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quarterstaffs-msg – 9/18/17


Quarterstaffs and why they're not used in the SCA.


NOTE: See also the files: swords-msg, weapons-msg, pottery-wepns-msg, jousting-msg, rattan-msg, axes-msg, armor-msg, wood-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: shick at europa.asd.contel.COM (Steve Hick)

Date: 20 Aug 91 16:02:41 GMT

Organization: The Internet


     Hans Rancke in <1991Aug15.021508.12836 at odin.diku.dk>


       states, in reponse to this topic:


*> Several authors I've read (among them Peter O'Donnell and Mack Reynolds)

*> claims that given proper training the quarterstaff is the finest hand-

*> weapon of all times. But in both cases it's a throwaway reference  -

*> they don't, for one thing, say wether they're talking about armoured

*> opponents as well or just unarmoured  -  and I'd like to know if anyone

*> has an informed opinion on this.


It was pretty much believed to be so in period, George Silver has an extensive

discussion about the short staff in his Paradoxes of Defense, and there is

an historic event where a single Englishman, armed with the staff, defeated

3 Spanish rapiermen, a broadside declaring this is reproduced in Wise's History

of Personal Combat.




Bibliography on request



From: Dave.Aronson at blkcat.fidonet.org (Dave Aronson)

Date: 23 Mar 94 14:04:54 -0500

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Boffer Quarterstaves

Organization: Fidonet:TIDMADT 703-765-0822 (1:109/120)


v081lu33 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (TRISTAN CLAIR DE LUNE/KEN MONDSCHEIN) writeth:


V0> he wanted to join the SCA so that he could learn quarterstaff and

   throwing knife. [...] I also said that the closest we have to

   quarterstaff is polearms, which isn't really *that* much lik a

   quarterstaff. [...] Martial arts catalogs sell "boffer" staves for

   training use. Also, it should be easy to make one out of 1/2 inch PVC

   foam and 1 inch padding all around, for a 2 1/2 inch-thick staff,


   in brown duct tape. This would be great for light weapons combat, safe

   (no swings above 90 degrees, etc.)


...which in turn means that if he wants to learn *real* quarterstaff

techniques, he's SOL....  Remember, a quarterstaff was mainly a peasant

weapon, for use when defending yourself against sudden attack, in which case

the fight is No Holds Barred.  You'll probably find some people to play with

but I don't think it's really a viable idea for any sort of *official*

activity, given the lawsuit skittishness.


V0>  Also, I still think shinai (on a touch-kill system) should be used to

V0> simulate unarmored use of a great or bastard sword in a

V0> light-weapons scenario,

V0> but I don't know if it'd be safe or not...  can a shinai break a foil?


Anything can break anything, under the right conditions, but methinks the

chances of this are slim.



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: rzex60 at email.mot.com (Jason Magnus)

Subject: Re: Boffer Quarterstaves, Shinai, and Random Thoughts

Organization: The Polyhedron Group

Date: Thu, 24 Mar 1994 14:46:13 GMT


v081lu33 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (TRISTAN CLAIR DE LUNE/KEN MONDSCHEIN) wrote:

>      I was talking to a role player just before and he mentioned that he

> wanted to join the SCA so that he could learn quarterstaff and throwing

> knife. I mentioned that we have no formal thowing knife training (I didn't

> mention that it's a lousy weapon), but we do have experimental axe throwing

> for combat archery. I also said that the closest we have to quarterstaff is

> polearms, which isn't really *that* much lik a quarterstaff.

>      Then, I thought to myself, why not? Staff was an incredibly common

> Medieval weapons form. A polearm is a knife on a staff. Robin Hood used them.

> Why don't we?

>      Martial arts catalogs sell "boffer" staves for training use. Also,

> it should be easy to make one out of 1/2 inch PVC foam and 1 inch padding

> all around, for a 2 1/2 inch-thick staff, covered in brown duct tape. This

> would be great for light weapons combat, safe (no swings above 90 degrees,

> etc.) and might get some heavies to play with the fencers. Whaddaya think?


