- For other uses of the word staff, see staff.
is a large, thick stick
or stick-shaped object used to help with walking
, as a status
symbol, as a component of traditional barrel making
, or as a weapon
The plural form of staff was originally staves (compare wolf, wolves and knife, knives), and in British and International English this is still preferred. In American English the usual plural form has become staffs, except in fantasy literature. The old English plural form staves collectively describes the wooden sticks bound by iron hoops to form traditional wooden barrels.
Examples of staffs in Western Martial Arts
include the English quarterstaff
and the French bâton
, and there are many martial arts, such as Italian Liu-bo
, based around such staff-like weapons.
The Indian Silambam staff has been used as a weapon since at least the 2nd century, evident from references in ancient Sangam literature of the time. The martial art associated with the Silambam staff is also known as Silambam. This staff was later incorporated in several Malay martial arts such as Silat.
The Chinese staff is called gun (棍 pinyin gùn). Its practise is commonly divided into two main areas: Northern staff techniques (influenced by spear play) and Southern staff techniques. Many styles and techniques exist but the best known outside of China is the Shaolin Temple staff techniques as practised by the monks in Chinese medieval times (Tang dynasty 900s-1000s) and later by their disciples in pre-modern China (1600s-1900s) by anti-Manchu/Ching dynasty revolutionaries (Han Chinese patriots) prior to the wide-spread use of firearms. The techniques made their usual dissemination throughout the rest of Asia to be blended in with other countries' native fighting techniques.
Several Japanese martial arts include the use of a short staff known as a (jō), or the longer bō.
Police forces have used sticks for centuries - actually, since specialized police forces have been trained for anti-riots tactics; before that, artillery or standard cavalry units were used. For the "t" shaped stick used by police forces, see tonfa.
Ceremonial and practical use
There are many forms of staff used as a staff of office
; an item which symbolises a position, rank or prestige. In China, there are two types of staves: the wenren zhang
("the scholar staff"
)（文人杖） which is a symbol of status, and the shiyong zhang
（實用杖） ("practical staff"
) which has more practical uses. Compasses, telescopes, weapons, and even medicine could be put within the much thicker shiyong zhang
to be taken out when necessary. The zhang
(杖） itself could often be used as a gun
(棍), a fighting stick.
Staves are a traditional prop for the elderly and infirm, and this has led to their association with wisdom.
The ability of a staff to perform wonders is also featured prominently in the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moses and Aaron, in their task to liberate the Hebrews from Egypt and deliver them to the Promised Land, employ staves. The staves are capable of performing miraculous feats to demonstrate the power and authority of God.
Staves are also associated with wizards and other users of magic and sorcery. Haraibou (literal translation meaning 'purification stick') were staves that were used by the miko (Japanese female exorcists) to fight demons in Japanese lore.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's universe Donatello uses a bō staff as his weapon of choice, as did Cheetara in the ThunderCats animated series of the 80's.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's universe, Gandalf and the other wizards have magical staves as their trademark. There being five wizards, there are five staves, referred to by Saruman as "The Rods of the Five Wizards". (Magical staves of this sort have appeared in everything from Discworld to Dungeon Siege. Usually they are used only for their magic, but sometimes they are also weapons, as with Joach's staves in the Wit'ch War series of novels.)
- In Dungeons & Dragons the staff is both a light melee weapon and a more powerful version of wand.
- Mr. Eko from Lost also carried a staff he made, engraved with Christian scriptures, which Charlie called a 'jesus stick'. (He primarily used it to remind himself of parts of scripture he thought he often forgot, but in emergency situations he could use it quite effectively as a weapon.)
- In Star Fox Adventures, Fox McCloud uses a staff that is powerful in both physical and magical attacks.
- Staves are used as weapons in most Final Fantasy games. Often, as in many games, they are the weapons of spellcasters, but not always.
- In the Predator film series, the extraterrestrial Predators use high-tech, telescoping staves.
- In Nethergate, the staff is a usable weapon (though its effectiveness is limited, as evidenced by a joke in its description about a "riverside duel between Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.")
- In Eragon, Brom commonly uses a staff as a weapon.
- In Tales Of Symphonia, Raine Sage uses many different staffs to heal party members or hit enemies with it doing damage; staves are also used as weapons by Tear Grants and Anise Tatlin in "Tales of the Abyss", and by Mint Adenade in "Tales Of Phantasia".
- In Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon claims that one of the gangs at his school wanted him to join because he's "pretty good with a bo staff."
- In the video game called Beyond Good and Evil the main protagonist Jade uses a dai jo as her weapon, which is a type of staff.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle uses a staff as her primary weapon
- In Stargate and Stargate: SG-1, the primary weapon of the Jaffa warriors is the aptly, if unimaginatively, named Jaffa staff weapon, which is both a staff and a plasma rifle; the weapon was intentionally created with the "magic staff" theme in mind - both in-universe by the Goa'uld (as noted by Jack O'Neill in the SG-1 episode "The Warrior", the staff is designed to intimidate primitive peoples) and behind the scenes by the creators of the Stargate franchise.
- In the Harry Potter series Mad-Eye Moody uses a staff to aid with his wooden leg. In the film he is seen using it as a magical staff to fight the Death Eaters.
- In many RPGs, staves are used as a way to channel Mana, or Magical Energy.