Pads might be a good idea then, if you've got skinny bird bones. Despair not- height and reach are to your benefit in weapon fighting tournaments. I attribute some of my success to that (not that I'm super tall at 6', but a lot of FMA guys are short, on account of being Filipino).
[*]Some of you already know, I am 6'7", and built like an anorexic drinking straw.
What kind of helmet, what kind of gloves?
[*]Our current sparring kit is: helmet, gloves, padded stick (no jacket).
[*]Under pressure I seem to revert to fencing footwork instead of triangular footwork.
-stepping in a way that switches your lead foot is probably what's throwing you off. This could either mean stepping forward and to the left or backwards and to the right, both of which put you in a left lead.
>For forward and to the left stepping, have your opponent feed you lots of backhand strikes. This stepping method is better to receive that sort of strike than hanging back in a fencing stance and doing a weak turn-edge-outward sort of block/parry, and will set you up better than just stepping straight back. Maybe even try going against a slower, more powerful weapon like a shinai, bangkaw or tapado.
>For backwards and to the right, have your opponent feed you lots of forehands, where you dodge by moving your lead foot back, and intercept their swinging arm/wrist/hand with your own forehand. This one might not feel as weird, because you can still do this while playing a "timid" stand-back-and-attack-incoming-wrists style (a style that I've used the longest).
-sometimes I do weird fencing stuff because life's too short to not sometimes try a passata soto or inquartata.
Probably an outward/upward block to stop a forehand when your stick can't get to it? I've hit lots of arms that way. I've never been too quick to do those for some reason, but one of the guys I train with is always doing those and regretting them.
[*]I have a knack for blocking the stick with my stupid hands that is wired in at a spinal level.
One solution to that is to learn to use your left hand to "guide" the strike just off path, instead of trying to intercept/block it. Or you could just try not to use your off hand, but I think that's a really bad strategy for learning to fight with FMA- your live hand should be ready to do all sorts of stuff at medio. This should mesh well with your aikido background, I'm guessing.
You might find that there's not a whole lot of fierce competition that you may be imagining. I technically became an international grand champion in a tournament where one of my opponents was a 70 year old man who I knocked down with a push kick and felt bad about it.
[*]and here is the kicker: I am thinking of entering the national open championships - Arnis Alliance Rules, in September (no gloves).
Or, you might find some muscular scowling behemoth who just wants to hit someone with a stick- it can be a diverse crowd.
Witik to the lead hand, over and over again, some of them turning into forehand abanikos to the left temple.
So, help me out guys. I need to be the ************ Jason Bourne is scared of, and I need to be it quick.