At the dawn of his existence, man the hunter and man the warrior used sticks,
stones, and the bones of dead animals as clubs and projectiles. Then man the
toolmaker, with keen sense of observation, noticing that the tip of a stick was
most effective for thrusting, sharpened it into javelins and arrows. However,
the stick as such retained its importance as a weapon, while also serving as a
support and, in some cases, as an emblem of power and status. The use of sticks
of various girths and lengths became more and more sophisticated and many forms
of stickfighting were developed by various peoples.
With the advent of firearms, stickfighting fell almost into oblivion. Yet during
the last century, when the use of walking sticks was in vogue and the streets of
many large cities were dangerous, there was a brief revival of stickfighting for
self-defense purposes. The most notable revival took place in France, where the
arts of the canne and the baton became fashionable for a while. The established
tradition of fencing in that country strongly influenced both arts. In England
the use of the quarterstaff also experienced some renewed interest. Today, the
police and the military of many countries receive extensive training in the use
of the police baton and the longer riot staff.
Why should a civilian today be concerned about such a seemingly antiquated
method of self-defense as stickfighting? First of all, stickfighting is quite
close to its kindred fencing, and similar benefits may be derived from it. But
there is another, more convincing reason. In today's world, with crime so
prevalent, laws on self-defense so confusing, and the possession of weapons
discouraged for the honest and law-abiding citizen, the use of stickfighting for
self-protection is perhaps much more meaningful than any of the many popular
forms of unarmed combat. Let us assume that a person has received extensive
training in his youth in one of the unarmed Oriental martial arts. As he grows
older, he may begin to wonder how long his punches and kicks will be accurate
and devastating, and his holds unbreakable. How long will he be in a position to
submit to the gruelling training necessary to maintain efficiency?
While it is true that man, after reaching a peak in his physical condition,
slowly declines, he can substantially offset such decline by the method he
chooses to use to defend himself. A well-placed thrust or snap with a stick by
an older or weaker person will, in the majority of cases, have a much more
telling effect than a punch or a kick by the same person. Furthermore, the use
of a stick will have the added great advantage of keeping the opponent at a
distance. This can, of course, be very important.
What kind of stick would be most appropriate for self-protection by the average
citizen? Naturally, the police baton and the recently more popular nuachaku come
first to mind. However, because of its more inconspicuous nature, and the fact
that it has not been outlawed, I feel that a stick the size of a non-collapsible
umbrella or a walking stick would be best. I do not believe that there are any
hard and fast rules in this matter. This book is devoted to techniques using the
A.S.P. (American Self Protection) stick, which may be handled either with one
hand or both, as the situation demands. It is a hardwood dowel which can be
obtained at any lumber yard. Standard sizes are 3 feet long by J to 1 inch in
diameter (as shown). Such a stick is light, quite sturdy, and even a weak person
can easily handle it with one hand. Equipped with a rubber tip and assuming
adequate protection for the players, it can be used for the sport of A.S.P.
stickfencing and/or stickfighting sparring.
Before going any further, let us say a few words about A.S.P. Our first question
is: Why was A.S.P. developed? Briefly, in view of the increasing number of
attacks in our streets, it was felt that there is a great need for a defensive
method accessible to a broad cross-section of the population; a method which
would be effective, simple, and could be mastered with reasonable effort.
Another important requirement was that the techniques learned could be retained
for long periods of time, with occasional brush-ups, without losing much of
their efficacy. It must be honestly recognized, however, that the best self
protection system in the world, if there is such a thing, cannot be foolproof
and cannot perform miracles. It can afford a chance, and only a chance, in the
event of an attack. The more you train, the better are your chances of defending
effectively. A better system should afford a greater benefit, a better yield,
for the time spent in training. That is all. Any other claims must be viewed as
self-serving sales talk.
How does A.S.P. go about reaching its goals? In order to understand the system,
one must first realize that all forms of fighting, whether in attack or defense
and whether one shoots a bazooka or uses one's fists, rest on five principles.
These principles are universally applicable precisely because they are
principles. One common mistake is to confuse principles with attributes, or in
other words, principles of action with qualities which are necessary for
effective fighting (for example, good balance, coordination, fast reflexes, and
so on). The five principles of all fighting arts are explained below.
DISTANCE: The ability to accurately judge the distance from which an attack can
be successfully landed, or evaded, is so important as to be an absolute
necessity. Obviously, if you are out of the range of an attack, you do not have
to worry about it. On the other hand, if you do not accurately judge the proper
distance, you will reach your opponent or will foil his attacks only by chance.
DIRECTION: When an opponent attacks in your direction and, after he is committed
to his attack in that direction, if you change your position to dodge his
attack, you may also be able to find an opening for retaliation. For instance,
suppose you are facing an opponent as he attacks you, when the attack is about
to arrive, you may evade it by pivoting on your right foot toward your rear
left, thus assuming a position parallel to the direction of the attack. Then,
not only will you be safe from it, but you will also be in a position to
retaliate powerfully. Further, if you attack, you should be able to judge from
his position when your attack will reach him, exactly as if you were shooting at
a moving target.
TIMING: No attack or defense can be successful without proper timing. Speed is
important for timing. (Occasionally, proper timing gives the impression of
speed.) A good sense of distance, direction, and timing is necessary for
accuracy and effectiveness in attack and defense.