Are you proposing covering the whole length of the staff, or just the tips?


Hmmmm. Many years ago, like in the early '80's, we experimented with

quarterstaff combat in several shires in the South of An Tir. I happen to

have some proficiency in both quarterstaff and bo-staff techniques, and

participated in that development and testing.


Unfortunately, we failed to come up with a method that was both safe by SCA

standards and in any way representative of what real quarterstaff technique

is like. Using PVC pipe for staves and padding the ends like a boffer

produced a weapon that was -way- too flexible. Using padded rattan staves,

you'd need full heavy-combat armor, and the padding often 'gets in the

way', making it handle more like a double-ended, overly mace than a

quarterstaff. And no matter how you use it, the '90 degree rule' in SCA

combat eliminates 70 percent of the otherwise valid and useful quarterstaff



The "boffer" staves in martial arts catalogs are only useful for limited

training, as again the padding, usually rather thick, prevents some

otherwise valid moves (such as slipping the tip of your staff around a

block and thrusting with the tip). Also, martial artists don't hold to our

90 degree rule, so they can get a bit more use out of those staves.


If you -do- come up with a way to do quarterstaff, I'd find it most

interesting. Good luck in your searches.


Regards, Jason Magnus (aka Jay Brandt)             <rzex60 at email.mot.com>



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: rzex60 at email.mot.com (Jason Magnus)

Subject: Re: no quarterstaffs

Organization: The Polyhedron Group

Date: Wed, 30 Mar 1994 17:48:57 GMT


bubba at ludd.luth.se (U.J|rgen hman) wrote:

> jeffs at math.bu.EDU (Jeff Suzuki) writes:


> >Tristan asks:

> >A more probable reason:  it's dangerous.  Staves are weapons for

> >unarmored people facing armed and armored people.  Your lever arm is

> >two to three times as big, with a corresponding increase in force.


> >Fujimoto


> hmmm......aren't greatswords dangerous then???


Well, I know several very -good- greatsword fighters, including a Viscount

who uses it as his primary weapon. I've watched him train people in the

weapon's use. Period greatsword technique doesn't require very many moves

that have to travel through more than 90 degrees of arc. If you take the

time to swing a greatsword further than that, and aren't being covered by

the actions of other fighters in your unit, you expose yourself too much

and tend to die. About the only greatsword technique I've heard of that

uses more than a 90-degree arc effectively was a German Lanschnicht tactic

of lining up several men with greatswords and swinging them 180 degrees,

side-to-side, like a great lawnmower. Less than 10 percent of the

-effective- greatsword moves use more than 90 degrees of swing. Limiting

the arc of swing reduces the impact, and therefore reduces the chance of



On the other hand, most of the really good Quarterstaff moves -require- 180

degrees of travel, as you swing the staff end-for-end. Trying to fight

quarterstaff while obeying the 90-degree rule, you are -constantly- coming

across moves that are illegal, even though they are the most logical and

effective move for the weapon. Believe me, I tried! As a martial artist,

I'm trained in quarterstaff, bo-staff and naginata. It was simply

impossible to fight effectively within the constraints of the 90 degree



Incidentally, the reason martial artists can fight safely with staves is

that they practice -control- of the weapon extensively at slow speeds

first, then build up to full-speed combat. A trained staff combattant can

swing the staff full force at your head, then 'pull the punch' so it stops

short, barely if at all touching you. (Ever see Jean Claude van Damme do

that with a kick? It's -impressive-!) To do that takes far more training

time than the average SCA weapon, and is almost impossible when your vision

and dexterity are hampered by SCA-type armor. It's like trying to do

gymnastics in armor. If you are exceptionally skilled, you can do it - but

most folks can't.


