A master of the art must be a master of himself. He must be in control. His daily life epitomizes a man in control of his life, his destiny.- Edgar Sulite
It has been said many times that stick training in Filipino Martial Arts expedites the development of your natural attributes such as speed, power, coordination, timing, reaction speed, perceptual speed, spatial relationships, angle recognition, and footwork. Another benefit to training with sticks is that punches look slower to the FMA practitioner. How so? The speed of the tip of the stick is much faster than a punch. After hours of practicing with a stick, punches are going to look slow in comparison. No wonder why full-time FMA practitioners in their 60s have amazing physical attributes.
For example, take a look at 64-year-old GM Bobby Taboada’s speed. Amazing!
If you are not able to view the video, click here.
As one can see, the stick can be an amazing tool for developing all the aforementioned physical attributes. Many stories abound about older FMA Masters and their incredible physical skills.
However, are physical attributes the only benefit one can gain from stick training?
Most assuredly not.
Being an instructor, I’ve been honoured and flattered when students trust me enough to confide in me about their troubles. I’ve been surprised with the number of students and colleagues who are struggling with various emotional issues ranging from childhood sexual and physical trauma to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance abuse, PTSD, and various other issues.
I can understand where they are coming from. I was born severely hearing impaired (as a result of the rubella outbreak between 1964 to 1966). Currently, I’m nearly profoundly deaf in the right ear and wear a cochlear implant on the left side. I attended the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts from 1970 to 1974. I returned to my hometown of Barberton, Ohio to be mainstreamed in the local elementary school.
My classmates and my teachers were fantastic for accepting for who I am. However, for many years, I always felt like I didn’t “fit” in this world. You see, on the one hand, there’s the deaf community which communicates largely through ASL and, on the other hand, there’s the hearing world. I didn’t know ASL and still don’t. I also missed out on a lot of conversations due to my severe hearing impairment. So, I frequently felt as though I wasn’t a part of either world and struggled with self-esteem issues for many years.
In my hometown of Barberton, I played football from 4th grade through my senior year in high school. I was a starter from the 6th grade through the 10th grade. In the 11th and 12th grade, I was a backup tailback and split end. I started the first two games of my senior year as a split end but lost the job for the rest of the year.
For years afterwards, I would regularly dream that I was magically transported back in time to the practice fields of Barberton High in 1982. “Wow, I have a second chance here!” The dream would end the same way every time. I would mishear the play call in the huddle and, consequently, I would screw up the play and lose the job again. And again. And again. And again.
August of 1982 in Barberton, Ohio.
Clearly, the theme was much more than just football. It was about how I felt about my place in the world. Many times, I came up miserably short when comparing myself to others. Martial arts, especially Modern Arnis, and contemplation over the years helped me to realize that this is a futile exercise. Martial arts and aging will do wonders to change that mindset. 🙂 Fortunately, those dreams are far less frequent these days and have mostly disappeared.
It has become clear to me that, while many of my students come to my classes primarily to learn self-defence, they are seeking much more from my classes. They are looking for a place of belonging. They are looking for a place to restore their sense of self, to gain confidence, to build themselves up and not to feel so shortchanged when comparing themselves to others. In this regard, I understand their feelings of inadequacy. When they express their sense of “not fitting in”, I get it!
My role as an instructor has shifted over the years. While I still view the stick as a means of developing amazing physical attributes for self-defence, I have increasingly come to view it as a personal development tool as well.
They can use the stick to learn valuable self-defence skills but also as a figurative fighting tool in their struggles. The stick teaches “counter for counter” and “the flow” and those are concepts that readily carry over to life outside of class.
The stick can be used to gain a sense of competency and accomplishment from hard work in my classes. I am reasonably certain that if I drive hard on a student and they defend themselves well, they are going to feel good about it. My goal is to engender feelings of confidence that will permeate all areas of their life.
With respect to children, there is no doubt that they will encounter the usual curveballs from life as they grow up. Even though I see them just once or twice a week, I hope that they learn enough life lessons, along with some hard-earned confidence, to handle the inevitable obstacles they will face down the road.
Does this mean that I’m going to take it easy on my students? Au contraire, mon frere.
I’m just more aware of my students and what they are looking for in my classes. I’m going to continue to teach self-defence skills while giving them a good time!
So yes, the stick is an amazing tool, just not in ways that most people would expect.