Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pocket Stick Class

Over the last 6 years, I've collected a lot of information on the pocket stick. This stick is known by a lot of names: chizikunbo, yawara stick, koppo stick, kubotan, dan bong, and many more. For the most part, these sticks are approximately 6-8 inches and easily fit into the palm of the hand. Many groups emphasize the striking of nerve clusters or using the stick to enhance joint locks. Generally, a good striking curriculum can be supplemented by the pocket stick, whether you are a strict karate person, or use FMA/JKD concepts.

Last night, I decided to take some time to teach the material to my class for the first time. Only problem, I didn't think ahead to bring enough pocket sticks! Cue the panic!

Luckily, we keep a box of pens in our locker, so I just had everyone fetch a pen. Oddly enough, I was expecting some disappointed looks. Usually when I send them back to get a weapon, I tell them to grab a staff, sword, knife, nunchaku, or something more menacing than a pen. (Better than learning to fight against a banana, I suppose)

But instead, a few of the students had an almost evil look on their face. They knew we were going to do some nasty and fun stuff, they just had no idea what direction I was going to take them.

I think the chizikunbo/yawara/koppo is an awesome concealed weapon that is still quite valid in today's society. Unfortunately, in it's pure form it tends to be immediately recognized by those "in the know" as a weapon. For me, that's where the pen can take over. A good, solid pen works just as well as the traditional weapon, but with none of the evil eyes that come along with one of the ninja keychains from the back of a Century catalog. No one needs to explain a pen, especially if you have a nice little notebook to go along with it. Walking around with a pen in your hand is certainly less menacing than a knife.

My students had a great time with the material. Instinctively, they all formed a good fist around the pen, with two ends sticking out on either side. Rather than jump right in, I gave them a chance to brainstorm some techniques they thought would adapt to the pen and how to perform them. Obviously, just about any strike or blocking technique had a version that could be performed with the pen.

We ended the class by going over a flow drill for practicing the main strikes (straight thrust, ridgehand, axe hand, hammerfist, upward hammerfist) followed by some experimentation with our already existing one-step defenses.

It was important to me that while teaching, I didn't just load them with a whole new set of techniques which could only be categorized as pen strikes. I tried to link it very closely with our empty hand curriculum as well as the knife work we've done in the past. By the end of the night, I could see people adding their own flare and style to the techniques, and taking ownership of the methods.

It was awesome.

PS, obviously none of this is new or groundbreaking. I've been lucky enough to learn some material from two people I recognize as experts in the area: Don Rearic and Mickey Yurco. Mr. Yurco is a knifemaker and martial artist in the northeastern Ohio area, and over the years he has made several wonderful knives and impact weapon toys for me. He doesn't have a website, but try to catch him at a knife show if you can. He specializes in making tiny little knives. Oh, and he also makes great pens. :)
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