By Cory Brady
Free Scholar - Bankeside Schoole of Defense
From the earliest of times, staves have been used for countless purposes, among them weapons. A quarterstaff is typically about seven to nine feet in length. Some recommend that quarterstaffs should have padded ends when being used for practice purposes; this is to avoid injuries to the eyes (Swetnam). One of the advantages a quarterstaff has over a sword is the thrusting ability which allows one to reach their opponents from distances that a sword could never cover. However, some believe that certain weapons, like swords, can be effective against a quarterstaff.
It is very important to exercise proper safety and control while practicing with quarterstaffs. It is extremely easy to injure someone in a friendly practice session because of one careless mistake. Swetnam advocates that quarterstaffs should have padded ends while being used for training. This is very important because it will lessen or even prevent injuries. It is also important to avoid attacks directed toward the face. A quarterstaff can do a great deal of damage rather easily, especially if the attack is not parried correctly. This is why it is best to just avoid attacks to the face and head altogether. It is also important to maintain constant control over ones weapon and maintain a constant speed. It can be extremely dangerous to suddenly speed up which is why it is very important to maintain a constant speed while practicing.
In order to do a basic thrust, one must adopt an elongated three point stance while holding the staff with both hands. The back hand should be almost to the end of the staff and the front hand should be at least a foot away from the back hand. To begin the thrust, fully extend the quarterstaff toward the opponent while leaning forward to help close the distance. This is the basic thrust and no step is taken. However, Joseph Swetnam recommends taking a small step while thrusting. According to Swetnam, a thrust should be accompanied by a small step as opposed to a large one to distinguish a thrust from a lunge which calls for a much larger step.
Swetnam also believes that unless a person is truly an expert in using a quarterstaff they are almost certainly guaranteed to lose a fight against someone armed with a rapier and dagger. A rapier and dagger has the advantage of speed while the quarterstaff has the advantages of power and distance. Swetnam advocates that the opponent who is using a rapier can utilize cross parries as an effective defense against quarterstaff attacks. He also says that the cross parry should be followed by a thrust toward the opponent. However, it is highly unlikely that someone using a rapier would be able to reach an opponent who is using a quarterstaff because quarterstaffs have a much longer reach than a rapier. A typical rapier is about 50 inches in length while a quarterstaff is between 7 and 9 feet long. Therefore, it is difficult to see how someone using a rapier and dagger would be able to reach an opponent using a quarterstaff. A possible way that a rapier and dagger might be able to beat a quarterstaff is if the opponent using the quarterstaff attacks with a tondo strike while the person with the rapier and dagger attacks with a Frieta de Prima but the chances of this encounter ending favorably for the opponent with the rapier and dagger are extremely low. However, it is unlikely that a cross parry with a rapier would even stop a quarterstaff attack in the first place.
Staffs have been used for countless years as weapons. They are an easy and inexpensive weapon to acquire. For these reasons, they were the ideal choice for those who could not afford a sword. The reach and power of a quarterstaff has led some to choose it over a sword which has a much shorter reach but is also faster than a quarterstaff. However, as new and better weapons were invented and became popular, such as guns and other projectile weaponry, quarterstaffs and staffs in general as a weapon declined significantly.