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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. ranking procedures.


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