Which Martial Arts Use a Staff?

Which Martial Arts Use a Staff?

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We haven’t really talked much about the matter of weapons in martial arts and martial arts that weapons before, but since we aspire to help you as much as we can, we have now decided to talk a little about weapons in martial arts. Most well-known martial arts don’t have weapons and they disallow their usage in fights, but there are some martial arts – especially from the Far East – that are based on weapons and their usage.

There are several examples – some of them are more, some are lesser known – but what we are going to show you in this article is not which martial arts actually use weapons, but rather more precisely – which martial arts actually use sticks and staffs in their teachings. We are going to give you the names, some details and the list of weapons used in them so you can know everything you need to know. 

List of Martial Arts that Use a Staff:

This is a list of some martial arts and combat sports that rely heavily on the use of staffs and stick, although some of them might use them as their main (or only) weapons, while some use them among a plethora of other weapons:

1. Arnis

Arnis, also known as Kali or Eskrima/Escrima, is the national martial art of the Philippines. Filipino martial arts are very specific, as they – unlike a large number of other Oriental martial arts – emphasize the use weapon-based fighting with sticks, knives, bladed weapons, and various improvised weapons, as well as “open hand” techniques without weapons. Some of them are of Filipino origin, while others stem from early colonial influences (mostly Spanish, since the Philippines were, for a large part of their history, part of the Spanish Empire).

Other weapons used: knife, other bladed weapons

2. Bōjutsu

Bōjutsu (棒術) is a Japanese martial art based on using a staff weapon called bō. All of the thrusting, swinging, and striking techniques often resemble empty-hand movements, following the philosophy that the  is merely an “extension of one’s limbs”. Consequently, bōjutsu is often incorporated into other styles of empty-hand fighting, like traditional Jiu-jitsu, and karate.

Here is the link to the article we wrote if you want to learn more about the bō staff.

Other weapons used: none

3. Canne de combat

Canne de combat is a French martial art that started off as a 19th-century self-defence technique. Its main weapon is a canne, a special cane (or walking-stick) designed for fighting. Canne de combat was standardized during the 1970s. The canne itself is very light, made of chestnut wood and slightly tapered. A padded suit and a fencing mask are worn for protection.

Other weapons used: none

4. Gatka

Gatka (Punjabi: ਗਤਕਾ Urdu: گٹکا gatkā) is the name of Indian martial art, a style of stick-fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate real-life swords. The Punjabi name gatka properly refers to the wooden stick used. It originated in Punjab in the 15th century; there has been a revival during the later 20th century and gatka is now popular as a sport or sword dance performance art and is often shown during Sikh festivals. 

Other weapons used: none

5. Hanbōjutsu

Hanbōjutsu (lit. the art of wielding the hanbō) is the main element in several martial arts including the Kukishin-ryū koryū classical school of martial arts, and Kukishinden-ryū, one of the nine schools of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. Part of the importance in using this length is that it is approximately that of a walking cane. Although techniques with a cane in this ryū-ha utilize pulling or hooking and possess one rounded end, they invariably function the same as a hanbō in all other respects. The hanbō can be held toward one end, and be swung like a katana or kendo sword. Additionally, it can be held in the middle like a staff and strike and block from either end. The hanbō can be used as a means of striking, restraining or even throwing someone. It is useful to know because sticks are abundant and can be picked up if attacked.

Other weapons used: none

6. Jōjutsu

Jōjutsu (Japanese: 杖術) is very similar to the afore mentioned bōjutsu, but it uses the instead of the , i.e., a different type of staff. The art itself is also called jōdō (Japanese: 杖道, lit. “way of the jō”). Modern jōjutsu has two distinct branches – a more traditional one, that emphasizes older teachings, and a modern version called seitei jōdō. 

Other weapons used: none

7. Krabi-krabong

Krabi-Krabong (Thai: กระบี่กระบอง) is a weapon-based martial art from Thailand. The system’s name refers to its main weapons, namely the Thai sword (krabi) and staff (krabong). Typically, two swords (daab song mue) are wielded as a pair. Some other weapons used in this martial art are clubs, different types of sticks, staffs and swords and even a shield. 

Other weapons used: sword, club

8. Mau rākau

Mau rākau (Maori term that means “to bear a weapon”), is a traditional martial art based on traditional Māori weapons and practiced in New Zealand. The term itself refers to the art of using any weapon, which is why there are specific styles designed for precise weapons. 

