Fencing, derived from sword fighting, is a highly stylized combative sport which
develops a great number of desirable attributes for self-defense without having
any direct use in that respect. Training in stickfencing is not necessary
for learning the techniques in this volume. It is desirable only in that it
helps to greatly improve one's effectiveness in their use, and is thus
encouraged for training purposes only.
The weapons used in fencing are flexible and relatively light, for safety
reasons and because the emphasis is on speed and finesse. For instance, in sabre
fencing, the sport which approximates the closest to stickfencing, the so-called
slashes (cuts) are performed with a push or a pull of the blade. Indeed, in
actual sabre combat, with razor-sharp weapons, a cut on the opponent is
effectively achieved with such techniques. Hollywood-style blows are not
necessary. This is not the case in stickfighting, not only because the stick is
rigid, but also because it has no cutting action. It is the impact of the slash
or thrust that must be counted upon to incapacitate or hurt the opponent.
With the exception of the epee, or dueling sword, sabre and foil fencing abide
by the so-called rule of precedence. According to this rule, any simple or
compound attack must in general be parried first before one is allowed to
counterattack. The target areas also differ. In epee, the whole body is the
target, but only for thrusts. Foil aims at the upper body, save the arms and the
head, and is also limited to thrusts. Sabre aims at the whole upper body and
uses cuts and thrusts. All three weapons have guards to protect the wrist, and
all fencing is performed in straight lines. Special protective gear for the
head, fencing hand, and body is mandatory.
Stickfencing, practiced as a sport in preparation for stickfighting, has to use
realistic guidelines compatible with such a goal and with the safety of the
players. All of the body is a target for slashes and thrusts. The sticks are
equipped with rubber tips to minimize the impact of thrusts, and heavily padded
protective uniforms, gloves, and masks must be used by beginners. Advanced
students, or even beginners who know how to keep their spirits under control,
may quite satisfactorily use epee-fencing equipment. Jockstraps as well as knee-
and shin-guards are essential. Tennis or boxing shoes may be used. In contrast
to fencing, the players may move anywhere within the contest area, which must be
clearly outlined with colored tape or by other adequate means. This area is a
square of 30 X 30 feet (10 X 10 meters). There is one referee and four judges.
The latter stay outside the contest area during the bout, one at each corner.
The referee may step in and out of the contest area at will.
The rules are simple. Essentially, the first contestant to touch his opponent
with a thrust or slash scores. Simultaneous touches are scored against both
The techniques used in stickfencing are closely related to those used in sabre
fencing. In stickfencing, however, we have another dimension in that one
may also score with kicks, by touch only, according to our kickboxing rules.
Each match is limited to five points scored by one contestant and not to any
time limit. The contest starts after both contestants, holding the stick in a
symmetrical double grip and touching fists in the center of the contest area,
are given the command "go" by the referee. Then they take two steps back and
start the bout. In the practice of any sport, it is important that the
players also have fun. The referee must make sure that there is no pounding of
any contestant by giving warnings and even disqualifying the culprit.
Among the benefits derived from such practice which are of prime value in
self-protection, we can mention a keen sense of distance, direction and timing,
fast reflexes, precision in attack and defense, the ability to discern and
create opportunities to get through an opponent's defenses, a sense of strategy,
as well as nervous strength and mental control. Stickfencing is first and
foremost a way of training safely in the realistic use of the stick in
self-defense situations. This is the main reason why we have included kicks.
Another reason is that since kicks and sticks can be used at a similar distance,
they can be complementary in self-protection.
Much of the
sophistication of classical fencing is utterly meaningless in stickfencing and
stickfighting; nevertheless, certain notions and practices are common to both.
There are also some marked differences. For instance, when using a stick it is
not advisable to lunge to the same degree as in fencing because, unless you have
an exceptionally fast recovery, you may expose yourself to a kick when your
opponent dodges or parries your attack. Since the side of the stick is used for
slashes and the targets are relatively large, there is a good reason for
stickfencers to stay out of striking distance and to prepare to stop the stick,
parrying it from whatever direction it might come. In contrast to traditional
fencing, you should rarely engage (touch) your opponent's stick in the hope of
creating a reaction which can be exploited to your advantage. This is only
mentioned to point out that the expected results will be achieved only seldom.
On the other hand, passing from one side of your opponent's stick, over the tip
of his stick, in order to strike at the other side, is used frequently and is
known as a cutover (Figs. 1-4).
SIMPLE RETURNS FROM BASIC STICK PARRIES
These simple returns
are slashes and thrusts delivered immediately after a parry in the most direct
way. In the following descriptions I assume that the person who parries used
only right one-hand parries. The directions should be reversed for the other
side. After the return, one must be ready to parry another possible attack. Only
one parry is illustrated (Fig. 5). For the others, refer to earlier
illustrations (see Figs. 13-18, pp. 37-39).
