Tag Archives: staff fighting

I have a character who’s taught themselves to ‘fight’ with a shortstaff – about Jō size. They’ve mostly learnt by practice, and by watching movies or tv shows involving staves and mimicking them. They don’t so much know what they’re doing as know how to look like they do. What would be some likely bad habits for actual fights they might have picked up?

I’d check out our post: Unusual Martial Art: Street Fighting to start giving you some ideas on the bad habits street fighters pick up. But, let’s go over some of the important pieces:

1) They’ll completely lack a base

A base is your footwork and stances, this is commonly the most boring and most ignored part of combat when you’re looking at movies and television. Unless the actor on the screen has been trained, they have terrible stances. Because your fighter has been training themselves, they’ll have been distracted entirely by the visual beauty of the staff work and completely ignore, or figure they already understand, the footwork.

As such, they won’t be able to take a hit from someone who knows what they’re doing and their attack power will be halved.

2) Bad hand position

Because they’ve been teaching themselves, they’ve never been taught how to hold a staff or how to transition their grip. Thus, their hands will constantly shift towards the center of the staff as they fight. They’ll even think this is preferable because it makes the staff go faster and appear closer to the speeds that they’re trying to mimick. However, the closer the hands get to the center point on the staff, then the more they lose control. This is untrue about all staff forms (like wushu where many techniques work off the center/balance point) but it will be true for someone who is untrained.

Even when it appears mostly right to the casual observer, the trained combatant will notice the points when control of the staff is completely lost like when it bounces off the fighters back when they are spinning it.

3) Basics are traded for flash

If your character is learning entirely from movies that involve actors who know what they’re doing with a staff, then it’s likely that they’re trying to imitate the flashier techniques. They’ll have a greater focus on spinning the weapon over smacking other people with it and probably show off by balancing the staff on their index finger (simple), bouncing it off their arms or shoulders (again, simple), and other simple manipulations that are easy to learn.

Since their understanding will be based almost entirely on movies and their own practice (with or without a partner) then their knowledge will be completely undercut because they lack a whole style and are making do with simple techniques.

They’ll also chain techniques more slowly and lack the ability to chain techniques together that they haven’t seen done before.

They won’t be able to fight other characters who know what they’re doing, though they may believe that they’re just as good (or better) than they are. However, they’ll also be very slow in comparison to those fighters.


Could you give me some background info on stick fighting, such as with a bo or a staff? What would be some advantages or disadvantages of stick fighting, especially in present day? And would it be tactical for a secret agent to specialize in stick fighting, especially when on missions or whatnot? Thanks!

Well, you’re going to have to settle on what kind of stick you’re using: such as a baton or staff because length is important. You’re also going to have to designate what kind of staff fighting they’ve been trained in because techniques differ based on style. Depending on the era, a secret agent may get more use out of Filipino Eskrima stick techniques than he or she would out of a bo staff because one can be hidden fairly easily while the other is more common. A spy does not carry weapons that make them stand out in a crowd. A staff is a long arm and thus a very tall weapon, if the spy does not exist in a culture where carrying a staff is common (such as modern day US) then they will forgo it entirely.

A spy may carry a staff in a historical setting when they were common, such as Medieval Europe, or appropriate corresponding periods in China and Japan when looking to pass for a specific kind of peasant or soldier.

However, depending on where they are going, a spy may choose to carry a tactical baton on their person. A tactical baton is a police weapon, it folds up easily and can slip into a pocket. However, they are illegal to own in most states without a permit. It’s also meant for tagging someone in the back of the skull. It is meant to hand out a single pounding, not take a pounding from another weapon.

Staffs and sticks are bashing weapons. They don’t stab or cut, instead they cause blunt force trauma. They are very effective weapons. However, if you’re feeling cheesy, a wooden stick can be snuck past a metal detector (but not an x-ray machine) and people whether it’s onlookers or guards will remember the person who fought with the wooden stick because it’s unusual.

If you want to have a secret agent who specializes in stick fighting in the modern day, then they only have one real option: a cane. An umbrella would also work, but many people will wonder why your spy is carrying an umbrella if they are traveling to a place where rain is not a constant. A wooden cane is justifiable, easy to explain, and carry into places that normally would not allow them. It can also be taken places where a tactical baton would be discovered and removed.

However, while a cane is an excellent self-defense weapon, it can get tricky in modern combat if you’re spy is not acting via surprise. A cane does not have an advantage against a gun that is already drawn. A cane has a reach advantage against someone with a knife, but lacks being comparably lethal. The kills will also be fairly recognizable and they will take longer.

The short of it is: while training in combat with sticks is justifiable for a spy, it’s unlikely to be their specialty. In the modern world, a spy needs to be trained on a variety of guns, knives, and in a variety of hand to hand styles to be successful. A cane may look odd on someone who does not fake a limp or is not elderly and a fake limp is difficult to maintain long term. If a character is using the cane to support their own weight because their leg can’t maintain it on it’s own then they’ll have difficulty fighting with it. (This won’t stop someone with a limp from being a spy.) In the modern world, it’s not a sharp choice because there are better ones available.

Remember: a spy isn’t looking to stand out, they want to blend in and disappear. Pick styles and weapons that fit into the frame of who they are pretending to be and ones that reflect the culture (and social status) they exist in.