Regards, Jason Magnus (aka Jay Brandt)             <rzex60 at email.mot.com>



From: DDF2 at cornell.edu (David Friedman)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: no quarterstaffs

Date: 2 Apr 1994 03:11:29 GMT

Organization: Cornell Law School


I cannot speak for any other kingdom, but the original reason for banning

quarterstaff in the Middle was safety. I do not know if we were right--we

knew less then than we know now, and we don't know very much now--but that

was the reason. As I recall, we tried swinging one at a tree, and decided

none of us wanted to be the tree.



DDF2 at Cornell.Edu



From: jcaldwll at oregon.uoregon.edu (Jim Caldwell)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: no quarterstaffs

Date: 4 Apr 1994 19:01:23 GMT

Organization: UOregon


DDF2 at cornell.edu (David Friedman) wrote:

> I cannot speak for any other kingdom, but the original reason for banning

> quarterstaff in the Middle was safety. I do not know if we were right--we

> knew less then than we know now, and we don't know very much now--but that

> was the reason. As I recall, we tried swinging one at a tree, and decided

> none of us wanted to be the tree.


> David/Cariadoc

> DDF2 at Cornell.Edu


Neither would I!

Having some experience with bo and quarterstaff forms, I have never had a

problem with the ban.  Granted, I am not a heavy fighter, but the kata and

practice styles I'm familiar with seem incompatable with SCA armored

combat, to the point where safety would be a definite problem.

Particularly with the long sweeps and thrusts of bo styles and the "low

blows" and blind siding of quarterstaff.  Also, I recall an experiment many

years ago, when SCA friends (I wasn't in at the time) tried hitting a

standard helm (again, at that time - I think it was one of the old freon

can style helms) with a rattan quarterstaff.


The helm didn't dent, it crushed in.


Someone posted (sorry, I forgot whom) that Calontir(?) allowed 360 degree

swings with great swords and polearms.  Is this correct?  Do they allow

only certain grips, those that reduce blow intensity, and thrusts with no

follow-through? Or are they used to seeing fighters knocked off their feet

a lot?


Jehan Bretel, remembering the sound when the helm crunched (shudder!).


*Jim Caldwell

*jcaldwll at oregon.uoregon.edu



From: nusbache at epas.utoronto.ca (Aryk Nusbacher)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Quarterstaff

Date: 21 Aug 1994 15:46:34 GMT

Organization: University of Toronto -- EPAS


In article <337jat$rqm at vixen.cso.uiuc.edu>,

Daniel Pape <dpape at mrcnext.cso.uiuc.edu> wrote:


>Does anyone have any suggestions on where and how I can learn to wield (is

>that the right word) a quarterstaff or similar weapon?


If you can find a copy of Turner and Soper's _Three Elizabethan

Fencing Manuals_, one of them has instructions on quarterstaff

fighting -- Silver, I think.


Having done a bit of quarterstaff, I have one bit of advice:  kiss

your knuckles goodbye before you start.  You won't have time later.




Aryk Nusbacher



From: madrabit at metronet.com (Bob Lyle)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca,pgh.org.sca

Subject: Re: Query: Staff Fighting

Date: 5 Jul 1995 03:27:55 GMT

Organization: Texas Metronet, Inc  (login info (214/705-2901 - 817/571-0400))


Malcolm Bauer (malcolm+ at cs.cmu.edu) wrote:

: Hi - I am just beginning to learn about SCA. I've read the FACs

: but could not find an answer to a question/interest of mine. I was wondering

: to what extent staff fighting is practiced in SCA? I am most interested in

: "long staff" fighting, what is traditionally called a Bo in

: Chinese martial arts, but am really interested in hearing about any kind of

: staff practice/fighting that occurs in the SCA.


:               Thanks very much,

:                          Malcolm


People have already commented on the safety issue . . . a quarterstaff,

properly (or, rather, improperly) handled can cave in the 16 ga helmets

we use.  I might also point out that in period (well, in the 16th

century) a "long staff" was 7-10 feet long, a "quarterstaff" was 5-6

feet, and a 2-3 ft staff (often called a short staff in oriental arts)

was called a "baton" or "cudgel".