From Parry 1 : You may return with a slash, palm facing up, on any of the
targets on the attacker's left side (Fig. 6). As for possible kicks, you may
follow through with a low direct kick to the attacker's closest shinbone, a
side-of-foot kick to his nearest knee, a high direct kick, or an instep kick to
his closest inner thigh (Fig. 7), or a circular kick to the opposite (right)
side to which the slash was delivered, thus confusing the attacker. In
stickfencing, kicks to the groin are avoided. All this highlights why in
stickfencing fully extended, fencing-style lunging is to be avoided, because
only rarely can it be performed at a speed safe for its user. Should your attack
be parried, you are open to retaliation.
From Parry 2: Return
with a right slash, palm up, to the attacker's left cheek, or palm down to his
right side (Fig. 8), or a spring-slash to his left wrist (Figs. 9, 10). Direct
returns are more often slashes than thrusts, for the simple reason that the
initial motion of the parry can be best continued, gathering momentum as a slash
rather than a thrust. Following a slash, one may continue with either a thrust
(Figs. 11, 12) or a kick. Many examples of such follow-throughs are given in the
self-protective techniques in Part Two. Their number is, in practice, only
limited by the student's experience and imagination,
From Parry 3: Follow with a slash, palm down, to the right side
of the attacker's neck or temple (caution), his right elbow, or upper right arm
From Parry 4: Follow
with a slash, palm down, on any target on the attacker's right side, or, palm
up, to his left upper body or head.
is parried with the stick, the score will be against you. At best it will be a
double score. Naturally, the advantage is in being able to use both feet and the
stick, particularly if you can attack in succession opposite sides of the
opponent's body. Besides the element of surprise, such attacks can pack a lot of
power and are very useful for self-protection.
From Parry 5 : Follow
with a straight downward slash to the crown of the head. You may also slash,
palm down, at upper right-side targets, or palm up at left-side targets such as
the attacker's left temple, neck, side, or knee (Fig. 14).
From Parry 6: Follow
with a slash, palm down, to the right temple or neck, or, palm up, to the left
temple or neck.
Depending on the position of the feet at the time of the parry-return, all the
above techniques may be followed by one or more kicks. These must be delivered
very fast in full balance and followed by a fast recovery in preparation for
parrying another attack. In other words, do not use the feet to continue an
attack unless you have good balance and are very fast with your feet and with
your stick parries. If your kick
As earlier mentioned,
a feint is an attempt to mislead the opponent into believing that he is about to
be attacked in a certain way, so that he commits himself to parrying it. During
his commitment, the initial attack is changed and, if successful, lands. For
instance, a feint to the left side may be followed by a cutover and an attack on
the right side. It is also possible to feint an attack in one and the same
plane, but at different heights. Thus the feint of a slash on the right side of
the head may be followed by a slash to the attacker's right knee and vice-versa
(Figs. 15, 16). In the horizontal plane, the feint of a slash to the right
temple may be followed by a cutover and a slash to the left temple. Also, the
feint of a slash may be followed by one or more thrusts to any target and vice
I have mentioned that stickfencing does not lend itself to all the refinements
of fencing. Theoretically, however, the possibility of such refinements cannot
be excluded, and for this reason, and for the sake of completeness, I will
briefly touch upon some generalities about compound attacks, compound returns,
and timed techniques. Dwelling in much detail in this area would be inconsistent
with the self-protection philosophy of simplicity and of high yields in
proportion to expended effort. Compound attacks consist of a series of
feints prior to the final thrust or slash. Feints are made with the arm barely
short of full extension. The threatening action of a feint must be sufficiently
convincing to make the opponent commit himself to a parry. When more than one
feint is used, the first must be made deep enough to provoke a parry, while the
succeeding ones need not be as deep. The feint just prior to the final slash or
thrust should be held a trifle longer. Essentially, it is getting the opponent
to commit himself to a parry that gives you the opportunity to score.
Attacks performed while advancing against the opponent are important because of
the distance at which fencers compete. A properly executed advance is short,
well coordinated with the motion of the stick, and precise. Otherwise, one runs
the risk of being stopped by the opponent. A good fencer is capable of
controlling his weapon in the middle of an exchange and making compound returns,
rather than using the almost instinctive direct return. A compound return
involves at least one feint. Compound attacks and compound returns are very good
at developing coordination and a good sense of distance. Theoretically, against
an opponent who is as good as you, compound returns give you a better chance to
score. When you take advantage of your opponent's approach and the time
lie takes to initiate and complete his attack, for instance, if you make a slash
to his attacking arm followed by a retreat and parry, you are performing what is
known as a timed technique. Understandably, a timed attack should be made to the
nearest part of your opponent's body as he is advancing or getting ready to
advance. Retreat immediately after you make contact. Keep in mind though that
such techniques often result in a double score against both contestants.
One technique which is sometimes useful, but which can be dangerously difficult
to control, is similar to the flash used in fencing against an opponent who
consistently keeps out of range. Imperceptibly shift your weight onto the
forward foot and, with careful timing, hurl yourself, arm and stick in
extension, against your opponent. Timing is of the essence, since a good fencer
will easily parry such an attack and make a return. In such a case, the
contestant using the flash will have difficulty in parrying. Flash is to be
avoided in stickfencing, while it can be quite useful in self-protection.