Quarterstaff

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A quarterstaff (plural quarterstaves, also short staff) is a traditional European pole weapon and a technique of stick fighting, in use from the medieval and throughout the early modern period, into the 18th century.

The term is generally accepted to refer to a shaft of hardwood between 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 m) in length, sometimes with metal tips, ferules or spikes.

Contents

Etymology

The name "quarterstaff" is first attested in the mid 16th century. In which sense the "quarter" is to be understood is unclear.

Many suggestions are advanced with little justification, including

  • a unit of length called a "staff",[citation needed]
  • the way that the staff is held: one hand at the centre of the staff, and one hand halfway between the centre and one end;[1]
  • its length being equal to the wielder's height plus another quarter[citation needed]
  • the act of giving quarter (showing mercy to a defeated enemy)[citation needed][dubious ]
  • a means of production, from a tree sawed into quarters[2]

George Silver, an English expert with the weapon who wrote two books (1599, 1605) including lengthy sections on its use seems oblivious to the term "quarterstaff", using instead the designation "short staff" (as opposed to the "great staff" or pike). Joseph Swetnam writing in 1615 differentiates the quarterstaff of 6 or 7 feet (1.8 or 2.1 m) in length from the long staff of 12 feet (3.7 m) and the pike of 18 feet (5.5 m).

History

The staff, being a simple weapon to manufacture, has a long history of use, and a wide cultural dispersion. The quarterstaff proper was a common weapon in England, where it is featured in the Robin Hood legend as the favorite weapon of Little John. It is also famed in the legendary story of Richard Peeke as he fought the Spaniards in 1625.

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