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 1.0 Preparation & Training



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.

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 actual combat.
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 impact.


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 against impact.

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.

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.



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