The Postiza and the Birds That Compete In It!
Or What A Gringo Knows About "Headhunters"!
Submitted by Jim Fulton III
In 1988 I meet a man by the name of Joe Hernandez thru the social column in the back of a Grit & Steel. He lived close to me so I gave him a call. That call opened up a whole new world for me , that I wasn't even aware of. Joe was of Cuban heritage and part of this culture was heavely involved in the sport of postiza fighting. I had heard of the postiza and had seen some at Roy Bingham's house years earlier, but knew nothing about this type of competition. To start with, the birds were not what I expected. I had been told (by folks who really didn't know) that they were large slow fowl, that looked alot like a Asile. That was completely opposite from the truth. Most of the birds used in this sport are Cuban, and Spanish, with an occasional blending of some Oriental blood. The roosters average between 3.lbs 4 oz. - 4 lbs.6 oz., and the hens from 2.5 lbs. to 3.5 lbs. In appearance they resemble the American gaff bird, but they stand more upright with less breast, and more leg, and their legs seem to be set a little more forward than the gaff breeds. Their backs are very narrow to the tail, and makes it much easier to roll back over. I can't remember a time when I've seen any of these birds get "stuck" on it's back. They come every color you can imagine. Mostly because the people who fight this style, give color, very little consideration. They bred the best hen to the best rooster, with quality being their only goal. These birds come every "type" too, from toppys, and muffs, to the Hennies, or hen feathered cock. The stags mature around 9 to 10 months of age, and the pullets usually start laying at 10 months. These birds also have a mild temperment and make good parents. The roosters are easy to work, and seem to respond to routein quickly.
I guess the biggest difference in these birds , is the way they fight. The most noticable being, they Hit to the Head! They can hit in a single stroke fashion, or a kind of quick, short, shuffle(pop pop pop)and then back on their feet. Many get bill holds and actually "pull" the bird down and off balance, and then hit right below their bill. They hit very hard and deleberate, and it really doesn't stop there. To give a few "breed" examples, the Jerezanos, or "Spanish", are considered the "gentelmanly" fighters. They will stand toe to toe with another bird, and exchange hard deliberate blows, back and forth, untill they drop the other. The Cuban breed is more of a "busy" fighter, and tend to hit and move, and then set up and HIT. The Orientals , like to push a fight. They actually push into the other bird, push push HIT! Of course the blending of any of these bloodlines produces more styles than I could possibly describe here. The term "wheeling" is generally used in a negative way in the gaff world, but is really a fighting "tactic".Most roosters are smart enough to know when a fight isn't going their way, so they have to change the "pace" of the fight. By leading his apponent in a chase, a rooster gets the other bird to follow "head first" after him in a run, he then just stops, turns and pops. Many a fight have been won, using this technique. I have allways found it interesting that some cocks are aware of this "ploy" , and don't play the game. They wait as the rooster comes by, and hit him as he passes. Eventually the wheeler will stop and continue fighting, when he sees it's not working.
The Real Difference:
The two things that got me "hooked" on these fowl was how much energy they have when they fight, and how much "shock" they can take to the head. The postiza fight is a "timed" event, usually 15 to 30 minutes(depending on the region or country, you fight in), but even so, they rarely go the time alotted. It is a no handling affair, and the birds, once set down, will fight continually, just as hard 15 and 20 minutes into the fight, as they did when it started. The term "Headhunters" is actually very true. That's exactly what they do. They will "shoot" for and hit the upper neck region and head, over 75% of the time. This, to me, is the most outstanding feature of these birds , their " Durability". They will take and deliver countless blows, directly to the head, and instead of "fading", seem to get stronger and more determined. Even when their heads are swollen and their eyes shut, they keep reaching for a bill hold, and when they get it, they seem to be more deadly, they really make it count! As a direct result of this "area of attack", that these birds work on, there is very little "bodily" damage. Most of these birds heal quickly, and with the exception of a lost eye, can and will be fought again. Even the birds that lose an eye, can compete in another form of this sport, the Quarto, or 1/4 inch knife. Like all knife fights you only use one, and allthough a very small knife (by comparison), the fights are very interesting, and require a very accurate rooster.