Other weapons used: blades, clubs

9. Shintaido

Shintaido (新体道, a Japanese word translated as ‘New Body Way’) is a hybrid system of movments which aims to use the body as a means of expression and communication. Incorporating both physical and artistic elements, it was created in Japan in the 1960s. Its roots lay in the traditional Japanese martial arts, Chinese medicine and Buddhist meditation techniques, while its creator Hiroyuki Aoki was also influenced by modern Western art and Christianity. As well as being a practical martial art Shintaido aims to be a form of artistic expression, a healthy exercise, and a path of self-discovery and transformation. Shintaido is practised with bare hands, but the curriculum also includes bojutsu (棒術), involving the use of the long staff (or , 棒), and kenjutsu (剣術), using a wooden sword (or bokuto, 木刀).

Other weapons used: none

10. Silambam

Silambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art originating in modern-day Tamil Nadu in the Indian subcontinent and is estimated to have originated in approximately 1000 BCE. This ancient fighting style is mentioned in Tamil Sangam literature 400 BCE. Silambam’s main focus is on the bamboo staff. Other weapons used are swords, blades, other types of staffs and canes, etc. As far as the number of weapons used goes, silambam is one of the most prolific martial arts on this list.

Other weapons used: blades, swords, sickles, knifes, etc.

11. Singlestick

Singlestick, also known as cudgels, refers to both a martial art that uses a wooden stick as well as the weapon used in the art. It began as a way of training sailors in the use of swords such as the sabre or the cutlass. Canne de combat, a French form of stick fighting which we have already talked about before, is similar to singlestick play, which also includes a self-defence variant with a walking stick. The singlestick itself is a slender, round wooden rod, traditionally of ash, with a basket hilt. Singlesticks are typically around 36 inches (91 cm) in length and 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and thicker at one end than the other. It bears approximately the same relationship to the backsword as the foil to the small sword in being a sporting version of the weapon for safe practice.

Other weapons used: none

12. Tahtib

Tahtib (Egyptian Arabic: تحطيب taḥṭīb) is a traditional stick-fighting martial art from Egypt, originally named fan a’nazaha wa-tahtib (“the art of being straight and honest through the use of stick”). The original martial version of tahtib later evolved into an Egyptian folk dance with a wooden stick. Today, it is usually described as a danse, ritual, game or a ritual mock combat accompanied by music. Nowadays, the word tahtib encompasses both martial practice and performance art. It is mainly practiced today in Upper Egypt. The stick used in modern-day tahtib is about four feet in length and is called an asaasayaassaya, or nabboot, depending on the part of Egypt you’re in. It is often flailed in large figure-eight patterns across the body with such speed that the displacement of air is loudly discernible.

Other weapons used: none

13. Taiho jutsu

Taiho-jutsu (arresting art) (逮捕術) is a term for martial arts developed by Japan’s feudal police to arrest dangerous criminals, who were usually armed and frequently desperate. While many taiho-jutsu methods originated from the classical Japanese schools of kenjutsu (swordsmanship) and jūjutsu (unarmed fighting arts), the goal of the feudal police officers was to capture lawbreakers alive and without injury. Thus, they often used specialized implements and unarmed techniques intended to pacify or disable suspects rather than employing more lethal means. A similar martial art, focused on using police batons, is called keijojutsu.

Other weapons used: sword

14. Zulu stick-fighting

Zulu stick-fighting (also known as donga, or dlala ‘nduku, which literally translates as ‘playing sticks’, but also as Nguni stick-fighting, based on the people it stems from) is a martial art traditionally practiced by teenage boys from the Nguni people in South Africa. Each combatant is armed with two long sticks, one of which is used for defence and the other for offence. Little, if any armour is present in such fights. Although Nguni/Xhosa styles of fighting may use only two sticks, variations of Bantu/Nguni stick-fighting throughout Southern Africa incorporate shields as part of the stick-fighting weaponry. Zulu stick-fighting uses an isikhwili or attacking stick, an ubhoko or defending stick and an ihawu or defending shield. The object is for two opposing warriors to fight each other to establish which of them is the strongest or the “Bull” (Inkunzi). In modern times this usually occurs as part of the wedding ceremony where warriors from the bridegroom’s household and area welcome warriors from the bride’s household and area to meet to “get to know each other”, other groups of warriors may also be welcome to join in. Warriors do this by engaging in combat with one another; this means that its traditional role in combat has been mostly forgotten as the years passed. An “induna” or War Captain / Referee from each group of warriors keeps his crew in check and keeps order between fighters.

Other weapons used: sword

Well, that covers everything you need to know about stick- and staff-based martial arts. If you want to know more about the world of martial arts, follow us and see you next time.

If you are maybe interested in other martial arts that use weapons other than staff, take a look at the article we wrote about martial arts that use weapons in general.

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