1.0 Preparation & Training
HOW TO APPROACH PHYSICAL
The capacity for, and
tolerance to, physical exertion varies from person to person. It is therefore
important to approach training in a way which gradually increases this tolerance
without undue strain, exhaustion, or persistent muscle soreness. You are not
overdoing it if at the end of each session you are feeling pleasantly tired but
not fatigued. Any muscle soreness should not continue beyond the second day.
Here a psychological factor comes into play: the more you overdo it, the easier
it is to get discouraged. Slow down when necessary, but do not give up. No real
ability of any kind can be achieved without sustained effort. Depending on
age and physical condition, you should train two to three times a week. Results
are hard to achieve with less training, at least until such time as your
reflexes have received a minimal conditioning. Claims to the contrary are not to
be taken seriously. Naturally, if you aim to become a champion, you should
devote to training as many of your waking hours as you can.
Stamina, related to cardiovascular efficiency, and understood as the ability of
the organism to utilize oxygen efficiently, is perhaps the most important
attribute of physical fitness. It can be developed very effectively through
jogging, which you may do with a dual purpose, putting your hands to good use.
The sliding hands exercise, employing the stick, is very useful in this respect
(see p. 27). Then, as you jog, you may perform alternatively left and right
circular spring-slashes (see p. 40).
Finally, you may strengthen your grip as you jog either by using commercially
available grip spring-tensors, or by squeezing a couple of small rubber balls.
In either case, try to make a conscious effort to use your little finger
efficiently when squeezing. A strong, flexible, and sensitive grip is an
important requirement for developing and directing power effectively. The
following sports have a beneficial effect on stickfighting: skiing, sprinting,
broad jump, high jump, soccer, dancing (for strong legs and a good sense of
rhythm and timing), and last, but not least, training appropriate to kickboxing.
DEVELOPING POWERFUL SLASHES AND THRUSTS
It is a fallacy to believe that the ability to deliver powerful blows, slashes,
and thrusts is meaningful without first developing accuracy, timing, and good
balance, not only during delivery, but also during the recovery that follows.
Failure to realize this invariably results in lack of mobility and a stilted
style. Power is of the utmost importance, but only in its proper place.
Developing and conditioning the muscles is only part of their preparation for
As earlier mentioned, power is developed through the use of the principles of
momentum and leverage. The very use of our bodies implies leverage and it is not
necessary to belabor the point. The use of momentum, however, needs some
clarification. Momentum is closely related to speed and mass. Acceleration
means that the momentum of the attack steadily increases as the blow progresses
toward its target. The kinetic energy thus developed will be most effective if
it is transferred as completely as possible to the target at the point of
impact. This involves mental as well as physical concentration. Keep the two
following points in mind.
l. The smaller the area of impact, the more destructive the result will be,
because it will mean more force per square inch.
2. The less dissipation of power (i.e., kinetic energy) through cushioning from
the joints involved, the better its transfer to the target, hence the necessity
for completely tensing the attacking limb, as well as the body, at the moment of
Complete exhalation at
that moment is helpful because it tightens the large muscles of the midsection.
The concentration of resources described above is called "focus." To allow the
shock waves generated by the impact to propagate through the target, one should
instantly withdraw the attacking limb on impact. Instant relaxation of the
muscles involved helps to achieve this speedy withdrawal. Thus, as long as
the various parts of the body involved in delivering a blow abide by these
principles, such an attack will be destructive, assuming it is accurate. This
explains how boxers, kickboxers, and those who practice karate can deliver very
powerful blows. It follows that any powerful technique must of necessity start
with as little tension as possible in the attacking limb, then develop momentum
by smooth coordination of the parts of the body involved and, finally, culminate
in full tension at the point of impact. In summary, then, the smaller the area
in which the kinetic energy developed is transferred, the more destructive the
attack. The more tense the attacking limb at the point of impact, the less give
it will have and the more penetrating the attack will be. Of course, training in
the A.S.P. system is consistent with the foregoing, though we aim at developing
balance, accuracy, and then power, in that order.
In A.S.P. we have special calisthenics aimed at developing strength,
flexibility, and power in wrist action (a quality most important in
stickfighting). In the sport of sabre fencing as well as in stickfencing (not
fighting) it is not desirable to use powerful blows, because the purpose is not
to hurt the opponent, but to touch him in order to score. Indeed, only poor
fencers slash and thrust with force. Besides losing speed of action, fencers
using force soon find out that their partners take a rather dim view of such a
habit. In stickfighting, on the contrary, one must develop powerful parries,
slashes, and thrusts in order to foil real attacks and incapacitate an opponent.
It follows, then, that while a fast action is desirable both in fencing and
stickfighting, a strong wrist action is considerably more important in the
latter. The main topic of this book is stickfighting for self-protection and it
will, naturally, receive most attention. However, the sport of stickfencing can
play a very valuable role in training, and so Chapter 5 of this book is devoted
to it. The sport is best approached after the student has become acquainted with
the fundamentals of stickfighting. On the following page is a selection of wrist
calisthenics to help prepare the student for training.
The Prayer. Put your palms against each other in a prayerlike fashion, wrists
and elbows at the height of the shoulders. You should feel a stretching of the
muscles of the wrist, and initially this may be somewhat uncomfortable. Then,
pointing the fingers in succession, upward, to the front and away from you,
downward, and then toward you, stretch then bend your arms in each position.
