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Why do some FMA fighters insist on training single stick movements on both the right and the left?

 In the years that I've trained in the FMA, I've only heard one story of a Grand Master that would fight and train his students right handed and then one day suprised one of his students when he told him that he was really left handed and switched up on him.  I'm not sure if it was a true story but it sounded pretty cool.


When stick sparring, I used to sometimes switch to my opposite hand to confuse my training partner.  Since our style is very strong at close range, we rely on the live hand for sensitivity, trapping, and controlling movements.  But I train single stick techniques almost exclusively with my right hand.  Frankly I doubt that I could generate enough power with my left hand anyway.  I compare it to playing basketball... When I was growing up, my mentors used to say, "train your jump shot on your left side as well as your right side".  It was cool in theory but in an actual organized game I had a difficult enough time trying to hit my jump shot with my right hand let alone even attempt it with my left.


Some FMA practitioners say you should be 50-50 in your single stick or sword training while others say that you should work almost exclusively with your strong hand.


What is your opinion regarding to ambidextrous stick or sword training?




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This was a topic covered in Black Belt many years ago between, if I recall, Joe Lewis (not sure) and Bill Wallace.  The argument for training left and right equally is balance; you never know from which side you may be attacked, and the versatility increases the ability to react spontaneously.  The argument for training predominantly on one side is that given a limited amount of time to train every week, it's better to focus on developing superior skills on one side than being average on both.  Each argument has merits; I suppose it depends on the individual which way to go.

Thanks Guro Jeff for your input. I understand your point and agree with the later part of it.  Just to be clear though, I'm talking about the Filipino Martial Arts, specifically single stick or sword combat, not unarmed self-defense/empty hand as referenced by the Joe Lewis/Bill Wallace article you were speaking of. 


As you know, in single stick and sword techniques, the hand that holds the weapon and the live hand have two distinct functions.  Some full-contact stick fighters who experimented with double stick fighting found it more effective to use their weaker stick hand more for probing much like a boxer throws a jab to set up a knockout type of hit with the strong hand. 


Personally, I would love to full-contact stick fight with someone who will use their weak hand to fight with. 50% skill in the weak hand -vs- 100% skill with my strong hand...




I understand you are referring to weaponry but I think the same thing applies.  What if your strong (weapon) hand is injured?  Some years ago a Modern Arnis instructor who had been a Peace Corps doctor in the Philippines told me how the clinic would start getting busy around 11pm on Saturday nights as drinking and gambling turned into brawling.  There was one wound he saw frequently on corpses, but almost never on survivors, and that was a disabling slash to the weapon arm.  If you've never trained your off-hand and it gets cut, your odds go down regardless, but more so if you've never used your left hand for primary weapon defense.  Here is where, as in the initial premise of the thread, a left-handed person trained right-handed could have an innate advantage.  What I see is their weak hand becomes stronger and more coordinated, while their strong hand develops those checking skills.  For the rest of us, I think at least some occasional switch practice might be helpful.  If nothing else it makes us have to use our brains in a new and unfamiliar way and to see attacks coming from a different perspective.


Aside from disabling injury, what if we have to fight multiple opponents and our arm gets tired or we strain a muscle?  Are we helpless? If we train to overcome weaknesses, that shouldn't be the case.  I've heard grandmasters say the benefit of double sticks is to develop both sides of the body for hitting; why not learn some defense too?  Then there's espada y daga.  If we can wield a short weapon in the left hand, why not a longer one?  While I fall into the camp of primarily working strong-side with stick or blade, after spending enough time in the arts it seems a bit silly not to explore alternate scenarios once in awhile.  If I have a knife in my right hand and a chance to pick up a stick in my left, I want to know I can use it without having to switch.  After all, if things are that bad, I might not have time to choose.


After saying all that, when it comes to full-contact sparring, most people switch when they are losing, and things don't get better, but I've seen one or two fighters who move well with the weapon in either hand, and to do so is definitely a tactical advantage. 


Regarding the comments from Lewis/Wallace, what does apply to weapons and FMA is still the fact that there are only 168 hours in a week, and only a small percentage of that is available for most people to train. 

Hello Jeff,

 As I read your reply it seems that you go back and forth on the idea of being a one sided FMA fighter.  Generally I get the impression that you are more for training both hands rather than oppose the idea.  That's okay because like I mentioned before, there's no wrong way only preference and beliefs.


 The argument about weak hand training from the aspect of FMA is very logical in theory.  But what is often experienced when fighting full-contact is that practitioners rely on their strongest hand.  If I'm fighting someone full-contact and they switch to their opposite hand, I'm going to explode with attacks, simply because I know that people generally put their best foot forward, or hand LOL!!! 


 When I first began training in Espada y Daga, I learned all the neat and clever locks and flow drills.  In a controlled environment it was safe to experiment and switch hands from time to time.  But years later when I gathered up enough nerve to fight full-contact, things changed.  I found myself primarily fighting at long range with my long weapon until I overwhelmed my opponent and jammed him up at close range, then I was able to use the knife.  I'm pretty sure this was the main premise behind the long and the short weapon.  In the old European fencing, the dagger was also used in a similar fashion and in some cases it wasn't even brandished unless the fighters clenched with one another.  Minded this is only my observation through my own research, everything is subject to interpenetration.


 In any case, I like your reply, it gives a person something to consider and doesn't rely on absolutes.  In life we should never deal in absolutes because the possibilities are endless...






I also agree its a time issue.... if you have lots of time training both hands is fine...The way we train is to get graduate right hand 1st than work on your left later.

I personally feel that you should be very good at one side & functional on the other...rather than average on both sides. In my opinion it easy to practice  pre-set &  stationary drills.

But to prepare yourself as we were taught....  there is a lot more to timing , distance , footwork, power that you will need to work at.

Granted there are a lot of talented FMAers out there that can fight both side equally...but they had to put in their time to get there.

But if you are like most of us.. being good on one side and functional on the other is just fine.

But if you have all the time in the world... than by all means train both sides

anyway thats my 2 cents

great blog

Terry, that is the basic structure of GM Steve Todd's '5 Way Method.' Students train their dominant hand up to the point of black belt and then focus on the opposite hand to finish their black belt level.


Everyone that has gone through our system as far as i know started right side first regardless of your dominate hand. I have asked in the past and i was told that it made it easier for the instructor or the students to work on the same technique.

I also believe that because that we play largo mano and it is a bladed system that although we play other styles we do not stray to far from aour ace in the hole.

It is not 50/50 but 100/100 ercent on both sides.
We have always trained both sides. an advanced student should be ble to do everything left and right. plus double stick training is held to a high degree. doing all sumbrata and hubad lubad exercises with two wepns then 1 against 2 and so on.

When I first started in 75, that was all we did 2 sticks for a long time.


I do believe one should be versitile on both sides but by nature we will be better at one than the other. I tend to take a right hand usage position for most of what I do.

Thanks Ron for that honest answer. Many FMA fighters do the same whether they realize it or not.






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