Lyelf the Lame



From: hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu (Heather Rose Jones)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: quarterstaff vs. sword

Date: 7 Sep 1996 17:32:13 GMT

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


Archer (archer at dimensional.com) wrote:

: morphis at niuhep.physics.niu.edu wrote:

: > Archer <archer at dimensional.com> writes:

: > >While I am not saying that you are incorrect (you've read Silver, not

: > >I), my understanding has always been that the name "quarterstaff"

: > >derived from it's length.  I.e. being one quarter of a stave, a stave

: > >being a 24' long pole, hence a "quarter-stave" being 6'.  I am very

: > >willing to admit that I could be incorrect as I have no primary sources,

: > >this being something that was told to me in the Minneapolis school

: > >system.


: > Do you have any other evidence that a "stave" is a 24 foot pole?

: >

: > Silver does note that this is the ideal length and that any shorter would

: > leave one at too much of a disadvantage against a "long" staff. This

: > definately leaves open the possibility that some people used shorter staffs.

: > He makes no mention in that I found (not as yet having thoroughly read it)

: > of a quarterstaff.  Perhaps that is a later name.


: No, as I said, I do not have any documentation, just that I was informed

: of it while in school.  I tried (and seemingly failed...) to state that

: I was just refering to the quarterstaff, not to the long and short

: staves that Silver mentions.  I apologize for not being clear enough.


The OED is always a wonderful first line of investigation.


"Quarterstaff 1. A stout pole, from six to eight feet long and tipped with

iron, formerly used as a weapon by the English peasantry. The exact sense

of _quarter_ is not clear; quot. 1589 suggests that the staff may have

been made from a tree of a certain size cleft in four. [citations begin in



I.e., a larger trunk cut into four parallel quarters.


Neither "staff" nor "stave" have any listing as a unit of measurement.


Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn



From: morphis at physics.niu.edu

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: staff fighting

Date: 18 Dec 1996 17:50:10 GMT

Organization: N.Ill.U. Physics Dept.


In the past there has been some discussion of staff fighting

here and the concensus has been that it can not be safely and reasonably

done within the parameters of the SCA (IMHO the limiting SCA parameter

is that the SCA is a group of unevenly trained individuals  without a

master who knows just what they are capable of)


       It has come to my attention that there are practice staves being

used in the martial arts community which should address the safety issues.

They are made of a composite material and to paraphrase someone who has

used them, a hit to the head hurts but isn't dangerous.


       There may be some question of whether they can actually be felt

through some people's armor and I don't know what they look like so

some purists may complain about a non-period look and finally they

cost around $75.00 so they ain't cheap.


       Just thought I would toss the info out for people's perusal.





From: hicksc at aol.com (Hicksc)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Quarterstaff

Date: 3 May 1997 11:27:30 GMT


Anna Troy (ark5_46 at stud.got.kth.se) queried:

> But is there any text or book on the quarterstaff and it's techniques?

> I would be interetsed in just shadowtraining so to speak and not to

> use the staff as a tournament weapon.


If you wish to learn it in a manner somewhat medieval, you should read

some of the period manuals that cover the staff. If English is you only

language-George Silver's and Joseph Swetnam's manuals have sections on the

use of the staff.


Outside of English, there are sections in most of the German manuals.

Flos Duellatorum has a section as well.





Date: Thu, 2 Jun 2005 20:39:55 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] English Doctors want to ban pointy knives...

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


>> You can criminalize the use of any tool.  The question is whether the

>> citizenry will obey the law.


> IIRC the Brits, during their foray into Ireland, criminalized the carrying

> of staffs over a certain thickness and length.  Anyone recall the

> particulars?

