Ranges

There are three separate distances of stick combat that must be completely mastered. They include:

Long Range Stick Combat – this is the furthest distance of stick fighting where you can only strike your assailant’s hand with your rattan stick.
Mid Range Stick Combat – this is the intermediate stick fighting range where you can strike your assailant’s head, arms and body with your stick.
Close Quarter Stick Combat – this is the third and final distance of stick fighting where you can strike your assailant with the butt of your weapon and you can employ a variety of elbow, knee and head butt strikes. 

Stick Fighting Techniques

The Best Stick Fighting Techniques

What follows are just a sampling of my stick fighting techniques from my book, THE 10 BEST STICK FIGHTING TECHNIQUES. It is my hope that you can employ these techniques to improve your odds of winning a fight. When you are done reading these guidelines, you might want to take a look at the book and also check out my STICK FIGHTING VIDEO.

When fighting with sticks, always keep your stick moving. This is important for some of the following reasons:

  • It prevents inertia from setting in during combat.
  • It enhances the overall velocity of your strikes.
  • It minimizes weapon telegraphing, especially prior to striking with your stick.
  • It enhances your defensive reaction time.
  • It minimizes your hand and digit exposure when fighting.
  • It significantly enhances the offensive flow.
  • It makes your assailant misjudge the range of your stick.

There are nine general stick combat positions that you and your adversary can engage. They include the following:

  • Both you and your assailant are in the prone position.
  • You are kneeling and your assailant is prone position.
  • Your assailant is kneeling and you are prone position.
  • Both you and your assailant are kneeling.
  • You are standing and your assailant is prone.
  • Your assailant is standing and you are prone.
  • You are standing and your assailant is kneeling.
  • Your assailant is standing and you are kneeling.
  • Both you and your assailant are standing.

If you want to improve your overall stick combat skills, its important to have your and your training partner practice with a wide range of sticks.  If your finances permit you, workout with: long sticks, short sticks, light sticks, heavy sticks, balanced sticks, unbalanced sticks,cumbersome sticks, makeshift sticks, wooden sticks, and metal sticks.

During a stick fight, you only have four possible defensive options. Make certain you can execute all four of these responses with ease and efficiency when fighting with rattan sticks.

  • Evasion – you can move out of the angle of the stick attack.
  • Deflection – you can deflect the stick attack.
  • Block – you can block the oncoming stick attack.
  • Striking – you can strike the opponent’s weapon hand with your own stick.

The only real way to improve your stick combat skills is to regularly engage in a variety of different drills. These exercises can be performed with either one or two rattan sticks at the same time. That’s right! Two sticks at the same time (also know as double stick training).

Now, I’m the first to state it’s highly unlikely that you will be faced with a situation where you will fight a criminal adversary with two sticks in your hands. Perhaps in a Rambo movie but not in a real world self-defense situation.

So, why is it important to practice fighting with two sticks (also called double stick training) at the same time? Well, the following list will show you just how beneficial it can be for the aspiring martial artists and self-defense technician.

Rambo III Double Stick Fighting Scene
  • Improve your overall self confidence.
    Improve your mental and physical speed.
  • Increase the power of your arm blows.
  • Minimize overall telegraphic movements in your body mechanics.
  • Improves your eye-hand coordination.
  • Improve your ability to adapt to weapon attacks from unpredictable angles.
  • Refine and enhance your ability to move in combat.
  • Develops and sharpens your sense of timing.
  • Teach you range specificity.
  • Reinforces your sense of target recognition.
  • For more information about using stick fighting drills to improve your overall fighting performance, see my stick fighting video.

Practice stick combat in a variety of different environments, terrains, locations and positions.  Some challenging locations for stick fighting training include:

  • doorways and hallways
  • on the stairs
  • ascending a hill
  • descending a hill
  • in a ditch
  • on a bridge
  • under a bridge
  • standing in the water
  • in the snow
  • in the mud
  • in the sand
  • in tall grass
  • in-between shrubbery
  • in- between tress and branches
  • in the kneeling position
  • in the prone position
  • Be careful when stick sparring in unstable terrains and environments. Make certain you are being supervised by a qualified stick fighting instructor.

Avoid performing thrusting motions when stick fighting. Thrusting your kali stick can be risky for the following reasons:

  • When the tip of your stick makes contact with a hard body target, it will put tremendous strain on your wrists which can lead to a severe sprain or possible break.
  • You can lose your kali stick when impacting with a strong surface area.
  • Stick thrusting motions simply lack neutralizing power.
  • Thrusting motions with a rattan stick should be used sparingly and only under certain combative circumstances.  Generally,  thrusting motions should be used when knife fighting.

Good luck in your training!

Sammy Franco
Founder & President
Contemporary Fighting Arts

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