On Your Own - Part 2

By Mark Brosten
Published on Dec 31st, 2010

A training tool that always seems to be available is the staff. When thinking of training with a staff we tend to think of a long range weapon that we spin and twirl in a large room with high ceilings. This is not that kind of training. Whether made from wood, PVC, hollow pipe, or solid bar stock, a staff-like weapon is something that I always seem to find in the environment. The park always has loose tree branches lying around. Look around your surroundings for a piece of wood in the shop, broom handle at work, parts of the shelving in the grocery store, that loose pipe or the fence post in the corner. This tool can be used to train perceptual fitness, speed, angles, depth of penetration, upper and lower case motion and you might have the experience of time displacement.

The staff may be used in this way; try standing it on end, as it falls try to strike it only hard enough that it returns to its upright position. Try to send it back on the angle that it came from; OK, now that you are tired of picking it up of the floor let’s make it a bit simpler. Use a wall to limit the directions that your target can fall. Stand in a horse stance to limit the use of the lower body and isolate your upper body. Stand the staff on end and at arm’s length away from you. As it falls, try to tap it back into the upright position. If all the forces are neutral, when it reaches the upright position (gravity verses the thrust that you struck it with) you will see a hesitation in the staff before it begins to fall again; Way cool! The bigger the base of the staff, the simpler the exercise. For example, use a dry wall screw and attach an outsized washer to one end of the staff making the base larger. This will increase margin for error affecting how hard you can tap it. Increase the difficulty of the exercise by making the base smaller; try placing a small nail or a thumb tack in the end of the staff. If at this point you are still hitting the staff too hard, attach a tennis or racquet ball on the top of the staff by cutting a hole in the ball and taping it to the end of the staff. This will allow the staff to bounce off the wall and rebound back to you (this can get moving quite fast, so protect yourself at all times). This exercise is a bit like Peter Pan shadow boxing; remember your shadow is as fast as you are.

One of the great advantages of using a staff as a training tool is that it can increase your awareness of both upper and lower body weapons and upper and lower case motion. After you've trained the hand drills and have a good understanding of their workings, try working the staff with your feet by removing the washer and replacing it with a marble or ball bearing taped to the end of the staff. Another variation would be to tie a string to the top of the staff and attach the other end to a beam or an eye hook. Leave a bit of slack in the string. The looser in the string the greater range of motion the base of the staff will have. Start in a fighting stance either left or right and let the staff start to slide. With your feet try to kick, sweep, or check the staff into the upright position. Rebound can be increased by placing a small ball above the marble. Cut one hole at the top of the ball and one hole at the bottom of the ball; slip the ball on the staff just above the marble to allow the staff to bounce off the wall. Remember the harder you kick it the faster it comes back at you. You may want to consider wearing shin pads for this exercise.

Evolutions of this idea

  • Try working the upper and lower body weapons simultaneously.
  • Emphasize your foot work by moving the staff away from the wall and adding the other 180 degrees (where we started the exercise for this article!)
  • Remove the string and start farther from the wall.
  • Use all the natural weapons of the hands and feet (increase your use of upper and lower case motion --- forearms, elbows, calves and shins.)
  • Try working against the staff with another staff, or one or two sticks

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Mark Brosten

Mark Brosten began his Martial Arts teaching career as an associate instructor in Missoula, Montana. After Serving with the Military Police in Kuwait and Iraq during the first Gulf War, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to continue his training. Mark was promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt by a Board of Examiners for the International Kenpo Karate Association. While in New Orleans, Mr. Brosten continued teaching, working with a diverse group of students from artists and architects to law enforcement and military personnel. Mark also developed a summer program for children, ages 4 to 5, for the Isadore Newman School in New Orleans.

An exceptional athlete, Mark is committed to training and competition. He competes in Martial Arts events throughout the United States and has placed within the top three, each time he's competed internationally. Since his return to Montana, Mark regularly teaches seminars at various martial art studios. Mr. Brosten successfully tested for advanced Black Belt rank in October of 2007. In 2008, Mark taught his first international seminar at The World Kenpo Karate Championships in Jersey, Channel Islands U.K. His practical experience and no nonsense approach to Kenpo have served him as a student, competitor, and teacher for nearly 25 years.

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