Staff Usage and History
The staff is a deceptively simple weapon that enjoyed wide spread popularity throughout Medieval Europe; a popularity that continued well into the Renaissance, partially due to the availability / low cost of the weapon and lack of restrictions on ownership.
With the ability to strike from both ends, a well-trained combatant armed with a staff can deliver a rapid combination of blows and thrusts by simply bringing alternating ends to bear. The weapon’s two-handed grip provides for excellent control and its long length enables powerful blows while providing protection and tremendous range. Several European historical combat instructors considered it to be one of the finest, if not the finest weapon.
Milan teaches three distinct styles based on the historical sources.
The earliest tradition comes from medieval Germany and is shares some similarities with later English renaissance tradition.
Second style is based on different German late medieval / renaissance tradition which is focused on using both ends of the weapon for strikes and thrusts, and utilizes different hand grip.
Third and last is the English renaissance style emphasis on thrusting from a distance. This emphasis results in less closing and grappling, but limits opportunities to make use of the back end of the weapon.
In all traditions, the main striking and thrusting target is the head, with secondary importance being placed on targets such as body, arms and hands.
Most techniques begin from a crossing of weapons, called a bind.
Staff Components and Construction
This is the simplest of all pole weapons, as such, all varieties of spear and pole arm are derived from it by adding blades, points and metal enforcement. Staffs vary in length from a short ones of 4 feet to a longer ones of up to 16 feet. The most common length for a staff however is between 6 and 8 feet long and this was referred to as the perfect length by some English historical sources.
The staff can be divided into three parts: the forward end which is everything from the foremost point to the lead hand, the middle which is the length between the hands, and the butt which protrudes backwards from the rear hand. All three sections of the staff can be used for attack and defense, subject to range, speed and intent.
Sword Academy uses staff weapons of various lengths and types of wood in our our Western Martial Arts (WMA) / Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) curriculum.
The style of staff combat (as per discussion above) being practiced will determine the length – from 6 to 8 feet.
Beginners and younger students will use staff weapons made of light hard wood, while more advanced students use staffs of ash (sometimes maple or hickory) which are heavier.
In our curriculum Sword Academy both medieval and renaissance techniques of staff combat inspired by German, English and other sources.