Stick and Sword

Stick and Sword

Although you're highly unlikely to end up in a stick or sword fight on the street, stick and sword training gives you the foundation to use almost any non-projectile weapon in self defense, is largely transferable to unarmed fighting, will teach you lessons you can use in other areas of self defense, and is great for exercise and enjoyment. The stick and sword techniques and training methods in FSD are a mix from a variety of styles, and based on our 4 Step Matrix.

Stick and sword training is different, but also very similar. The weapons are the same length, and the same angles of attack, entries, and defenses work to a large degree. However, there are a few substantial differences. Far less power is required to do damage with a sword, and whereas a strike on the arm may have no effect with a stick, the same cannot be said with a sword! It's also unwise to directly "block" with a sword, as the edge can be damaged. A sword can slash, whereas a stick needs to hit. You can thrust with a stick, but it won't have quite the same effect as thrusting with a sword.

The principles and training methods listed here work for both stick and sword in general, but specific methods work better and worse depending on the particular weapon used. The same goes for heavy vs. light sticks. A very heavy, two-handed cane or baseball bat can be used to block and strike in ways that a thinner, lighter stick cannot. Experiment with different weapons (length, weight, and type) in training, and be mindful of the differences. Below you'll find our general curriculum with links to pictures and videos.

Basic Stickwork

The basic stickwork consists of fundamental angles of attack and footwork. After the practitioner learns the basic 6 angles, we move on to doing them with the footwork listed below:

Hand Sparring

Once a practitioner learns the basic attacks and footwork we begin with hand sparring using padded sticks. This teaches the "defang the snake" concept (striking the opponent's hand or limb) early on and gradually introduces them to stick sparring.

Note: For much more on Kali, see The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense.

The 4 Step Matrix

The 4 Step Matrix is a version of the Covered Blast we use in FSD for contact weapons. The matrix contains angles of attack, types of attacks (swinging, thrusting, full, half, etc.), covered entries, footwork patterns, and covered exits. In application it consists of a safe entry, either attacking your opponent or intercepting his attack, follow ups that prevent you from getting hit while taking out your opponent, and safe exits. For more information on the 4 Step Matrix and training methods, click here.

The Random Flow and Sparring

Most of the above mentioned training centers around prearranged drills and practice patterns for repetition in the isolation phase of training. They're great to build speed, power, perfect your physical techniques, and to learn important concepts. But in reality, you're not going to know what your opponent is going to do and how he's going to respond to your advances. Real fighting involves the unknown and a large dose of chaos. We use two methods to prepare for the reality of fighting: random flow and sparring.

Random Flow Training

Random flow training isn't sparring in the sense that you're not fighting each other. There's a level of cooperation, as the goal is to help each other to learn. You don't know what your partner is going to do and he or she doesn't know what you're going to do, but you're doing it at a pace you're both comfortable with, and there is a give and take. This training can include emphasis on particular aspects of fighting, where practitioners agree to work on various entries, combination counter attacks, etc. Here are a few ways it can be done:

  • A attacks and B defends
  • A attacks and B counters
  • A attacks, B counters, A counters the counter

Note: Check out Sword and Circle for more on random flow training, this post in particular.


In sparring, you're fighting each other. You're not trying to directly help your partner to learn, but to win. Sparring is where the chaos comes in, and where you learn to deal with hard pressure coming from a completely uncooperative opponent. In order to avoid injury in stick or sword sparring, protective gear and/or training weapons must be used, or sparring must be low intensity.

Other Training Methods


For many years I taught sombrada as a training drill, but haven't used it since 2005 or so. I do still feel it has value if done correctly and used as an isolation drill to train attacking entries and follow ups, but my current thinking is that isolating variations of the 4-Step Matrix will provide even better results with a wider variety of live options. Students tend to put too much value on the pattern and/or do it incorrectly. If you're going to train sombrada, be sure to see our video on doing it properly.

Double Stick

Double stick isn't something I train or teach much, but for those that are interested, here is a page demonstrating double stick with the 4 Step Matrix.

See more on kali and eskrima.

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