I would like to touch on the importance of a healthy and prepared rooster, when fighting in the postiza, quarto, or naked heel. These birds DO have a natural ability to fight hard and long, but to really compete, you can give them a little help. The keep I (and many others) use helps build their stamina and endurance. It is a 6 week keep, and they will be worked every 3 rd day, in other words, 1 day on, 2 days off. There is one week at the end of the keep, that they will get no work at all, just all the rest they can.The basic plan is a "hard" workout at the beginning, which involves 5 minutes of sparing and then a series of flirts. Rest for 2 days then just flirts (more than the first time). Rest for 2 more days, then a slightly longer sparing session, and more flirts. This will go on with progressively longer sparing sessions, and a higher number of flirts, untill you work up to 20 minutes sparing and "running", and 100 flirts, up to the week before the fight. When working your birds, you will be using 2 at a time, even when it's just a " flirt " day. If you work alone (like I do), you can place one rooster in a drop-out pen, and flirt, or work the other just a few feet away. His attention will be on the other bird and you can easily get him to do 100 flirts. Everytime his feet hit the ground after a flirt he will head for the other bird. Just have your hand ready, and scoop him up and flirt him again. He will allmost run into your hands, just move quick to keep either one from hitting the wire. We feed the best grain we can get, with a variety of supplemental foods like bannanas and other fruits, boiled egg every few days, and bread occasionally. In the middle of your conditioning, or 3 weeks before the fight, you will need to trim the feathers off your bird's legs, lower body, and back. This is referred to as "trim out". It really helps to cool the bird, and if you choose NOT to trim him, he will be at a disadvantage. Although it appears they have been shaved, it is really done with scissors. The best time to do it, is right after he's had a session of 100 flirts and then feed, they don't seem to mind being laid in your lap, and rolled around as much. By the way, there is no mystery "point" to achieve on fight day. Your birds will be just as "snappy" on fight day as their are on a work day, and they will be well prepared for it. For a complete, and detailed 6 Week Postiza Keep, please go to the "spotlight" section of Gamerooster.com
Heels and Heeling:
The term "postiza", is really a general term meaning, natural style, artificial heel. They are made of several different materials, from real spurs, bone, tortoise shell, plastic, and aluminum. They vary in lengths from 1 inch, being the most common in the aluminum, to 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 inch in plastic. Usually at any postiza fight, the same size and type of spur is used by everyone, with the natural spur being trimmed less than a 1/4 inch off the leg. The heeling of these birds, although not a great mystery, does take practice, and is a little more from "the ground up" , in comparison to heeling a gaff bird. To start with, the materials you will need (assuming the bird's spurs are allready trimmed) are, a roll of thin medical tape(the cloth kind), some dental floss, a special kind of glue stick, a set of "postizas" (for this example we're using aluminum), and a candle and lighter. You will also need someone to hold the bird for you. You will need a flat area to work off . When you're ready, light the candle. The glue stick is a little larger than a crayon and when you need some, you will just heat the tip over the flame and "dab" it on the spot you need. Holding the bird securely and starting with either leg, tear off a strip of the tape 1/4 inch wide and about 6 inches long. Take about a 1 inch length of one end of it and put it right on top of the spur, and secure the short end around the leg. Then wrap the long end around the leg, and then close to the upper side of the spur, and then around the leg again, and then wrap around the lower side of the spur (a kind of figure 8), and then back around over the very top of the spur one last time, then you secure the end with a spot of glue, lick your thumb and "smooth" or wipe the glue down. This is your base to work off of, this way only the tape touches the spur and not the hot glue. The postiza itself is very simple. It has nothing more than a shallow "cup" , that sets just over the "stump" of the roosters spur. By applying a spot of glue to this cup, you set it on the stump, and (This is the tricky part) looking up the leg from prop toe to knee, alighen the spur between the most noticable tendon and the outer knee. Then step to the side of the bird, and check the height of the spur, moving it either down (closer to the prop toe), or up. Mind, you will need to do this quickly before the glue sets. If it does before your ready, just snap it off and reheat the cup end of the spur, and start again. The only disdvantage to reheating, is the spur can get to hot to hold, so keep a rag or towel handy to hold it with. The best advice I can give you to setting your postiza right, is keep in mind how the "real" spur sets, and get it as close as you can. Once you feel the spur is where you want it, get out the dental floss, and snap off a string about 12 inches long. Where the shaft or "pointy part" of the postiza begins off the hub, wrap the string around 4 or 5 times, then make a wrap of the leg back to the shaft then make one half loop around the shaft and then bring it back around the leg the way you came and loop around the shaft from the opposite direction, make a couple of loops around the shaft again , and then back around the leg to the shaft again. Then do it all one more time and then finish off by looping the shaft, and lay the end against the tape part. The floss has a "stickiness" to it that will keep it in place long enough to dab it with some glue, Now apply more medical tape. Tear off another strip of tape 1/4 in. wide and 12 inches long, and starting with a short length (like before), poke the point of the spur through the center of this end of the tape , and slide it down to the hub. Just like we did before, wrap the short end around the leg then start wrapping the base of the postiza in that same figure 8 fashion. Around the leg, over the top of the spur, around the leg again, over the bottom of the spur, untill your tape runs out, then dab some glue on the end of the tape. Then (beleive it or not) you repeat the dental floss "tie" one more time, glue it, and then tear off a shorter peice of tape, just to cover the string, and then a final dab of glue. Set your bird down and see how he walks(make sure it's not too tight), then pick him up and do the other heel. This may sound complicated, but it only takes about 12 to 15 minutes to do. At most all the fights, the competetors heel in full view of everyone, so if you can just watch a few times you will pick up the "tricks of the trade" in no time.
