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Machete Fighting Techniques

By Brian Connolly

Originally developed as a tool for clearing thickets and jungle vines, the machete has emerged as a popular weapon in many tropical countries. Functioning like a typical short-sword with a progressively thickening blade, the machete developed into a martial arts weapon in smaller indigenous and tribal populations; such as the Macheteros--a clandestine popular army of sugar cane workersin Puerto Rico. Easily acquired but challenging to learn, machete combat arts are a viable option for modern martial artists.

Acquiring Your Weapon

Purchase a machete from your local hardware or military surplus store. For advanced combat forms, you will want to invest in a more impressive machete, such as the kind manufactured by Cold Steel, but for now you will want a training weapon that can take damage. Test the balance of your weapon before purchasing by resting the center of the blade on your palm and gauging if the handle material is too heavy. You will want a handle that is preferably of wood or steel make, so avoid plastic if you can.

Basic Techniques

Designate a safe outdoor space for training and drill yourself on the basic cuts, blocks and postures of machete fighting. Basic cuts will begin with your general overhead, outside and inside bodily cuts. Test your footing until you are comfortable with the placement of your feet while striking. Practicing stepping into a cut or striking while stepping at a 45-degree angle to one direction. Once you are secure with the basic strike patterns, practice blocking with your machete by maneuvering the blade to defend the same target areas you were striking at: overhead, outside, and inside body blocks. Once you feel comfortable with basic strikes and blocks, begin to practice the art of stopping your machete at the end of each swing. This will level your blade and prevent it from wavering while you cut.


Find a sparring partner for hands-on machete practice. Though the popular method is to purchase two pairs of Escrima or training sticks, most machete traditions, such as those practiced in Haiti, involve practicing with a dull or blunted machete. For this you may want to use a grinder to remove the edge on your weapons. Communicate with your partner the specific rules and safety measures of each sparring session--no full-force blows or strikes near the head, for example. Most machete sparring involves very little force and is designed to develop coordination and control. While sparring with your partner, begin each round with machetes touching. Entrap your partner's machete by keeping your blade pressed against theirs, in order to "feel out" when and where their strikes will come from.

Further Training

Study the machete's superior ability to redirect each of your opponent's strikes. For example, when your sparring partner attempts a strike towards you, apply force to the incoming blade so as to push it away from you. The natural leaf-shaped bulge in the machete's blade will make your opponent's blade move over and around your own. As with any fighting art, the possibilities are truly endless, and a machete fighter is limited only in the scope of their imagination when it comes to trapping and striking. Remain diligent and sharp-minded and you may surprise yourself at how quickly your body can adapt.

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