Staff Tutorial

Basic Staff

(under construction - needs diagrams)

The staff is a simple weapon, one for which the English were famous in later centuries. Staffs are the same length as a long spear – 6 or 7 feet. Staff methods can be applied to a spear. Staff carries with it a number of problems – the original weapon would have relied on blunt impact to cause injury and this cannot be easily reflected in re-enactment combat rules. Unlike the spear, there is no area of the staff that would be particularly lethal, which re-enactors can recognise as a legitimate hit. It is only in much later times that the staff acquires metal shod ends. The staff style is closer in stance to historical “Half-staff” than “quarter-staff” but as a re-enactment safe version it is not really true to either.

Stance & Control

Staff is radically different to sword. The basic grip is to hold the staff left hand palm up, right hand palm down, with the hands apart so that the staff is divided into thirds. The third after the right hand should be the “blunt” end and the third after the left hand should be the “pointy” (staffs being made from saplings or straight branches they tend to have a noticeable taper).
The light weight of the staff makes it easier to pull than a heavy steel sword, but the two handed grip can lead to difficulties in target placement – these are dealt with in attacks.
It is particularly important to wear padded gloves or gauntlets as there is a good chance of getting your hands struck while fighting with staff.


The Staff has the same 7 slashing targets as a sword. Thrusting with a staff is not very effective except as a deterrent and expose the leading thumb to an extremely solid whack. Attacks against the opponent’s right side and head are made with the pointy end, attacks against the opponent’s left side are made with the blunt end.
Attacks with the pointy end are made by moving the left hand forward and the right hand back. The height of the right hand relative to the target effects the angle of the attack i.e. if the right hand is at shoulder height and the attack is to the shoulder target, then the attack will tend to be horizontal. The path of the attacking hand also effects the angle. Attacks from the blunt end are similar, except for the attack on the opponent’s left shoulder. In order to get an acceptable angle of attack, rather than an upper-cut, it is necessary to lower the left hand to waist height and bring it close in to the body in order to get a diagonal blow to the shoulder.


The theory of staff defences is very simple. Right-hand third will block the leg attacks, the middle third will block the gut attacks, and the left-hand third will block the shoulder attacks (middle third also blocks the head attack in eights). The problem is that normal height for the left hand is about shoulder height i.e. in the target area. This is partly because of the length of the staff. It is not possible to block the shoulder attacks with the hand at a safe (i.e. lower) height with the staff upright – the end would dig into the ground. The solution is good footwork and holding the staff at and angle for the shoulder blocks. Angled shoulder blocks have the advantage of stopping the attack further out from the body as well.


Staff is not a safe or effective weapon in a line fight, the movements of the non-attacking end are far too likely to inconvenience your own side, usually at about head height. As a weapon outside of a line fight it has the advantage of very fast attacks. A good length staff will not have any reach disadvantage against a sword, the speed of return from a block to an attack gives the staff a great advantage over a sword alone, but it is important to remember that grappling is more effective against a staff – there is nowhere that a staff cannot be grappled. The two endedness of the weapon also gives some advantage in holding off multiple opponents

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