Knives, sticks and karate…

As I type this week’s post I’m sitting here aching from head to toe…
I have a nice little egg shaped bruise on my forehead, right on the hair line courtesy of training knife clash. I also have a graze on the opposite cheekbone and my nose is tender to touch.
My right knee is hurting just below the knee cap for some reason and my triceps are killing me… but it all comes as a result of a good weekend.
“You got beat up and it’s a good weekend?”
Not exactly.
You see this past Saturday was the Festival Ng Mga Kapatid in Los Angeles, California. It’s an annual stick and knife fighting seminar and tournament that brings together loads of great competitors and fantastic instructors from different fighting systems from all over the USA.
The morning session included 3 hours of stick and knife training with some respected masters of the Filipino arts including Felix Roiles (2 x heavy weight stick fighting world champion). While the afternoon was filled with a truckload of different weapons events, and dozens and dozens of competitors, including yours truly. =)
As I signed up for the sparring divisions I noticed no weight classes – just beginner and advanced for the adults. I then read the events…
– Single blade
– Double blade
– Tactical blade
– Padded stick
– Live stick
– Mixed weapons
Cool… even though this didn’t make terribly much sense to me. Although I’ve never competed in anything other than karate kumite and live stick events, I thought “What the heck!” and checked all the boxes in the advanced division.
This was gonna be fun, even though the ring looked smaller than most bathrooms. It must have been no larger than 8′ x 8′. That’s not a lot of room to move in anyone’s book.
And of course since I broke one of my golden rules and didn’t “know the rules before you fight”, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Plus it didn’t help that I was called up first. Nobody to watch before me to get a feel for what was being paid and how the matches would be run.
Stupid. Stupid!
No preparation whatsoever – Sun Tzu would be very disappointed.
The referee gave us each a pair of safety glasses and a training blade with the edge covered in chalk so that successful slashes and stabs could be identified on each other.
We bowed and the match began and then a couple minutes later it was all over.
Thanks to 20+ years of competitive karate kumite I was easily able to adapt many of the concepts I teach in my books and seminars , while I noticed my opponent made a lot of mistakes such as becoming emotional and frustrated when things didn’t go his way.
He didn’t take time to try to figure out what kind of fighter I was, nor pay attention to my strategy. He was just focused on blaming the referee’s bad calls and was too busy getting angry.
When we clinched during the match I could sense his frustration. He was intense and was unknowingly giving me the edge.
(Don’t ever do this! A savvy opponent will take advantage.)
By keeping a cool head I was fortunate enough to win the first 4 matches against different opponents and in the process figured out the scoring system. You get 4 points for a slash to the neck, 2 for the body and 1 for the limbs. First to 5 points per round wins.
When the buzzer went at then end of the 5th and final match the score keeper announced the score as 3-3.
That meant the match was going to “sudden death” with first to score, the winner.
Back on the line waiting for a restart and thoughts rushed through my head like a runaway train. What to do? Block and counter? Strike first? Fake then go? Rush in? Switch hands? Go high? Low?
When the match restarted we both waited patiently for the best time to attack, being careful not to do anything stupid. The next thing I remember is going for my attack while checking my opponent’s attempted strike and making contact across his throat…
“STOP!”, called the referee. “Judges, your scores please.”
One red flag went up, one white, with the referee having the final say… 
I looked at the referee and saw that she signaled in favor of my opponent.
Although I’d checked his slash with my non weapon hand and made contact a split second later, the judges deemed his attack as a successful cut to my forearm – 1 point, and that’s all he needed to win the match.
(Nice job by the way Ryan! Congrats.)
One division down and 5 to go… this was going to be a long day.
Over the course of the next 4 hours I would get hit more times that I care to remember, see other peoples fingers get dislocated and knees split wide open courtesy of the live stick (not my doing by the way), and the medics carry people from the arena.
On a personal level though I didn’t win the single bladed event, I had my revenge in the double blade and live stick events taking gold in both. And one of my students, Mark also took 2 gold and a bronze.
So you see the bumps and bruises were worth it. Not in winning the medals… I couldn’t care less. It’s a good feeling however, knowing that what we practice and teach in karate kumite (the concepts of clean hitting, timing and distance) can be easily adapted for different fighting systems.
Thanks to the organizers, Gigie Alunday and Rich Verdejo and to the instructors who gave their time to teach. Special thanks to Master Felix Roiles for your continued support.
Great event, can’t wait til next year.

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