The English quarterstaff was a stout, wooden pole, usually of oak or ash, between 1¼ – 1½ inches thick and, according to various Masters, between 7 and 9 feet long. It was thus a solid and relatively heavy piece of wood, designed to disable an opponent with a single effective strike.

 

The English method of staff combat was recorded in a number of fencing manuals. The primary ones are George IMG_0872Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence (1599), Brief Instructions on my Paradoxes of Defence (c.1605 ), Joseph Swetnam’s The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence (1617) and Zachary Wylde’s The English Master of Defence (1711), with Donald MacBane’s The Expert Swordsman’s Companion (1728) and Archibald MacGregor’s Lecture upon the Art of Defence (1791) providing some additional information. Even earlier is the Cotton Titus Ms. (British Museum, MS Titus A. xxv, f. 105) from the late 15th century, which comes in two parts, the “Strokez off ij hand swerde” and “Strokes atte þe ij hande staffe”. In addition, there are several later sporting staff manuals, including Thomas McCarthy’s Quarter-staff: a practical manual (1883), R. G. Allanson-Winn and C. Phillipps-Wolley Broadsword and Singlestick with chapters on Quarterstaff, Bayonet, Shillalah, Walking-Stick, Umbrella and Other Weapons of Self Defence (1890), and a number of Boy Scout publications dating into the early 20th century.

All the great fencing masters recognised the quarterstaff as superior to any other weapon in single combat, even other two-handed polearms, as Zachary Wylde wrote “for a Man that rightly understands it, may bid defiance, and laugh at any other Weapon”