Saturday, July 29, 2006

The vicious Pasak

This nasty little toy goes by a variety of names in the Filipino Martial Arts. In Pekiti Tirsia Kali, it’s called a pasak. In other styles it’s called Olisi Palad or Dulo - Dulo. It’s popularly called a palm stick, and to Japanese martial artists it’s a koppo or a yawara. Whichever way you want to call it, its simplicity and size hides its brutal combat effectiveness.
The concept of using small non-edged instruments for attacking the human body is widespread in Asian martial arts. The Japanese consider the use of such weapons part of jujitsu, similar to the use of the iron fan. My understanding of the koppo comes from “Stickfighting” by Masaaki Hatsumi and Quintin Chamber. The use of the koppo illustrated in the text is more for joint manipulation, since the weapon shown is a foot long stick and is suitable for that application.
In the Filipino Martial Arts, the use of the pasak / olisi palad / dulo - dulo needs no explanation. Just using the weapon to strike vital points with the same speed, angle of attack and power as a stick strike can be devastating. In the hands of someone trained in FMA, the pasak can be driven quickly and accurately at vital points all over the body. For safety and legal reasons, I’m not going to illustrate what these points are and how best to attack them.
The Filipino version of this weapon is generally shorter, just large enough to protrude past a closed fist. I have yet to study joint manipulation techniques for this but it’s not that important to learn to use this weapon effectively.
Just a quick, snapping strike to a vital point will generate enough force, focused on a small area, to either kill or disable an attacker. The ease of application of this weapon for the Filipino martial artist can’t be emphasized enough. It’s a great direct byproduct of stick and knife training, requiring no change in body mechanics or muscle memory whatsoever.
Here’s an example of a traditional pasak, of kamagong (native hardwood). This one is straight, while other examples are slightly curved. Some pasak are even made from carabao (water buffalo) horn and are incredibly tough.

Now here’s my daily “less-than-lethal” weapon. I had it crafted out of one of my warped kamagong sticks. The ends are carved to short points. I tied a finger cord with a barrel wrap (here’s how to tie the knot) so I can still retain the weapon even if I have to open my hand to grab the attacker. It’s small enough to fit into my pocket and doesn’t trigger metal detectors.
The pasak is definitely worth considering as a serious weapon. But its true power and effectiveness can only be tapped by serious martial arts training. I'm sure an untrained individual can put can seriously hurt an attacker with this but with proper FMA skills you can get the job done more efficiently.





Please don’t flame me if you get arrested with one of these where you live. It's your responsibility to be aware of your legal limitations.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Weapon Culture

In my study of Pekiti Tirsia Kali and FMA in general, a term I keep hearing is “knife culture”. The term was used numerous times in the police training video “Surviving Edged Weapons”, which I highly recommend to anyone training with edged weapons and martial artists in general.

I never really paid much attention to this term, maybe because in the back of my mind the idea that I live in a “knife culture” didn’t have to be stated. When I gave it some thought, it occurred to me that the term should be changed to “weapon culture”, which I believe best describes the Filipino fighting psyche.

Open a typical tabloid in this country and it will be filled with gory crime stories. Almost all of them involve a weapon of some sort. Knife attacks are so common here they hardly grab your attention when you happen to see the words “stabbed to death” on some of the headlines.

Burglaries gone horribly bad, a group of friends having one too many bottles of gin, a jealous husband suspicious of his best friend getting too close to his wife and other such tales will almost always involve a knife. The ease of which to go for a blade at the smallest provocation makes it quite possible for someone getting stabbed over something as trivial as staring too long at someone; a deadly brawl can be sparked by “what the hell are you looking at?” But of course such violence is very much dependent on where you are. The typical Yuppie in cosmopolitan Makati (the business district) will generally be more even-tempered than some of the denizens of Metro Manila’s slums.

But the risk of dying from a vicious stabbing is still very real in this society. A colleague of my wife was fatally stabbed 34 times by a burglar he surprised when he got home a little earlier than usual.

I’m not saying that Filipinos are all cold blooded killers. In fact we are known throughout the world as a nation of very friendly and accommodating people. It’s just that stabbing each other in anger, frustration or passion is almost a natural act. Unlike shooting someone, stabbing another human being means that you get up close to do the deed. The mindset that allows people to do that would be a great topic for sociological research.

Knife fans in the US talk about their cultural aversion to blades. In their society, guns are the preferred weapon of the protagonist, while the “villains” use knives, the dashing cowboy shooting his revolver at the Native American armed with a tomahawk.

But the “blade culture” does not stop at just knives. That term should be changed to “weapon culture”, the Filipino penchant of picking up anything to use as a weapon. The same tabloids often have stories of people getting hit by pipes and other blunt instruments. To pick up something in a fight, “pumulot”, is so common that I doubt that Filipinos realize it. A typical bar fight here will always involve chairs, bottles, pool cues, ashtrays and anything else that can be used as a weapon.

Filipinos love guns. There’s a thriving gun culture here as well and local movies always show the protagonist blasting away at villains with almost every imaginable firearm. There are thousands of unlicensed firearms in the country and this continues to become a problem for law enforcement and the military.

Thus, to call what we have a “blade culture” only reveals part of the Filipino fighting mentality.

To Filipinos, picking up a blade or any weapon is not about fighting fairly or not. It’s simply about surviving, nothing more. The idea of heroically fighting empty handed is somewhat alien. We apparently have a societal and cultural understanding that it’s acceptable to pick up anything and use it as a weapon. To a foreigner this may seem underhanded but to a Filipino it’s being “matalino” (smart) and “magulang” (shrewd). Filipinos regard cunning and shrewdness in battle something to strive for, a trait that often separates the living from the dead.

There’s a world of difference between cunning and treachery. Filipinos understand this and look down on the former as cowardice and deceit. Cunning and smart tactics on the other hand are nothing but necessities for survival.