Krav Maga: The Stick a basic self-defense strategy guide
Sticks or stick-like weapons have been around probably longer than any other weapon (except rocks?). Where once it was simply a matter of grabbing a branch or twig to keep an attacking animal at distance, humans have now developed entire systems dedicated to stick fighting. The thing is, in most cases of self-defence it is unlikely you will actually be in a stick fight. Rather, you will likely be unarmed and facing an attacker with a stick, cane, umbrella, baseball bat, or another blunt-force-trauma-item that can be wielded like a stick.
The main concern with a stick-like weapon is the impact area. If you take a hit in the abdomen it will certainly hurt, and may do internal damage, but will not necessarily stop you from defending yourself. If you are hit in the head, and if the stick has enough mass, it can mean lights out for you. Block a stick with your forearm and you may find yourself with a broken ulna.
On the other hand, if you can get a hold of a stick, or stick-like weapon, you may find yourself with a great, generally non-lethal, option to defend yourself. How lethal a stick weapon is will depend largely on its mass and what it is made of. Hit someone in the head with a rattan Eskrima stick and you will probably daze them. But, the same head strike using a metal crowbar, with a hook on it, could result in your opponent’s death. There is also a very big difference in physical impact between more or less dense materials. A truncheon made of ebony, for example, is going to hurt and do much more damage than one made of bamboo; though they would both be terrible to be hit with. The lethality would also depend on the intent of who is wielding it and how they wield it.
Either way, stick or stick-like objects are a far better choice for self-defence in the 21st century than a knife or a gun, mostly for legal reasons. Of course, if knives or guns are legal for self-defence where you live, if you carry one you better be ready to kill with it (as they are lethal), or else why even bother?
To deal with sticks you must understand a few things about attack patterns: Committed vs Non-Committed, as well as “blender mode.”
Although less important for sticks, understanding attack types (straight line vs circular), can be very important; as the ability to identify these patterns may tell you how competent the attacker is with the weapon.
Difficulty Levels of the Attack Pattern:
- Committed is the easiest to deal with – Basic techniques will work well, running is the best option.
- Non-Committed is more difficult – Basic techniques, combined with faster reaction time and good footwork, will be needed. Running is still the best option.
- Blender Mode – Though far less problematic than with a knife, “blender mode” with a stick usually indicates that the individual is fairly proficient and will be harder to deal with. Remember, protect your head above all else!
We refer to the term “stick-like weapon” many times, so what does it mean? The term encompasses anything that can be wielded “like a stick,” with one or two hands, that does not have a blade on it. Stick-like items include but are not limited too:
- Rattan sticks
- Short, light tree branches
- Rolled up Newspapers or Magazines
How each of these can be swung or handled will depend on its mass, shape, and size, with some being easier to wield than others; compare a light stick to a heavy length of rebar.
Unlike guns or knives, if you take away the range advantage of a stick (medium to long) and get in close, how you choose to disarm it is a little more circumstantial. You can disarm sticks while the opponent is still standing, or you can take them down, in a controlled fashion, and then disarm the stick. Really, it’s up to your discretion, skill, and the nature of the situation.
How to Deal with Stick Attacks:
Even though a stick is not as lethal as a gun or knife, it still can be deadly. No matter what happens, protect your head and other major hard parts of your body. Remember, “soft on hard, hard on soft.” If you are going to take a hit, it is better that the impact lands on a softer part of your body; but remember, no one said it wouldn’t hurt. This is because if the stick is hard enough, and hits with enough force on a hard part of your body, it can easily break the bones in that area. If you get hit in the head, however, it can immediately incapacitate you, rendering you unable to defend yourself in any way. Therefore, when dealing with sticks considers the following:
- Run – This is always the best option if you are able to. You may not always be able to, or you may need to protect others.
- Use a Stick – If you are able to use a stick or stick-like weapon to counter the attack, do so.
- Use Weapons of Opportunity – Use whatever you can around you to give you an advantage. Use sticks, bags, bricks, jackets, obstacles, and anything you can think of to increase your chances to survive.
- Use a Gun – We do not recommend this unless it is a matter of life and death. The reason being that in places where it is legal to carry a firearm for self-defence this may still be considered excessive force, which may mean jail time for you. So, be careful and consider the following:
- Is it legal where you are to have a gun on you for self-defence?
- Do you have a legal gun on you?
- Do you have the required skills to control and safely operate the gun under duress?
- Use Hand-to-Hand Combatives – When all else fails, use your body as a weapon. This should always be the last resort when dealing with armed opponents, as you are at a significant disadvantage.
Hand-to-Hand Combative Strategies:
- Distance & Timing – Maintaining your distance is key, as the opponent with a stick can strike you at a greater range, with greater impact, than you can. You may have to jump back or sideways rapidly, or bob and weave at speeds you didn’t think you were capable of. That’s why it’s better to just stay out of range until you are ready to strike. The timing is equally important, especially if the opponent is hyper-aggressive and quick in nature. Misjudge your timing and you are going to get hit. If you do though, use that sacrifice to close the distance rapidly, without hesitation.
- Explode In – When you are ready to move, you need to move fast, you need to move explosively, and you need to move without hesitation; all while protecting your head and face. A common method is the “universal shield” technique, though, at UTKM we only advise this move when you are already close and the attacker is “chambering” the attack (about to swing), or if you are not sure what the weapon is exactly. Regardless, “universal shield” must be employed at close or medium range only! In most situations it is better to use the standard Krav Maga “dive defense,” as it keeps you aligned to your opponent and provides the optimal position to explode forward, while at the same time protecting your head and neck.
- Control the Weapon Arm – Once you are in, control one or both of the weapon arms. Now that you have taken away the advantage of the stick weapon, assert your dominance with retzef while causing pain, off-balancing, and disrupting them.
- Standing Disarm – Either rapidly, or after they are mildly subdued but still standing, you may disarm the weapon using any reasonable method you know. If this fails, you will need to apply more compliance techniques to “soften” them and move on. If you were able to take the stick you can now use it to defend yourself.
- Takedown and Control – If you are unable to disengage due to the attacker, the environment, or your job, then you must take your opponent down. This must be done in a manner in which you maintain control of the weapon arm and take them to the ground while you are still on your feet, resulting in you applying a control position.
- Controlled Disarm – Now they may be disarmed. Unlike a knife, you can focus more on controlling the assailant, though controlling the weapon is still be important. This is because it is harder for them to do significant damage to you if you are in a dominant position, but do not ignore the fact that they still have a weapon. The faster you can get it out of their hands the better. Meanwhile, you must still be aware of the possibility of additional attackers, and may need to rapidly disengage; another reason to disarm them and arm yourself. Once you disarm your opponent, put the weapon somewhere on your person that is safe. While throwing it away is an option, this is risky, as it allows others to pick it up.
How to Use a Stick Offensively
If you are looking for a comprehensive guide on how to use a stick, this, unfortunately, is not it. For more in-depth stick fighting, practice one of the many variations of the Filipino martial arts, Kali, Eskrima, Arnis. However, the UTKM Krav Maga approach is simple: Target the head or hard surfaces like the clavicle, elbow and arm, ribs, or knee.
Our attack patterns are simple; think of an asterisk, the lines representing the six striking angles, both forehand and backhand, with a jab or thrust to the centre. Just like any other style, a flick of the wrist, mixed with good footwork, turns the stick into a formidable weapon indeed. We should be reminded, once again, that while stick-like weapons are preferred for general self-defence due to their less-lethal nature, especially in the West, they can still be lethal if you know how to use them and have the will to make them so.
*Topics under any principle category (Eg. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time. So check-in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.