While doing this you will feel the stretching of the muscles of the wrist. Make
sure your palms are pressing well against each other. Repeat the sequence at
least ten times.
The Cross. Fold your arms on your chest as follows. Cradle your left hand in
your right arm with the inside of your right elbow between the thumb and index
fingers. The thumb is pointing down and the left wrist bends as you fold the
right forearm over the left, tucking the right hand beneath the left elbow.
Apply pressure on the bent left wrist by bringing the elbows closer to each
other and, when the pressure is at its maximum, lift the right elbow above the
left. This action twists the wrist upward on the side of the ulna (the forearm
bone opposite the thumb). This composite pressure strengthens the wrist and
renders it more flexible and less sensitive to pain. Repeat this exercise at
least ten times on each wrist. You may also achieve the same action on
each hand by pressing the back of one hand with the palm of the other in the
direction of the wrist and twisting it upward and toward you.
The Twist. Bend both wrists fully while standing, arms along the sides, and
rotate your wrists as completely as you can so that they describe two complete
circles, the right wrist rotating in an opposite direction to that of the left.
Repeat at least ten times.
The Seal. This exercise involves push-ups on the flexed wrists (palms facing
up), which are gradually rotated in opposite directions after each push-up. A
push-up is performed in each new position of the wrist, until as full a circle
as possible is completed. This is a difficult exercise initially, but perhaps it
is the best of all. If your wrists hurt too much, don't insist: stop. Work at it
gradually. If regular push-ups are too hard initially, start with push-ups which
leave the hips on the working area.
The Stab. Standing up,
bend your right wrist completely, fingers pointing down. Shoulders, elbows, and
wrists being in one plane, curl the left fingers, knuckles pointing up, and
bring both arms together with force, striking the right wrist against the heel
of the left palm. Repeat several times, but stop if your wrist hurts too much.
Repeat several times, switching wrists. This exercise strengthens the wrist
EXERCISES WITH THE STICK
These exercises aim at familiarizing one with the handling of the stick.
Sliding Hands. Hold the stick diagonally across your chest with both hands, one
at chest level, and the other close to the opposite hip. The fingers of each
hand are held toward you. For example, if the right hand is held close to the
right breast, the left hand should be close to the left hip, and the upper tip
of the stick near to the right shoulder. Now, slide your hands together, then
over and away from each other (Fig. 1).
Pull outward as you slide your hands away from each other, to bring the upper
tip near to the left shoulder. Repeat, increasing the tempo until you are doing
it as fast as you can. Then try to increase the speed even more.
Horizontal Twirl. Grasp the stick at the middle with your right hand, extend the
right arm at shoulder height in front of you and twirl the stick using the
wrist, forearm, and fingers so that its tips describe two parallel and almost
horizontal circles. Increase speed as you become familiar with the exercise and
repeat with the left hand.
Vertical Twirl. Grasp the stick near one of its tips with your right hand and
point it up by bending the elbow, bringing up the forearm. Then, with a forward
motion of the elbow, let the far tip of the stick drop behind your right
shoulder (Fig. 2). Now swing it in a vertical circle parallel to your right
side, keeping your elbow bent by the side, and coordinating the forearm, wrist,
and fingers to give a smooth action. The palm of your right hand faces
alternately up and down. Practice with each hand, one after the other, and
increase the speed as you become more familiar with the exercise.
Changing Hands Twirl.
This exercise can only be properly performed if the length of the stick used is
correct. Grasp it at the middle with both hands, palms facing each other. Extend
your arms as much as possible. Now twirl the stick in a vertical plane in a
constant circular motion, bringing each tip of the stick up between your arms.
Do this by changing grip in such a way that each palm is alternately facing
toward you and away from you (Fig. 3). If done right, the stick will not bump
against your arms, body, or face.
HOW TO APPROACH TRAINING
The mental attitude with which training should be approached must combine
sportsmanship with detachment. One of the main difficulties in practicing a
combative art usefully is the need to attack realistically, but without hurting
one's partner. Unless an attack is meant, one cannot expect to practice the
defensive technique properly. Realistic attacks can be achieved by aiming
accurately at the target area, and by carrying the momentum of the attack
through without excess and with a certain degree of relaxation. If the evasive
technique is not successful, the momentum should be controlled so as to give
only a gentle contact. Realism in this context is largely dependent on accuracy
and speed, both of which can be achieved without brutality.
There is a great benefit in practicing on both sides, one side immediately after
the other. The tempo of the techniques should be slow initially, until their
elements have been mastered. Then the speed can be gradually increased. The
final touches are given with the help of free sparring, which is a necessary
part of any advanced training. In the context of free sparring, the attacker
desists from his attack as soon as it comes under the control of the defender
and its first impact is foiled. Cooperation among the participants is essential
and training should never become a pretext for a free-for-all fight. Light
contact in retaliatory techniques is recommended during training because,
besides developing the sense of distance, it teaches the attacker to control his
attack and also teaches both partners to accept a degree of punishment.
Controlling techniques such as locks and chokes must be practiced with even more
caution than the other techniques since they can be quite dangerous.
All this means that you have to practice conscientiously, and that it is to your
disadvantage to spread yourself too thinly over a large number of techniques. It
is much better to concentrate on a few versatile and efficacious ones which you
think are well suited to you and which you fully understand.