A pugil stick is a heavily padded training weapon used by military personnel for bayonet training since the 1930s or 1940s. Similar to a quarterstaff or Japanese bo, the pugil stick may be marked at one end to indicate which portion represents the bayonet proper and which the butt of the rifle. Pugil bouts are usually conducted with hard contact while wearing protective gear such as groin protectors, American football helmets, hockey gloves and chest protectors or shinguards such as worn by baseball catchers. Other pugil sticks may be built with integrated handguards. Because of the potential for injury, military procedures for pugil bouts are often quite detailed, with United States Army and United States Marine Corps prohibiting pugil training by anyone who has recently suffered concussion of the brain lest they suffer traumatic brain injury.
Although some organizations such as the Society for Creative Anachronism may use similar weapons for sport purposes, this is generally discouraged as too dangerous. Some practitioners of modern Escrima (such as the Dog Brothers) spar with full contact, using lighter but unpadded sticks. Instead of hockey and football helmets and protectors, a fencing mask and other light equipment is used. Kicks, punches,chokes and ground grappling are also a part of Dog Brothers sparring. Pugil training gives a soldier the adrenalin rush of a fight without the potential for truly serious injury, and the benefits can be had with minimal amount of training.
The weapon was popularized in the United States by the television show American Gladiators, a physical game show which ran between 1989 and 1996, and again in the 2008 revival. In the popular "Joust" contest, competitors would try to knock each other off pedestals using pugil sticks.