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Stump Work
Training with Axe and Machete


Time in the High Country, for me, is a chance to heal and get into better shape. Yesterday I helped Bob’s son-in-law take down a spruce tree, mostly assisting with lifting the felled trunk onto the block and hauling the branches and cuts. What remained was a four-foot tall stump with the top six inches angled from the felling notch. Bob wants to put a bird feeder on that stump, so I volunteered to take a week nicking it down with an axe and machete—just training—before I leveled it clean with a hand saw.

Bob has a stainless steel axe, about 28 inches long, he used to sling to his saddle for use in quartering elk, a real sharp blade. He also has a Kershaw machete with a big bite of its own and a fighting point and balance. My plan was to cut down, vertically and diagonally into the top of the stomp while practicing foot work that works with biting strokes. The fitness goal is developing my lats, intercostals and hands.

Most of the work was done with the axe, the first 20 minutes.

The strokes were all one-handed with the 5-pound axe:

-1. Shoulder-loaded diagonal chops with one hand

-2. Forearm-assisted diagonal back hands

-3. Assisted roof-block to vertical fore hand

-4. Assisted roof block to vertical backhand

With the axe, biting in at the beard for 2-4 inches, a step forward is required for smooth extraction, so I use this to practice checking and passing after a hard stroke as I rock the blade out with one hand, sometimes switching hands here.

In order to practice shifting and making certain that I stay at extension weapon range and also insure that a glancing stroke on the stump will not find my shin, I do shift, pivot and shift-pivot strokes, both back handed and fore handed. This means when throwing a vertical back hand from a right-hand guard with right foot forward, I shift back the right leg as I stroke, enhancing the blow, moving away and avoiding leaving my leg in the path of an axe stroke in case I missed.

I never missed but did fumble 3 of about a hundred strokes, where I had gotten too close to the edge of the stump.

I must say that the assisted roof block to vertical backward-shifting down stroke with the axe is very smooth, tactically sound and plants that beard deeply into the wood. I will then slide forward and check while rocking the axe head forward and chambering the neck of the haft to my empty hand—towards which I am travelling—and shifting with a back hand chop, assisted with the empty hand.

I transitioned to the Kershaw machete for the final ten minutes, for perhaps 50 strokes, all diagonal. I began with the same shift drills going for a more diagonal stroke, turned the blade once and batted it twice without penetrating.

The machete drill advanced to triangle steps, with the machete general biting 1.5 to 2 inches deep, about half as deep as the axe. So I would forehand chop with an extending rear leg, roll the blade, as my lead foot retracted to the instep of rear foot, returning the machete to mid guard from right breast to left neck, and executed a biting back hand as I stepped off with the left foot. The triangle steps were safer with the sharp blade than pass strokes and afforded deeper penetration and easier extraction.

My flexor tendons, triceps, lats and intercostals feel well worked.

Note: After a month, I got up to about 1,000 strokes, all tools combined, a day and instead of using a saw, beat the stump flat with hammers.

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