Advanced Training with the Hambo:  Grappling with the Weapon

Dr. William Durbin

When it comes to bludgeon type weapons that are actually handy for self defense, there is none better than the Hambo, or half stick. Known actually by many different names, this weapon is one of the best all around, practical items of self defense. Some styles refer to it as the Tambo, short stick, and among police officers that train in Japanese law enforcement tactics it is known as the Keibo, simply, police stick.

The reason this weapon is so practical is that the techniques practiced with a stick ranging from one foot to three feet, according to which style you train in, can be applied to many everyday items, such as, a ruler, an umbrella, a rolled up newspaper or magazine, small gardening tools, hammers, and many more.


Primarily, weapons such as this have one main emphasis, the striking of an opponent. In too many situations people try to go into advanced grappling skills without realizing that if a person is not stunned or disabled before hand, they will be able to fight a grappling attempt off fairly easily. It takes a lot of precision to enter into a grappling technique, without having first loosened up the opponent with some type of strike.

Even when one has mastered such grappling skills, it is still best to weaken an opponent first with strikes, but they can be directed at the limbs, rather than the body. However, if there is any question as to whether or not a person can be handled, then strikes to actual vital points should precede any grappling attempt.

One other point that needs to be definitely emphasized is that grappling techniques with the Hambo should not even be attempted in a multiple attack situation. Rather the person should practice avoidance techniques and seek to deliver strikes to vital points on each person that comes in range. To attempt a grappling technique, when another person could move in on you while you are engaged with another, is suicide.


Grappling techniques where designed more with the police officers in mind, or in ancient times, when it was necessary for a Samurai to make a prisoner of a spy or criminal. Thus they were designed for a one on one situation, or when your partner could watch your back while you put all your effort into bringing an assailant into an immobilized position, either to be handcuffed, or in ancient times tied up with Hojojutsu techniques. Hojojutsu being the special rope tying techniques which put a person in a completely helpless position by tying together the hands, arms, and possibly, feet.

Since some of the skills practiced with the Hambo are designed specifically with the police officer in mind, thus making them very much Keibo techniques, many of the skills start with the weapon on the left hand side of the body, since most people are right handed and would thus have their gun hung on their right side and their baton in a ring on the left. Obviously, readers who are left handed just need to reverse the instructions in the article in order to be able to use the techniques. In all honesty, it would be best for both right handed and left handed people to seek to be ambidextrous when it comes to dealing with weapons, because in combat you never know what is going to happen, and if one hand is injured, you want to be able to still respond in a defensive manner.

Gyakute Mochi

One of the absolute best moves to use when holding a baton in a ring at your side, is to dodge out of the way of an attack, while sliding the weapon out of the ring in the Gyakute Mochi, reverse hand grip, slamming the butt end into the solar plexus of the attacker. This can be used to precede many different strategies, but it can in and of itself be a finishing technique, in that a light blow can drop a big person when it lands directly on the solar plexus. However, keep in mind the serious damage that can be done by such a blow, and if the person loses consciousness or begin to bleed from the mouth, then you know internal damage has been done and they will need immediate medical care. In the case of a police officer, it would be best to take the person to the hospital before delivery to jail. The average citizen being mugged will want to vacate the area and call the police giving the location of the suspect, so that the police can take care of the situation.

When the strike is light, it will still weaken the person making it easier for the defender to apply a joint lock of some sort so that the person can be taken to the ground and put into a control situation. Another very important point to keep in mind, is that if you are in a situation where you are attempting a joint lock and suddenly there are other people joining the first in attacking you, the move can go from being gently applied for control, to being executed explosively, breaking whatever joint you are locking. Thus if you have locked the elbow and are using pressure to bring the person down, if you suddenly move explosively, so that the person’s body mass keeps them from keeping up with your motion, their elbow will snap easily. Then it is possible to move on into a defense against the other assailants. Always be prepared for that eventuality, thugs travel in groups, generally speaking.

Honte Mochi

The value of the Hambo, in basic self defense, is in its length. Therefore it is important that at the first opportunity, or in the eventuality you have the option, to hold the weapon in the Honte Mochi, regular hand grip, which means to have the long end out. This is especially important when dealing with bladed weapons or a much larger person, so that you have the length, hence distance, of safety.

One of the best strategies to use when engaged in a combat situation, especially when you are trying not to severely injure the attacker, is to strike the attacking limb. When an assailant throws a kick, slamming the weapon against the kicking leg will work wonders for dropping a person to the ground. There is the story of a New York police officer who while on duty one day ran up against a local tough, who as the officer declared ‘you are under arrest’ was told by the young man, ‘watch out man, I’m a black belt’. The young hoodlum then threw a kick at the officer, who slammed his baton into the shin of the man dropping him to the ground, where the officer handcuffed him. It turned out that the young bruiser was not a trained martial artist, just a tough guy who had watched a lot of martial arts movies, but the police officer was a fourth degree black belt who had been trained in Keibo techniques by his instructor.

Because of the danger of serious injury, brain damage, or death, police officers have been told not to strike the head unless absolutely necessary. Thus when an assailant attacks, a safe response for an officer is to strike the punching arm itself. If the arm is stunned and the person hurt, it is then very possible for the defender to whip into a joint lock, using the stunned arm as the point of focus.

One very important consideration one must reflect upon, is that it is only possible to be effective with grappling skills with a Hambo, when the principles behind grappling are properly understood. In a day where most people practice specialized arts designed to be used in one type of competition, much has been said about strikers going to grapplers to be more effective, and grapplers going to strikers to be more effective. The truth is, all ancient combat arts were comprehensive. A person in combat never knew what kind of situation they would be in, thus they needed to be able to perform three types of skills. A true martial artist in the classical sense of the word, needed to be able to use a variety of weapons, needed to be able to strike effectively, and needed to be able to grapple. This was just considered good training. Most Koryu, ancient systems founded before the Tokugawa era, were complete in this regard. Modern Goshinjutsu, self defense arts, sometimes referred to as the Shin Bujutsu, new martial arts, that are actually and properly geared towards self defense, rather than Shin Budo, new martial ways which tend to be geared for sports, usually include a full range of skills.

The grappling techniques for use with a Hambo are the same as the grappling techniques of Jujutsu. Techniques such as Udegatame (arm lock), Udegarami (arm wrap), and Hijijime (elbow crush), are all staple techniques found in nearly all forms of grappling from Kempo Jujutsu to Aikijujutsu and the derivative arts of Judo and Aikido. With just slight modification these same techniques can be applied with the Hambo, as well as, many other weapons.

Never try to use skills that are not designed for self defense in those kinds of situations. Make sure that the underlying principles of whatever it is you are attempting, such as grappling, are completely understood. The Hambo is an excellent weapon of self defense. As a bludgeon weapon it is excellent for everyday defense and with proper understanding of the grappling principal and skills, it can be used to subdue and control a person without injury. But these concepts must be properly understood and developed for successful application of the advanced skills of grappling with the Hambo.

Dr. William Durbin is the founder of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei. He teaches at the Hombu dojo in Frankfurt, Kentucky.