MOMENTUM AND LEVERAGE: Both momentum (more accurately, kinetic energy) and
leverage serve to develop power, either for delivering a blow or kick, for
breaking a hold, or for throwing an opponent. Gathering momentum in order to
swiftly transfer it onto a small area of your opponent's body develops
penetrating power and is the principle behind the so-called "focused" blows and
kicks (see p. 24).
After having decided to approach self-protection from the standpoint of
principles, rather than using the piecemeal, individual technique approach, the
next important step in developing A.S.P. was to select from among a great number
of possibilities a truly representative but limited number of attacks. These
were selected on the basis that they contained the elements of motion (physical
education instructors call them kinesiological elements) of a great number of
other possible attacks. After the analysis of these factors, defensive
techniques were devised which, besides being efficacious, were themselves
composed of a limited number of elements of motion which were simple and very
versatile in the sense that they could be used against a great variety of
attacks. Because of this versatility, with repetitive use such kinesiological
elements become conditioned reflexes, which are thus retained much longer by the
student. For this very reason, the A.S.P. student finds the techniques
progressively easier as he advances. Our evidence indicates that the degree of
retention of the material learned is superior to that of any other system.
The elements of these techniques are not novel in themselves and I do not claim
to have invented them. But neither can any one person honestly make such a claim
for any fighting art or sport. The real value of A.S.P. as a system resides
precisely in the way these elements have been put together.
It took the originator no less than twelve years to complete the groundwork
described above, and it now becomes clear why, if A.S.P. techniques are taken
out of context, the meaning of the system is lost, as are most of the benefits
that can be derived from it. This, however, does not imply that A.S.P. in its
present form is cast in concrete. It simply means that an entirely novel
approach to physical training, as applied particularly to fighting arts and
sports, has been discovered. One can build on this system as long as its
guidelines and precepts are followed, and like any other living system, it may
change as it grows.
For a person who trains to react according to the five principles, the type of
attack he is under becomes of secondary importance. He soon realizes that the
techniques learned are widely effective (as many A.S.P. students have had the
opportunity to test in real life), that he gets much more out of his efforts
than with any other system, and that he retains more of what he learns.
One problem remained to be solved, namely, training the student, safely and
realistically, to instinctively react against sequences of unrehearsed attacks.
This is achieved with a certain type of free sparring. It is true that in most
cases of real attacks, when the defender foils the initial phase of an attack,
he then has the choice of another evasive action or of a retaliation. For this
reason, and because if the first phase of an attack is successful, the defender
may not have another chance, we put a great deal of emphasis on evasive tactics.
There is also the fact that some people do not care to retaliate and are
satisfied with evasive action, which in some instances may be enough to
discourage an attacker. In A.S.P. such preventive techniques are known as
"before" techniques, in contrast to the "secured" techniques, in which the
attack has fully materialized.
In undergraduate (below Black Belt level) sparring, one defends against a single
attacker, who desists from his attack once it has been foiled or brought under
control; then he attacks anew. In Black Belt sparring, the defender faces two or
more attackers in rapid succession, so as to increasingly build up his reflexes
and speed. We strongly believe in preventive techniques, for these are the most
accessible to the greatest number of people, particularly weaker people. During
the fifteen years of the official existence of A.S.P., we have gathered
convincing evidence that our training method is capable of preparing one well
for real-life situations with perfect safety.
At this point we have covered all the essential elements of our system per se,
with the exception of the legal aspects of self-protection. While it is true
that laws vary from state to state and from country to country, it is also true
that all are in essential agreement on one point: a defense must not be much
more severe than the attack it aims at foiling. For instance, if I push you, you
do not have the right to break my arm or to kick me in the groin. Here again the
emphasis on preventive techniques is further justified because, in some cases,
even though there might be a good reason for, let us say, gouging the attacker's
eyes, as in the course of a potentially lethal attack, many people may hesitate
to resort to such a severe method, even at the risk of their own lives. This
brings out another point, namely, the necessity for any practically meaningful
system to give its practitioners a limited (to avoid confusion) but realistic
choice of possible retaliations of varying degree of severity. The defender must
always use good judgment and common sense, but while it is very hard to teach or
develop either one of these, it is at least possible to give the defender a
meaningful choice of action. One may choose between evasive action alone, or
together with mild retaliation to possibly scare off the attacker; medium
retaliation, so as to incapacitate him momentarily; or severe retaliation, which
may even be lethal when called for. We feel that the availability of these
choices to the defender is essential.
Later, some holds using the A.S.P. stick will be described, illustrating its
versatility, although they are not essential for effective use of the stick,
either in holding an opponent at bay or in incapacitating him. By proper
application of the five principles, a weak person can impart very considerable
power and penetration to his techniques. It is so much the better if he can
punch, kick, or grapple as well.
Neither complicated nor expensive equipment is needed in stick training. Even
the help of a partner, while desirable, is not a necessity. Furthermore, if
practiced as described in this book, self-protection with a stick is an
excellent form of physical conditioning. Some physical conditioning exercises
are described in Chapter 1, and you will get more out of training if you use
them. No matter how efficient a system is, it cannot perform miracles. The more
you train, the better you will be.
Readers interested in more details about the development and philosophy of
A.S.P. should refer to the author's previous books,
Kickboxing: A Safe Sport, A Deadly Defense
(Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle, 1976) and Basic American Self-Protection
(Northfield, Ohio: Evanel Associates, 1972). These books also discuss certain
topics only touched upon in the present work. For information about A.S.P.