> Daniel


I don't recall seeing this but I can believe it.  There is a tale about a

French general who declared a company of Irishmen with shillelaghs to be

against the rules of civilized warfare.  And in the late 13th Century, the

Lincolnshire court records showed that the most common implement of unlawful

death was the quarterstaff.





Date: Fri, 3 Jun 2005 23:09:22 -0700

From: "Celia des Archier" <CeliadesArchier at cox.net>

Subject: Shillelag (was RE: [Sca-cooks] quarterstaffs)

To: "'Cooks within the SCA'" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Stefan asks:

> I thought a "shillelagh" was a sword. It is a staff?


It's actually a "walking stick" which was used as a cudgel.  There is an

Irish form of "stick fighting" which developed from the use of the

shillelagh and that type of fighting seems to resemble fighting with a

quarterstaff in some ways.


Here are a couple of links for more information:







Date: Fri, 3 Jun 2005 23:50:57 -0700

From: David Friedman <ddfr at daviddfriedman.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] quarterstaffs

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> I thought a "shillelagh" was a sword. It is a staff?


A cudgel. I think of it as a one handed rather than two handed

weapon, and much shorter than a quarterstaff.






Date: Sat, 4 Jun 2005 10:39:13 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] quarterstaffs

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> I thought a "shillelagh" was a sword. It is a staff?

> Stefan


A shillelagh is a hardwood cudgel, traditionally of blackthorn, oak, or

other local wood. It is the SCA MBC (mucking big club) and is swung one or

two handed like a baseball bat.  The more genteel version is the Irish

blackthorn walking stick.





From: Bonnie Steele <bsteele at THELABYRINTH.NET>

Date: September 1, 2010 9:54:46 AM CDT

To: CALONTIR at listserv.unl.edu

Subject: Re: [CALONTIR] 15th Cent English Quarterstaff's?


On 9/1/2010 9:46 AM, Ted Eisenstein wrote:

Does anyone have any info/resources on quarterstaffs and fighting

styles of 15th cent England?

A minor side-question: why the heck are quarterstaves called quarterstaves?

What are they a quarter of?


(Okay, so my mind jumped onto a horse and is riding madly off in all four

directions today - but the question remains.....)





The origin of the weapon's name is uncertain, though many suggestions are advanced with little justification. Connection to a unit of length called a "staff" is likely false. The name may come from the way that the staff is held: one hand at the centre of the staff, and one hand halfway between the centre and one end. However, this grip is not prescribed in early sources. Another theory links the word to its length being equal to the wielder's height plus another quarter. It can be employed as a less-lethal weapon, so the name may refer to the act of giving quarter (showing mercy to a defeated enemy). The term quarter may also refer to the width of the staff rather than its length, its width being a shaved down quarter of a split tree trunk. George Silver, an English expert with the weapon who wrote two books (1599,1605) including lengthy sections on its use seems oblivious to the term "quarterstaff," using instead the designation "short staff." Swetnam writing in 1615 differentiates the quarterstaff of 6 or 7 feet in length from the long staff of 12 feet and the pike of 18 feet. Perhaps the most likely origin of the word is in its relationship to the "great" staff or pike, that was used to fight cavalry. Unlike its bigger cousin, a quarterstaff is literally one that is held and used in "close quarters" for personal combat, able to defend all four quarters of the body.



From: Mark Schuldenfrei <mark at SCHULDY.ORG>

Date: September 1, 2010 11:45:13 AM CDT

To: CALONTIR at listserv.unl.edu

Subject: Re: [CALONTIR] 15th Cent English Quarterstaff's?


I have no personal knowledge of the quarterstaff, but I do sometimes

peruse the bookseller "Chivalry Bookshelf".


Their offerings include:

Fighting With The Quarterstaff



as well as several other books that may also include period

documentation of quarterstaff combat.


There are other sources for historical combat manuals that

include quarterstaff - AEMMA and others have web sites that

host free copies of many of those surviving manuals.




<the end>

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