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. With the ability to strike from both ends, a combatant armed with a staff can deliver a rapid combination of blows and thrusts by simply bringing alternating ends to bear. The staff's two handed grip provides for excellent control and its long length enables powerful blows while providing ample protection and tremendous range. Several European fight masters considered the staff to be one of the finest, if not the finest weapon.
There are two distinct staff traditions to be found in the historical manuals. The earliest tradition comes from Germany and is focused on aggressively striking blows with both ends of the staff. The other tradition is found in later manuals, primarily from English sources. These masters teach a more defensive style of staff combat with an 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 staff. In both traditions the main striking target is the head, with secondary importance being placed on strikes to the body, arms and hands. Most staff techniques begin from a crossing of staffs, called a bind. Binding happens when a blow or thrust is deflected or beaten aside.
Components and Construction
The staff is the simplest of all pole weapons, as such, all varieties of spear and pole-arm are derived from the staff. Staffs vary in length from a short staff of 4 feet to a long staff 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 English masters. The staff is divided into 3 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 3 sections of the staff can be used for attack and defense, subject to range, speed and intent.
Staffs used for training at Sword Academy are of various lengths and types of wood. The style of staff combat being practiced will determine the length - from 5 to 7 feet. Beginners and younger students will use staffs made of light hard wood, while more advanced students use staffs of maple or hickory.