Triple Irony

three sectional staffMartial artists always have something to do. In my case I have been reconstructing and improving my weapons skills—at least, I hope so, considering the practice put in. It can be a slow process. It’s tough enough to fight through the quirks of each weapon. You also have to overcome the tendency for former ghostly versions to confuse you with what you are studying now vs. what you thought you’d absorbed from the Cenozoic period when you first picked up the weapon.

Given my personality, I often pick up the one weapon that matches the origami crinklings of my brain: the triple irons, or three sectional staff.

This ancient weapon requires so much folding and unfolding, turning and shifting, listening and adapting, that I often feel it is the automated equivalent to a Wing Chun wooden man. The major difference is the fact that the wooden dummy has never hit me in the back of my head. Ah, but here a story unfolds!

I recently found some time to try and improve my three-sectional form. I moved to the floor and began the Northern Shaolin sticks set I had learned from Kwong Wing Lam. Everything started fine. I was fine. The sticks were fine. Then, out of nowhere, my left ear was grazed by one of the sections flying past and then, an instant later, the same ear received a passing slam. I stopped the weapon and tried to figure it out. I knew my roll had been off lately but this bordered on mutiny. Rather than stop, I got back in the saddle again, but within a minute I had the pleasant experience of being slammed in the legs a couple of good ones. My form was definitely not improving!

Try again, failed again, but this time the threat was upped by a clanky double shot to the head followed by a couple of thuds on my legs. I figured that was enough for the day.

I’m ashamed to admit that the following day I used our plastic-wrapped lightweight weapon instead of the real thing. This tracked a little better, but I still had a feeling that something was wrong. I went back to the wood and got a klap on the noggin that actually made me cross step for a minute, like a student of drunken style.

Discretion being the better part of valor I returned to the weapons rack and replaced my weapon on the hook. But wait a second! I wasn’t replacing my staff at all, since it was already hanging on the wall. I had been using the triple stick of another instructor here. I looked at the two, hanging side by side, and saw that their lengths differed by about an inch and a half total—just about the depth of penetration of some of those head blows.

Immediately I remembered the adage that you never practice with another man’s weapon. Was that the takeaway? Or, perhaps, never rearrange the weapons rack? Whatever. I realized that some life lessons are neither educational nor ennobling, just common sense, like your mother telling you not to put your hand on the kitchen stove.


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2 Responses to “Triple Irony”

  1. Michael Babin says:

    Michael Babin writes..
    This story reminded me of my attempts to learn to twirl a nunchaku from the illustrations and instructions in the book that came with the weapon I got by mail-order back in the early 1970s. The first technique I mastered was striking myself in the crotch and that hurt almost as much as the blow to the head that I gave myself a day later. My mother would just shake her head as she watched my subsequent practise in the backyard while wearing a football helmet.

  2. Jeff says:

    It is amazing how quickly that weapon can come hurtling back at you, somehow picking up speed against all the laws of physics.

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