The arnis sticks were, like many things in my life, an accident. I picked up three sets in a gift shop in the Philippines – two as gifts and one for myself. Handmade from fern wood, they had a nice look and feel to them. They also gave me an excuse for learning to expertly smack someone with a stick. (A bit like Rafiki or Yoda, but with more class.)
Since my small town doesn’t offer a large variety when it comes to marshal arts, I knew that I would have to find a way to train online. And, since I didn’t have a Dave Ramsey envelope labeled “stupid ideas that I get in foreign countries”, that training would have to come free of charge. Translation: I would look to YouTube and its many “experts” for guidance and direction.
Much to my delight, I did fine several videos on the subject. (If you’d like to view my favorites, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0XSkdcwt_A and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMWGz7Mi-QU) I was able to put together the basics based upon commonalities from each and began my practice. Holding the sticks loosely in my hands, I walked through the motions: simple sequences of strikes and blocks. It felt almost like dancing.
Indeed, some of the videos I’d seen made the use of arnis sticks appear to be more of an art form than a combat skill. The twists and spins (all of which were clearly so far beyond the skill of a beginner as to make me shy away) seemed more like an effort to show off than to actually defend one’s self. (My best guess as an amateur is that they serve the purpose of distracting the opponent and disguising one’s next move.)
After several repetitions, I began to feel comfortable with the motions and sped them up. I could feel the weight of the sticks shift with each smooth movement and the looser my grip became, the smoother the motions grew. I was reminded of the words of Princess Leia in “Star Wars: A New Hope”: “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”
Unfortunately, the same could be said to hold true for loosening your grip. I made a forward thrust, felt the stick slide… and noticed that it was pointing directly at a lamp. In fact, everywhere I turned, the stick was pointing at something.
Uncomfortable with the combination of fragile items and my own less than perfect YouTube acquired skills, I silently packed the sticks away. There would be more skills to learn, but they would have to wait until a nicer day presented me with an opportunity to practice outdoors.
Despite my disappointment at having to quit, I had to admit that there were some perks to moving my future training to the yard. After all, the only thing better than being able to expertly smack someone with a stick is for your neighbors to know that you can expertly smack someone with a stick! (A little fear never hurt anyone!)