Introduction: Tahtib

Posted in Introduction with tags , on 27/07/2009 by greatstick

Tahtib comes to us from North Africa and, in particular, Egypt. The Arabic name for Tahtib is Fann el Nazaha Wal Tahtib (roughly, the ‘Art of Uprightness and Honesty through the use of stick’). The term Tahtib derives from ‘Hatab’ which means stick or wood. The stick itself is also called Asa, Asaya, or Nabboot, and is around 4 foot (1.2m) to 5 foot (1.5m) in length.



Tahtib is an ancient art, possibly dating back to the 2nd millennium BC. Engraved tomb walls at the archaeological site of Beni Hasan on the eastern bank of the Nile appear to show stick fighting practice resembling Tahtib. Although modern Tahtib practice tends to be friendly (and there is a heavily stylized Saidi form that has been incorporated with belly dancing practice), traditionally Tahtib matches could turn earnest very quickly and the stick was often used to settle disputes and affairs of honour amongst rural families.


Tahtib practice has its own ceremony and rules of conduct and is typically performed in conjunction with music performed with the tahvol (bass drum) and mizmar (shrill pipe). Tahtib technique is highly circular in nature, and features the hanging guard and high overhead exchanges familiar to other Mediterranean longstick arts such as Bastone Siciliano and Jogo do Pau. There is a good deal of feinting and the overall style is very energetic and has a counter for counter flow.

Further information

Tahtib at the Wikipedia


Video of authentic, martially focused Tahtib is difficult to find on the internet, but the following videos offer a glimpse into the variety of approaches:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H


Introduction: Bâton Français

Posted in Introduction with tags , on 27/07/2009 by greatstick

The art of Bâton Français (French staff) comes to us from France, justly famous for guillotining the nobility, Cordon Bleu and fine Bordeaux. The baton is typically a longstick around 4 foot (1.2m) in length although some may approach 5 foot (1.5m). In general, the techniques have much in common with other European longstick systems although the French method has its own peculiar character.

The baton was systematized in France during the 1800s and during the mid 1850s baton practice was one aspect of a gymnastics curriculum for French soldiers established at the Joinville military academy. Practice with baton was also popular in 19th century Savate salles. It is likely the baton was popular among various 19th century European militaries (e.g. French, Italian, Portuguese etc) as the skills acquired had some transference to bayonet methods and the practice was believed to instill flexibility, endurance and courage in practitioners.

Bâton Français

Bâton Français

The older 19th century method of baton (e.g. that of the Joinville academy) is often referred to as Bâton Militaire or the ‘Joinville method’ to distinguish it from the more modern Baton Fédéral method which is largely a product of the 20th century. To this day the baton remains associated with the modern French martial art of Boxe Française (a.k.a. Savate) although the practice itself varies from salle to salle.


French baton method makes extensive use of blows and thrusts, both of which involve sliding the baton smoothly through the hands during execution. Moulinets feature heavily in the striking method, a commonality with other European long stick systems. Perhaps as a result of its links with Savate, some baton practitioners tend to maintain a fairly high carriage and centre of gravity in comparison to arts such as Jogo do Pau. In general the bâton method places great emphasis on mobility, grace and fluid motion.

Further information

Information on the baton is more widely available in French. Tidbits in English are much rarer and scattered around the web, including the following sites:


A few of the (quite limited) bâton videos on the web:

A, B, C, D

Introduction: Bastone Siciliano

Posted in Introduction with tags , , on 27/07/2009 by greatstick

The art of Bastone Siciliano (Sicilian Stick) originates in Sicily, God’s kitchen, famous for its wonderful cuisine and wine as well as (perhaps unfairly so) the Cosa Nostra. Bastone Siciliano, also known as la Paranza, employs a double handed stick (often with a ‘knotty’ appearance) around 4 foot (1.2m) long, made from the Bitter Orange or Olive tree. There is also a modern sport form of the art known as Liu-bo, in which players wearing different coloured outfits fence within a designated area.


In Bastone Siciliano the stick is kept in constant motion, travelling around the head in various serpentine circular movements known as Muliné until it is time to execute a strike or parry. As an interesting aside, this constant, circling motion of the stick around the player’s head may provide possible insights into the ‘Frequens Motus’ or constant motion mentioned in a 14th century German longsword text known as Hs. 3227a (Döbringer). The stick is held with the hands very high, and this position is maintained in both the strikes and in thrusting techniques with the point of the stick.

Further information

There is a Liu-bo book by Maestro Lio Tomarchio available on the Liu-bo website linked below, however it is apparently in Italian only at this time. The following websites offer some further information, albeit also mostly in Italian:

For information on the modern sport form of Bastone Siciliano see the official Liu-bo site as well as another Liu-bo site.


The following assorted videos come courtesy of Youtube and Daily Motion:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O

Introduction: Jogo do Pau

Posted in Introduction with tags , on 26/07/2009 by greatstick

Jogo do Pau (very roughly, ‘game of sticks’) comes to us from Portugal, home of Henry the Navigator and fine Port wine. This art, which typically employs a 5 foot (1.5m) to 6 foot (1.8m) long stick, appears to have originated largely in rural areas, particularly in the north (Minho and Trás-os-Montes), where the stick was used for travelling, self defence and the settling of disputes and affairs of honour in village challenges. In the 19th and early 20th century, Jogo do Pau was brought to Lisbon and developed along slightly different lines to the existing ‘Game of the North’ which retained its famous and distinctive focus on combat against multiple opponents.

