A while back I had the opportunity to go and train with a Master Instructor, during that training I learned a new appreciation for weapons training. Our goal for those two days of training was simply to learn to use the Sam Dan Bahng, a three-section staff that is somewhere over seven feet in length when fully deployed. Many who witness someone training with this particular weapon question why anyone would devote time and effort to learning a weapon that is very obviously not practical in self-defense.
The training began in a most unusual way, at least unusual compared what I had anticipated. The Master Instructor gave us all our weapons and then promptly told us to set them aside. We would not touch the weapon again for the next 45 minutes! As training began in earnest we were exploring self-defense techniques and strategies, empty hand striking techniques and effective strike combinations. Nothing was said about the weapon or how to use it, not even how to hold it. Only after almost an hour of hard training and near constant motion did the Master Instructor tell us to retrieve our weapons.
He very quickly reviewed some weapons handling basics and launched right into teaching us an intricate weapons form to practice when we returned to our schools. The amazing thing was not in what he was teaching us, but how. He did not tell us to strike with the weapon, he simply called out the names of the empty hand techniques and combinations we had worked on earlier. This pattern of empty hand practice and repeat with weapon occurred numerous times over the course of the two day training.
The most amazing thing occurred. Not only did we all learn how to use the weapon and complete the form, but each of us walked away better at self-defense, sparring and our empty hand techniques. The Master Instructor had turned a seminar on a weapon into a clinic on all aspects of martial arts training! Instead of teaching us only about our new weapon, he had taught us to be better martial artists and instructors, showing how to integrate even the most unusual weapon or concept into our traditional martial arts training. Finally, we all had a good reason to go train hard with weapons that we will never use on the street; even the most unusual weapon can teach us about self-defense and help us learn to be stronger and safer in every day life.
(For a sample of this type of training and thinking please watch the video included with the article. Please forgive the quality of the video, I am a martial arts instructor and nowhere near a screen star or movie producer!)