Basic Stick Fighting Technique

Women fighting with bow staffs

When used correctly, a stick enhances your combat capabilities. Perhaps the most prolific form of stick fighting was developed in the Philippines. It is a system of martial arts that today is referred to as escrima, kali or arnis. In the 1500s, Spanish conquerors armed with knives and swords forced their will upon the Philippine natives, who fought back with thin lengths of wood that were previously used for recreation. Stick fighting is ideal for self-defense situations when an attacker wields a weapon. As the early innovators did, you can increase your chances of survival by fighting back with a stick.

Hand Position

Hold your stick about one fist length from the bottom. This creates a double ended weapon. The primary end being the long side that you strike with. The secondary end is below your fist, which can be used as a bludgeon during close quarter combat. Do not squeeze the stick too tightly as this will waste energy and make your movements too rigid. When out of striking range, point your stick at your opponent's face. This skews their depth perception of the stick, how long it is and how close it is to them.

Continuous Motion

Swing in an 'X' or figure-eight motion, emphasizing downward horizontal strikes that are aimed at collarbone level. Your swinging hand should be in the front of your fighting stance with your back hand guarding your face. The same figure-eight motion can be reversed with striking emphasis on the upswing motion, aimed at the midsection level. Swing the stick using body motion that starts in the knees and hips and continues through the shoulders and arms. Keep your wrists rigid. Vary your swings from figure-eights to horizontal back-and-forth motions aimed at knee level, mid-level and head level.

Target Areas

Use your continuous swings to knock away strike attempts from your opponent while targeting specific areas areas of his or her body, like the side of the head, side of the neck, collarbone, outer upper arm, outside of the elbow, outer thigh and outside of the knee. The only target more important than these areas is the attacker's weapon hand. Whenever possible, use your stick to hit his or her hand, forcing him or her to drop the weapon.


Fighting with a stick, although it strengthens your offensive and defensive capabilities, also presents its own dangers. If your stick leaves your hand, it can be used against you. Minimize the probability of this by avoiding wide swings that compromise your defense and leave you open to counter strikes. A hard blow to the body or head could cause you to drop your stick. Constant motion will also decrease the probability of your attacker knocking your stick away with a direct hit to your stick hand.