A quarterstaff is a medieval English weapon, consisting of a shaft of hardwood, sometimes with metal-reinforced tips. The name is also used for the fighting staves of other cultures, such as the Japanese bō, Chinese gùn, or French bâton.
of the weapon's name is uncertain. Any connection to a unit of length called a staff
is almost certainly spurious
One popular theory is that it comes from the way the staff is held: one hand at the center of the staff, and one hand halfway between the center and one end. However, this is probably a folk etymology, as this grip is not actually prescribed in early sources. Another theory links the term to the manner in which the wood is split from the tree.
Because it can be employed as a less-than-lethal weapon, the name may also refer to the act of giving quarter (showing mercy, pity, or pardon to a defeated enemy).
The quarterstaff may be made from many kinds of wood, commonly ash
, or hawthorn
. It may have metal spikes or caps at one or both ends; these are depicted or referred to in some Elizabethan
sources. The length of the staff varies, typically ranging from 1.8 m to 2.7 m (6 to 9 feet); in addition, long staves
of 3.6 to as much as 5.4 metres (12 to as much as 18 feet) were employed in Early Modern times. The weapon seems to have become shorter and lighter later in its history, though 3-meter staves (made of bamboo
) wood were still sometimes employed in Victorian England
The quarterstaff is effectively a long two-handed club, although its weight distribution is generally even throughout its entire length (some forms did have weighted tips, however). It was used both to deliver crushing blows, and to thrust like a spear. The art of using the staff was closely related to that of other polearms, and it was often employed as a training weapon for the latter. Moves include many different forms of blocks, thrusts, strikes, and sweeps.
The staff being a very simple weapon to manufacture, it has a long history of use, and a wide cultural dispersion. The staff is a traditional weapon of many Asian martial arts
. The quarterstaff proper was historically a common weapon in England
, where it is featured in the Robin Hood
legend as the favorite weapon of Little John
. There are also many tools that can easily be used as or quickly converted to a staff.
The oldest surviving treatise describing staff combat dates from the 15th Century though George Silver describes its use as being similar to that of the two handed sword. During the 1500s quarterstaves were favoured as weapons by the London Masters of Defence and by the 1700s the weapon became popularly associated with gladiatorial prize playing. A modified version of quarterstaff fencing, employing bamboo or ash staves and protective equipment adapted from fencing, boxing and cricket was revived as a sport in some London fencing schools and at the Aldershot Military Training School during the later 1800s.
A simplified form of quarterstaff fencing and training was practiced by members of the international Boy Scouts movement during the early decades of the 20th century.
The use of the quarterstaff is among the variety of traditional European weapon styles that have been revived within the historical European martial arts
In popular culture
- See also Bō in popular culture.
- The Merry Men of Robin Hood would frequently use a quarterstaff, with Little John being most known for it. This has of course led to many other usages of a quarterstaff in popular culture by others who have also copied elements of the Robin Hood Fairy Tale. One such occurrence was in the Mel Brooks spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights, where Robin Hood and Little John fight with quarterstaves, which continue to snap in half until each man has only a small stick remaining.
- In Sierra Online's computer game Conquests of the Longbow, the quarterstaff is used in an arcade sequence, where Robin Hood fights a Fens monk with the aid of Little John's quarterstaff.
- In the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, the quarterstaff was for a period of time the preferred weapon of the character Gabrielle (portrayed by Renee O'Connor).
- In the cartoon Robin Hood Daffy, Daffy Duck wields a "buck-and-a-quarter quarterstaff."
- In the cartoon Rocket Robin Hood, the eponymous lead character and others used an "electro-quarterstaff".
- The semi-villainous Raijin in Final Fantasy VIII uses a quarterstaff as his weapon.
- In the fantasy story The Fifth Ring by Mitchell Graham, one of the sidekicks uses a quarterstaff.
- In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books, one of the heroes, Mat Cauthon, is an expert quarterstaff fighter, once defeating a pair of highly-trained apprentice Warders while recovering from illness. Several other characters, such as Juilin Sandar, are also acquainted to the quarterstaff.
- In NetHack, quarterstaff is a starting Wizard weapon.
- The Quarterstaff is one of Kilik's extra weapons in Soul Calibur II.
- In RuneScape, Ahrim the Blighted fights using this weapon.
- In L.E. Modesitt's Saga of Recluce the quarterstaff is a popular choice of weapon among Order mages.
- In Breath of Fire 2, Katt uses a Quarter Staff.
- Silver, G. c. 1599. Paradoxes of Defense.
- Thomas A. McCarthy, " Quarter-staff: A Practical Manual". London : W. Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1883.
- Allanson-Winn, R.G. and C. Phillipps-Wolley, "Broadsword and Singlestick - with Chapters on Quarter-staff, Bayonet, Cudgel, Shillalah, Walking Stick, Umbrella and other Weapons of Self Defence; The Quarter-Staff". London : George Bell & Sons. 1st edition, 1898.
- Author unknown, " Boy Scout Quarterstaff". c. 1914 - 1920.
- Tony Wolf, " The Manly Art of Quarter-staff: Origins of a Victorian Combat Sport".
- Frank Docherty, " A Brief History of the Quarterstaff".
- George Silver, " Paradoxes of Defence". London: Edward Blount, 1599.
- Joseph Swetnam, " The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence". London: Nicholas Okre, 1617.
- Zach Wylde, " The English Master of Defence or, the Gentleman's A-la-mode Accomplish". Tork: John White, 1711.