Back in the dark ages when I first started learning Filipino Martial Arts, Rattan had not yet been invented.
Or at least there was no way to obtain it on the Central Coast of California, where I was living and training.
There were however many eucalyptus groves. For those of you not from the west coast , the eucalyptus tree (gum tree) was introduced to California in the 1850's It turned out not to be such a good idea, but there they are, no doubt to stay.
When we needed sticks to practice with, we would go out to a nearby grove and cut saplings of an appropriate thickness, peel them and trim them to size, and set them aside to dry.
We would usually do about six pair at a time, and each pair would last about a month.
It wasn't pretty, but it was free.
These sticks were pretty solid hardwood, you wouldn't want to take a full power shot from one, and even the light taps that happen from time to time in training smarted a bit.
so when we sparred, we used Wiffle bats.
These bats wouldn't break bone (at least they never did with us), but they would raise a welt to be proud of.
This was also in the days before sparring armor was invented. We fought in jeans and a tee shirt, Even though a Wiffle bat is not likely to do permanent damage, if you were not on top of your game you could end up with a black eye, split lip or broken nose if you were not careful. Also, being caught with a good thrust would double you over quite smartly.
I think it was not until the mid seventies that I got my first rattan stick. Dan Inosanto had written his book on the FMA and interest in the arts was growing.
Rattan sticks were nice, but often hard to find and often very un-uniform in quality. They were also quit expensive for something you were going to wear out all too soon.
For years I put up with the problem of going through rattan at an alarming rate. As a teacher I would sometimes bust a stick at least once a week. Even with buying rattan in bulk from a wholesaler, it gets expensive.
Last summer I did a seminar in the Bay Area, while there I met Jeff Finder who I had known from the net for some time but had never managed to meet in person.
Jeff is a consummate martial artist (Sarrada Escrima), superb teacher and just an all around nice guy. He also runs Stickman Escrima products and training, which sells the finest training sticks I have ever used.
Jeff gave me a pair of "cobras" (picture on the right) which are visually stunning and for all practical purposes unbreakable.
Mine look as good as the day I got them and I use them every day.
Jeff has several models, sizes and materials to choose from. His HITS sticks are good light sticks that will not do serious damage with a casual tap, and would be great for beginning and intermediate students. His other products are suitable for people up to "master" level.
So if you are a teacher of the Archipelago arts, and you are tired of spending lots of money to replace your sticks, Check these out. I have found them to be well worth it.
Jeff also makes world class training knives and a few other products.
One of special note are his Shakuhachi flutes (pictured on right) made from the same material as his HITS sticks. I have one, and they play quite sweetly are are in proper pitch. No one is going to look twice at you for having a flute in your luggage or your back pocket, but in a pinch it just might5 save your life.
Give Jeff a visit when you have a spare moment and be sure to check out his blog as well.