Six times per second. That’s the speed at which stick fighters strive to make hits on their opponent. You can be forgiven if you haven’t yet heard of this Filipino martial art – it’s hardly mainstream – but it’s hitting the spot for a Townsville-based group who are representing this highly-skilled sport all over the country and overseas.
“It can certainly result in a few bruises but it’s no different to paintballing and your body toughens up with training” – Julian Bliss
Accountant Julian Bliss discovered Townsville Stick Fighting about a year ago when he was searching for an activity to help with his persistent neck pain. On the doctor’s recommendation he tried yoga and swimming, but they just didn’t do it for him. Julian had dabbled in martial arts as a child, so started to research what was available in Townsville.
“I wanted to go for a weapons style, even something like fencing, but then I came across the Kickstart Fitness Centre website and – low and behold – found Townsville Stick Fighting with Tom Goldworthy,” Julian says. “I went along to the first session in Aitkenvale, and – by the second session – Tom had put me in armour and said ‘away you go’.”
Since then, Julian has found it difficult to put down the stick, training three times a week under World Title holder Tom’s instruction and competing in the Australasian Stick Fighting Titles in Adelaide for the first time in June where he scored a bronze medal in the teams event. Julian’s passion for the sport often surprises his colleagues and friends when he shows them the fast-paced YouTube clips.
“People’s first response is ‘Wow, that looks pretty brutal’, but I tend to find you get all sorts in the competition,” Julian says, adding the ultimate aim is to disarm your opponent. “There are people who get amped up and angry, then there are others like me who enjoy the strategy, have fun and end the fight with a smile on their face. I really like the fact that you still get people in their sixties competing, so it’s a big mix.”
So the question you have no doubt been wondering – doesn’t it hurt? Well, that depends. There are three styles of stick fighting – full armour single stick, full armour double stick and limited armour; otherwise known as ‘Kulata’ – translation: to suffer.
“It can be a bit of a mental game with this one,” Julian tells, adding that the stick is padded (as opposed to the person) and opponents must both be wearing a helmet. “It can be painful hits and you tend to feel it on your body and legs the most… it can certainly result in a few bruises but it’s no different to paintballing and your body toughens up with training.”
There’s no doubt Julian’s fitness has improved and he says his neck pain has disappeared, but aside from the health benefits the father-of-two derives from the activity, he loves the social side and the mental challenge. “It’s like a chess game with sticks,” Julian says, already having set his sights on a major tournament in Bali next year. “You’re looking for gaps and trying to get your opponent to open up. It’s all about looking for opportunity. And being fast.”
How to get involved
Stick Fighting training sessions are three times a week. For more information see the Townsville Stick Fighting Facebook page.