The Staff: NOT an “Extension of the Hand”

What's wrong with this picture?

The idea that the weapon “is an extension of the hand” is wrong. Let me illustrate.

Suppose I give you a staff. If you wield that staff as “an extension of the hand” you will wield the staff like most people do, gripped in the middle with both hands palm down. You will now find that you have greater reach (the staff extends your reach) and can hit more powerfully because you don’t have to worry about your knuckles when you hit with the end of the staff. This is the method of the English quarterstaff and other styles like Palo Canario, the staff method of the Canary Islands.

But there is a better way to wield the staff. The problem is that as long as you are wielding the staff as an extension of the hand, you will never find the better way. The goal is not to use the staff to amplify your strengths, but to amplify the unique strengths of the staff. In other words, you need to think, “What are the unique characteristics of the staff? How is a staff different from other weapons?”

Another poser with an exotic weapon

If you wield the staff using the dragon pole method (see the book by William Cheung), you have just moved a step upward. The dragon pole method has the practitioner holding the staff at one end, with one hand palm up and the other hand palm down, in what I call “rifle grip.” This method allows you to hit harder and increases your reach.

But there is still a problem. Whether you hold the staff in staff grip (both hands palm down) or in rifle grip (one hand palm up and one hand palm down), you are still striking less powerfully because one hand is pulling and the other is pushing. A bat strike, in which both hands are close together and you swing the staff like a bat, is stronger.

Enter Jogo do Pau, the Portuguese staff method. The practitioner begins holding the staff in rifle grip at one end, like the dragon pole method. But in order to strike, the stylist twirls the stick 360 degrees overhead and strikes in bat grip. This is the strongest strike possible with a staff.

When I first read the stick twirling method, I was skeptical. For any other weapon, twirling in a circle is too indirect and slow, but if we look at the unique characteristics of the staff, the twirl is necessary for maximum power. Also, because the staff is longer, there is a greater cushion which makes it harder for an opponent to close during a rotational strike. As far as I can tell, Jogo do Pau is the most effective staff method.

Regardless of whether you agree or not, the most effective staff method cannot be arrived at by making the staff an extension of you. You must analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the weapon, try it out, and test it against other methods. Spend less time thinking about yourself and more time thinking about the weapon.

Excuse me, Mr. Mugger, I need you to stand right there for another 30 seconds while I do this technique on you.

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3 Responses to “The Staff: NOT an “Extension of the Hand””

  1. I just want to point out that in the historical fencing manuals, English quarterstaffs are held exactly as in Jogo do Pau.

    • Jordan Beasley Says:

      Thanks @Chris Miller. This being the first comment saved me time, so much time in fact that i had time to post this comment thanking you.

  2. […] Posted on July 23, 2010 by shadycrzy While stumbling the internets I came across an article from Big Stick Combat Blog about the staff. Having just received my kihon certification for the bo […]

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