How to Measure your Rattan Stick for the Filipino Martial Arts
In the Filipino Martial Arts, the personalization of your weapon is very important. Your success relies on the coordination of your skills through that weapon. You will spend countless hours of training to use it. If your weapon is not right, then your ability to train effectively and perform successfully will suffer. Your weapon needs to fit you by design, by training, or both.
Whether it be a knife, long blade or even a spear, the length of your weapon is usually measured against your body. By doing so, your weapon will have a physical relationship with your body. It will have proportions that match your proportions.
Different systems have varying methods for measuring the weapons used. One method for measuring training sticks includes using four hand lengths, measured by transposing the hands up a stick. The distance between the outstretched thumb and the fingertips is used as one unit. During this procedure, some recite holy words or a prayer to match each measurement such as “Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Amen.” Once the proper length is determined, the stick is cut.
Other methods include measuring from the wrist to the ground, from the solar plexus to the ground, from the third eye to the ground or even from your highest point of reach to the ground. Systems that prefer shorter weapons sometimes measure from the armpit to the wrist or from the elbow to the fingertips. In Pekiti Tirsia, to measure for a training stick or a blade, we measure from the armpit to the fingertips as the hand is outstretched horizontally to the side. To measure for a knife, we add one hand length, including the palm and fingers, to the height of the palm alone.
The measurements for your rattan stick are usually designed to match real weapons. In other words, the length of your stick would be the same length as that of your live blade or combative baton. This allows for you to develop a sense of range and reach that will allow you to use the real weapon with fewer adjustments. The rattan stick is a substitute for the real weapon. It is largely just for training. Having it match the real weapon offers a better stimulus in training.
Having the stick match the live weapon is common, but not always the case. Each style varies. Sometimes the real weapon is produced in a standard length, so your stick will match that length. Sometimes the stick length itself is standardized. A common standard stick length for many styles is 28 inches.
Sometimes training weapons are used that do not meet the same measurements as the real the real weapons. This is often done because there are training benefits to having the stick size vary. For example: The stick length may differ from that of the real weapon because your training can be enhanced by having a stick of greater or less length than that of the actual weapon. A longer stick may force you to develop skill in controlling it more precisely, whereas a shorter stick may force you to come in closer with your footwork.
The diameter of your stick should be the one that allows you to get the best grip. If you roll the stick in your fingers first, starting by placing the stick in your fingertips, rolling it down, then locking it in by placing the thumb over your fingers, you will get a very secure grip. To do this, the diameter of the stick must not be so large that you cannot roll the stick in your fingers alone. If you roll the stick in your fingers and your fingertips touch your palm when doing so, then you have closed any opening out of which the stick could slip out.
This method is ideal for a good grip, but for many it may mean that the right stick is just too skinny. You may need to find a compromise by choosing a diameter that allows you to get a good grip, but also has enough weight and girth to give you a better training experience. Using a stick that is really light will help you develop speed, but it may not develop stamina. It may also break more quickly and be harder to use when training with a partner who uses a bigger stick. The average stick is around 7/8 of an inch to 1 inch in diameter.
If you are just starting out, a stick with a medium weight is probably best for you. Rattan sticks tend to range from a light 3 to 4 ounces up to a heavy 11 or 12 ounces. The average stick is about 6 to 7 ounces. This is a medium weight. A heavy stick is great for developing power, but it can be a hinderance to developing precision. A light stick can help you cultivate speed and react quickly, but you will not develop a strong grip or generate much power. If you are only going to start with one stick or one pair of sticks, a medium weight stick is the most versatile. Later, incorporate a heavy stick, then a light one into your training.
Picking out your first set of rattan sticks
So which stick is right for you? It mostly comes down to your system or style. When trying to decide what size is right for you, take the advice from your teacher and follow the recommendations specific to your system. Then consider the points mentioned above. Over years of training, you will replace your sticks several times. Experiment with different lengths, diameters and weights.
The ideal weapon is made to fit you and your system. This includes your training weapon. Having the weapon tailored to fit you assures you ease of use. Having it tailored to fit your system assures you are able to apply what you are learning. When you need a weapon for survival, every advantage you can get will be important to your success.
If you need a good pair of sticks for practicing Kali, check out the rattan sticks we have a Kali Gear. We have several sizes to fit your style and several different types of sticks, so you can find the one that fits you best.