Jogo do Pau in 1900

Jogo do Pau in 1900


One key aspect of Jogo do Pau practice is that most blows are delivered as powerful rotational strikes that usually begin on one side of the body and finish on the other. Hand in hand with these rotational strikes are simple but effective parries that allow for lightning fast counterattacks. The nature of Jogo do Pau’s rotational strikes allow for the characteristic ‘natural parry and counterattack’ in which an attack is displaced with a ‘hanging parry’ like motion followed immediately by the completion of a rotational strike to the opposite side. With such fast and powerful strikes, mastery of distance and timing is crucial in this art.

Further information

Mestre Luis Preto of the Lisbon school, a protégé of Mestre Nuno Russo, has written the best (i.e. the only) English language book on Jogo do Pau, published by The Chivalry Bookshelf.

The Wikipedia entry (see first link below) on Jogo do Pau provides a reasonable introduction, and further information is available (though often not in English) on some of the following websites:

Jogo do Pau at Wikipedia

The best way to appreciate Jogo do Pau is to see it in action. Following is an excellent ½ hour documentary on Jogo do Pau which is, unfortunately, narrated in German but is worth a viewing even without the commentary. 


Youtube has a slowly growing selection of videos. These are some of the best to date:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R

Terms and definitions

Posted in Explanation with tags , , on 26/07/2009 by greatstick

First we define a few terms that will appear throughout the blog.  These definitions are completely arbitrary of course, but for this purpose they suffice.

Martial Arts (MA)

All mystique and esoterica aside, martial arts are codified systems of combat with identifiable, repeatable fighting principles underlying their physical technical expression.  ‘Mars’ being a Roman warrior god, the derivative term can and should be used for any codified combative systems regardless of place of origin.

Western Martial Arts (WMA)

This term has come to describe the full range of largely European derived, organised combative systems including, but certainly not limited to, Pankration, Boxing, Wrestling, Fencing (historical, classical, modern), Savate, Glima and for our purposes, various native forms of stick fighting including:

  • Singlestick (British)
  • Greatstick (British)
  • Jogo do Pau (Portuguese)
  • Juego del Palo (Spanish)
  • Makila (Basque)
  • Bastone Siciliano (Sicilian)
  • Scherma de Bastone (Italian)
  • Stockfechten (German)
  • La Canne (French)
  • Bâton Français (French)
  • Bataireacht (Irish)
  • Shillelagh (Irish).

For the moment, let’s leave aside the debate as to what the ‘Western’ in WMA means and whether it is a little nonsensical in its common usage.

Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)

This term has come to describe older organised combative systems of European origin, usually arts which have since died out (i.e. they have no unbroken teaching lineage) or evolved into very different forms. Modern reconstructions of some of these arts (based on interpretation of surviving textual sources as well as experimentation) exist and are practiced today by a small but growing number of people and groups. HEMA are really a subset of the broader category of WMA.

Asian Martial Arts (AMA)

We will use this term to describe the full range of organised combative systems with an Asian provenance, from Southeast Asia to India.  The number and type of arts included are too numerous to list, but for our purposes it suffices to mention a few of those dedicated to sticks, including Hanbo, Jodo, Bojutsu (Japan), Kun or Gun (Chinese), Kali/Arnis/Eskrima (Philippines) and Silambam (India).


This blog will use the word cane to refer to walking cane sized sticks that are usually, but not exclusively, best employed one handed.  Examples of arts involving canes include Singlestick, la Canne, Bata and Arnis.


The meat of this blog are longsticks (longer than a cane but not exceeding the height of the user) that are usually best employed in a double handed manner.  Examples of arts involving longsticks include Hutton’s Greatstick, Jogo do Pau, Juego del Palo, Makila, Bastone Siciliano, Bâton Français, Tahtib, Silambam, Hanbo and Jodo.  The stick itself might be referred to as:

  • Greatstick
  • Pau
  • Palo
  • Makila
  • Bâton
  • Stock
  • Nabboot
  • Jo.


We’ll refer to any stick taller than the height of the user as a staff for convenience.  Due to their weight and length, they are usually a double handed weapon.  Examples of staff include the English Quarterstaff, The European Half-pike, Japanese Bo and Chinese Gun.

A longstick blog

Posted in Introduction with tags , , on 11/05/2009 by greatstick

Why a blog about sticks? More specifically, big double handed ones.

Clubs, staves, javelins and spears, in whichever form and by whatever name sticks have been settling disputes and bringing home the bacon (or woolly mammoth) for tens of thousands of years. Large sticks in particular are at once handy for walking and leaning on, for carrying and crossing wide gaps and, of course, for self defence against assorted predators, including those on two legs. There is something reassuringly primal about an item so commonplace and basic (one might say primitive), with a purpose and application that becomes immediately apparent when hefted in hand.

The stick was quite likely the first weapon our vertically challenged and somewhat hirsute ancestors picked up and started hitting one another with. Since then the humble stick in various guises has been with us throughout the long evolutionary journey that has led us to the dizzying heights of civilisation and the stick will no doubt be with us when we stuff it all up and ’sticks and stones’ once again represent the pinnacle of weapon technology.

There is another side to the longstick however. As an aide for walking and hiking and also as a tool for exercise, the longstick finds many legitimate, contemporary uses that more specialised and archaic weapons, such as swords, lack.

19th century longstick

19th century longstick

This blog aims to present an introduction to various longstick systems, as well as information, links, ideas, the odd review and commentary on the use of long, double handed sticks in various forms of martial application, albeit with a particular bias toward systems of European provenance. Apologies in advance for this bias, which stems entirely from the author’s relative ignorance of long stick systems from all corners of the world. Perhaps something we can remedy in due course.