To be a complete martial artist you need to be semi-familiar with how to handle weapons, including sticks, knives, flexible weapons, firearms, etc. After all, if you end up in a serious confrontation and there’s a tool handy then you’d be a fool to duke it out empty handed.
To help you with becoming better rounded let’s take a look at one of the most important drills from the Filipino martial arts called ‘Sinawali’. This is a double stick striking pattern with a thousand variations.
It looks fancy but it’s super important.
I speak from personal experience here: if you do full contact stick fighting with double sticks then a considerable amount of the fight is going to involve some variation of sinawali. Once the distance is closed it quickly turns into a duelling lawnmowers situation: two fighters, four sticks and a blur of motion.
The very same movement pattern trained in sinawali can also be applied to single stick, sword and dagger (espada y daga), and even empty handed fighting.
Even if your primary focus is an empty handed martial art you would do well to learn a little bit of weapons.
The first thing I would advocate learning are the 5 most powerful strikes with a single stick. That will form the basis for all your other weapons training and also make sure that if you do club someone you’ll have their full attention.
But then I would quickly progress on to this double stick drill because it’s immediately useable and also forms the basis for so many advanced techniques and combinations.
(Plus there’s an undeniable intimidation factor; if you stand in front of someone blazing away with two weapons then the odds of them wanting to pursue matters and actually attack you are pretty minimal.)
When you’re doing this drill with a partner it looks pretty impressive…
But at it’s core it’s only 3 strikes, repeated again and again, on the left and on the right side.
The three strikes are
- Forehand followthrough #1
- Backhand followthrough #2
- Backhand snapback #2
(To understand the numbering system go to this article about the first 5 weapon angles)
These 3 strikes are repeated with alternating hands. Right, left, right, left, right, left…
So one complete cycle would actually look like this
- Forehand followthrough #1 with the right hand
- Backhand followthrough #2 with the left hand
- Backhand snapback #2 with the right hand
- Forehand followthrough #1 with the left hand
- Backhand followthrough #2 with the right hand
- Backhand snapback #2 with the left hand
Here is the one person version of the basic sinawali striking pattern (also known as ‘heaven 6’ in some systems).
From experience I know that the most common sticking point, the place where most people screw up, are steps 3 and 6.
That’s because the backhand strike starts out chambered above the other stick but then retracts to a position below after it comes back.
This can be easily remedied by isolating steps 3 and 6, initially drilling them on their own until they become instinctive.
This teaching progression is broken down for you in the video below:
Once you master the basic sinawali heaven 6 drill you can change angles, strikes and cadence to create an almost infinite number of double stick drills.
But all that fancy stuff is built on this basic foundation, so if you can only learn one double stick drill this should be the one!
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