Rules of Combat:
The rules for the postiza are pretty straight forward. The most notable is, there is NO handling. Once your number is called, you and your opponent will check your birds at the scales, and then heel up, usually in view of each other. I can't say there is a time limit to heeling. Everyone is understanding, and would rather have you take your time and have a Good fight. Once you are both ready, you will enter the pit and the ref. will check, and snip off the leg bands. He then takes a sponge and wipes off the spurs, legs, head and neck area, and then opens your bird's beak and squeezes a little of the water from the sponge, down his throat. He then rinses the sponge and does the same to your opponent's bird, and then encourages you to let your birds see and peck each other. He then sets a timer (30 min. where I fight), and asks you "flush" your birds and set them down (usually about 8 to 6 feet apart), and then you leave the pit. Like most gamefowl, the" postiza" birds can , and will come together in a "flurry" or shuffle, but will settle down very quickly to a more steady "thumping". It's actually during the beginning of the fight that the ref. might have to "help out" one of the birds if they hang themselves. Other than that, the ref will not seperate two roosters, his job is to keep time on the " down" bird. If the birds DO hang?, which is rare, they must work it out on their own. The shorter heel makes this possible. A "Down bird", is a rooster that remains setting down on his legs, where his knees touch the ground, or leaning on his breast or side, or letting his head droop till his beak touches the ground, or is just unable to get up and get control of himself. If he remains in any of these positions for 60 seconds, the fight is over. A "Draw" can happen in just a few ways. Of course the time can expire without a winner. Two birds can become seperated, through loss of vison, and wander away from each other. The ref will then start counting for a seperation when in HIS judgment, enough time has passed since their last contact. Again , it is a 60 second count. I have in some cases, seen a rooster loose interest, in a blind cock, and just walk away. That too, was a draw. If two roosters knock each other down, and stay down, or if a bird goes down, and is receiving a count and just shortly after the count starts the other rooster sits down, these are also draws. In the case of the down bird having the count as the other bird set down, if the standing bird sets down late in the count, he may recieve the win, it is a judgement call by the ref. Even with a time limit of only 30 minutes, the fights rarely go that long. The average length of most of the fights that I've seen or ref'ed., only lasted between 6 and 18 minutes, with many being over in less than 5 minutes. Once a decision has been made, or the fight is over, you will both re-enter the pit , and allmost as tradition, you will pick up your opponent's bird, and hand it to him with either a congratulations, or words of encouragement. It's Ok to be mad if you lost, but not at your opponent. Everyone is expected to behave in a civil manner, win or loose.
The Other Styles of Combat:
As I mentioned before, these birds can also be fought in Quarto, or Naked heel. The Quarto, as I mentioned earlier, is a very short (1/4 inch) knife, and really is only as long as your thumbnail. The rules for fighting are the same as postiza except, you use only one on the left leg. As a result, the bird you use will need to be a very accurate cutter. These fights can sometimes take a little longer than a postiza fight, but it really does determine which is the best bird in the pit at the time. The Naked heel, or "dry" heel (as they call it in England), usually refers to a "natural" spur fight. Usually the roosters are of about the same age, with equal size spurs. Other than allowing two of my own birds to determine which one I keep, by "lettin' em go at it" in my own yard, with what God gave them, I have not competed in this style of combat. I understand, from those who do, that it is very much like the postiza fights except, the natural spur (being much larger) leaves NO guess work on where the bird is hit, and can be over pretty quickly.
Well there you have it. The postiza and the rules for it, remove allmost all human error (and or cheating), and allows a person with not much space, to be competative all season, by requiring far fewer birds to compete. This sport eliminates the need to kill your competition to win... just beat him. So even if you lost this time, but your bird did well, just heal him up, hold him over, and fight him again later in the same season. Remember, only their head gets hurt! I truely hope this sparks some intrest, opens some minds, or helps anyone who has questions about this " different phase" of the same sport of Cockfighting. I'll see you at the fights