Tales of the Bumbling Warrior : Swords and Axes, Knives and Sticks
Fight or flight are amongst our most primal reactions. Both are needed for survival and man has always excelled at both. Im not much of a runner, both physically and metaphorically. As you can imagine, this aversion to flight often gets me into trouble.
Contrary to what a lot of people might think, martial artists aren’t really very violent people. At least most of them are not. We could now go into a debate as to who is a martial artist and who is not, but id rather save that for another day. What im trying to say is that, just because you can fight, doesnt mean you go looking for a fight. But at the same time it is important to test your skills. Most traditional martial and combative arts solve this problem by implementing controlled sparring sessions.
It was the 10th of September, 2016. I was staying and training with my Pekiti Tirsia Kali(PTK) brother Belton Lubas at his gym in Seattle. I was in Seattle to train in some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu(BJJ) and Muay Thai. Except that day things took a slight detour.
We had just finished a BJJ session and it was now my favourite time of the day…. lunch. On a side not, i really miss the Mexican food i had at Chipotle and Taco Time(dont judge me). We were getting ready to leave when Justin, Josh and Sean walk in.
Now all three of these rather large men practice a whole bunch of martial arts, everything from PTK to Muay Thai. In a nutshell, they are extremely badass. Josh was going to be fighting in a Dog Brothers gathering that weekend, and Justin and Sean were there to help him prepare.
For those who dont know, the Dog Brothers Organisation was formed to test the effectiveness of the various weapons based martial arts in real combat. They basically do this by fighting. In a Dog Brothers gathering you will see people fighting with almost every conceivable weapon, from swords to sticks, to even whips. Anyone can fight anyone else, regardless of height or weight difference. The only protection one has, are gloves to protect the hands, and a helmet to protect the head and face. If you’re smart you’ll wear a groin protector as well. Yes it is pretty extreme, it is definitely not for the faint hearted. To help you get an idea of just how extreme it is, the Dog Brothers once tried to partner up with the UFC, but were turned down. The UFC, where MMA fights often leave people with bloodied faces and broken bones, thought the Dog Brothers were too extreme.
Josh was had been regularly going to atleast 2 Dog Brothers events a year, for the last few years. He has fought over 70 times. To prepare for the fights, Justin and Sean were going to spar with Josh.
We met the three of them on our way out of the gym. I had just spent the last few hours getting my butt kicked, it was time for lunch and i was hungry and sore.
We sat in the car.
Belton turned to me and told me that we can sit and watch them spar if i wanted.
I said id rather not do that. Apart from being famished I knew if i saw them fight, id want to jump in as well…
Looking at the spark in Belton’s evil eyes, i knew i had made a huge mistake. Somehow he managed to get me back inside the gym under the pretense that we would just watch for awhile.
We walked in and I saw Sean, Josh and Justin warming up.
I knew what that slimy man Belton Lubas had planned.
He turned to me and asked loud enough for everyone to hear “Hey Adi why dont you join them?”
Suddenly, “Im hungry Belton” didnt seem like a great excuse anymore.
To be honest i dont think he needed to have even asked me. Seeing the different weapons they had arranged in front of them, i would have jumped in either way. But still…. well played Belton, well played.
There were rattan sticks, rubber knives, aluminium swords and axes made of what i think was some kind of hard plastic.
This was going to be fun.
Josh would choose the weapon, and me, Justin and Sean would fight one round each with him. I think each round was 2 minutes long.
I had fought with the rattan sticks and the knives before, but it was the first time id be fighting using the aluminium sword, and the first time id be holding and fighting with an axe.
There is no real way to describe what it feels like to be hit with a stick. Its this sting that will leave you feeling pulverized for days. And the marks? Its like someone took a polaroid picture of a stick and used your skin as the paper.
We went at it for quite a while, but the rounds that really stood out for me were when we used the sword and the axe.
Everyone has their own way of moving and fighting. Depending on your personality, body type, physical attributes, intelligence etc, you will fight a certain way. Its kind of like problem solving. The situation in front of you is the problem, and every single person will have their own unique solution to it. The only problem is that it takes alot of fighting experience for you to really even begin to find this style and implement it in combat. Experience that Josh had in plenty.
Josh is a big guy. Probably the biggest ive trained with. And he is an intelligent guy. He knows because of his size and power, most people will not want to get in to close to him. They will probably move around him and dart in and out trying to deliver quick strikes. He knows this, and uses it to his advantage. He has such an awesome understanding of angles and range that he will keep himself from getting hit, and use his superior reach to target the hand that is wielding the sword.
A rattan stick hurts, I can only imagine what an aluminium sword feels like. Not wanting to find out we went easy and mainly targeted the hands or the head, because they were the parts that were protected.
Next came the axes. Prior to this i had never held an axe before. The axes we were using kind of resembled tomahawks i guess. But the Filipinos call them Wasay. It is an extremely versatile weapon that can be used for slashing, thrusting, hooking and pumbling.
The round started, and i started to get pushed back. I tried to also target Josh’s hands with quick, short jabs of the axe. Unfortunately, not being familiar with the weapon, I didnt take into account the hooking capabilities of the axe.
Somehow the axe got hooked behind Josh’s glove and with a slight tug, the axe was out of my hand.
Now Josh had an axe in either hand, and i was left without a weapon. Josh swung one axe and i darted in to try and tie that hand up and disarm atleast one weapon. It was a pretty stupid thing to do, and a huge mistake. I thought i had Josh, but in reality, he had me.
We both held on to the axe and he flung me around like a ragdoll. The smart thing for me to do would have been to release the axe, make some distance and think of a new strategy. Instead I held on and found myself sandwiched between the wall, the floor and one of Josh’s knees.
Eventually the timer buzzed and the round had finished. I had survived. But only because Josh was being nice to me. He barely put any weight on me while he was on top. If he wanted he could have done some serious damage.
But thats why we train, so we can learn. At the end of the day, a bond forms between training partners. Once you shed, sweat and blood alongside someone they become almost an extended family.
It was alot of fun. Josh, Justin and Sean are great guys, as are most people i met at Beltons gym.
Below im putting up the link of a video of a few rounds. Just to give you a glimpse not into out ways of fighting(because we all held back) but to give you a glimpse into the camaraderie and love between training partners.
FYI Josh killed it in his fights. If I remember correctly he fought something like 10 times over 2 days and kicked ass in all of them.