In an edition of Black Belt magazine that I picked up recently (April 2008), there is an article on Paul Vunak and the topic of “Defanging the Snake.” This article was done in an interview format and one section piqued my interest:

“BB: Why should martial artists in the 21st century incorporate stick fighting into their training ?

PV: To answer that properly, I have to go back to Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto in the 1960’s. Bruce was obviously an amazing person, an amazing martial artist, and an amazing athlete. For many years, he was the only person at that level Dan had ever seen. After meeting Bruce, Dan was introduced to some Filipino masters by Ed Parker. He noticed that these masters had the same attributes as Bruce: similar speed, similar sensitivity, similar body mechanics. Dan had been probably in 20 martial arts before, he’d never seen anyone move like Bruce and these guys were in their 60s. Those masters were able to move that way because of the weapons. When you move with weapons in your hand, it expedites the development of your natural attributes. Whether you’re talking about speed, power, coordination, timing, spatial relationships or footwork, you can quadruple it by working with weapons.

BB: How does weapons training increase your speed?

PV: When you swing a stick, the tip of it moves about 150 miles per hour. No punch moves that fast. So when you’re used to seeing a stick swing that fast, punches seem like they are coming at you in slow motion. There are so many different angles and so many different weapons that when you make the transition to empty hand, it’s really easy”

The funny thing is Master Chuck Gauss said almost exactly the same thing several weeks ago in terms of making the transition from stick work to empty hand work. I wholeheartedly agree with both of these guys, FMAs can lend quite a bit to the development of your natural attributes and recognition of the angles of attacks. I can testify to the incredible attributes of Professor Remy Presas. At the age of 63 or so, his attributes were just out of this world due to the fact that he had been using a stick since the age of 5. No wonder why his speed, timing, spatial relationships and the other natural attributes were superb. I can see the same in others who have practiced Filipino Martial arts for substantial periods of time. If you can handle sticks in practice well, the transition to empty handed self defense can be easy. To that end, I tend to emphasize more stick work than empty hand work in class….in order to develop and increase the natural attributes of those attending class. In other words, “drills to build skills.”

I have said similar things to my students concerning how stick work can help accelerate the development of attributes of speed, sensitivity, timing and rhythm. And when Mr. Vunak says that “I tend to emphasize more stick work than empty hand work in class in order to develop and increase the natural attributes of those attending class” I nod my head. That is why I spend more time on stick material than on empty hand material in class.

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