I have always had an interest in history, military history in particular. As such, I have read and studied a bit on medieval weaponry. One thing I have found is that most countries had a martial arts fighting system and they were often similar to the oriental ones. But due to the early advent of firearms in the west, many of them disappeared. England for example had a form of wrestling and the use of the quarterstaff was well developed.
The quarterstaff was a simple hardwood pole about 6 to 8 feet in length and a couple of inches in diameter. Many English records from the 13 and 14 hundreds have survived, including corners records. These show a surprising number of deaths cause by the quarterstaff. The English quarterstaff was very similar to the Jo staff used in Oriental martial arts, but maybe a bit longer. Many people think that the name quarterstaff came from the fact the staff was normally held with the right hand grasping it one-quarter of the distance from the lower end.
The Journal of Western Martial Art had the following article on the use of the quarterstaff.
“In the year 1625 England and Spain were at war and Peeke was serving in an English naval squadron, under the command of the Earl of Essex, which was attacking a Spanish naval stronghold. After heavy and accurate bombardment the English captured the fortress, whereupon, they sent forces ashore to carry the attack inland. In the wake of the English landings sailors were sent ashore to forage for food. Richard Peeke, of Tavistock in Devon, was among them. Unwisely he foraged alone and paid the price for his mistake when he was attacked by a patrol of spanish musketers. After a furious fight, during which Peeke was wounded twice, he was captured and taken in chains to Cales ( Cadiz ). from there he was transfered to Xeres where he was put on trial. Present at his trial, which in reality was a miitary interrogation, were four Dukes, four Marquesses, and four Earls. After much questioning Peeke was asked if he thought that the Spanish soldiers present would prove such ‘hennes’ as the English when they landed in England the following year. ”
“No” replied Peeke. “They would prove to be pullets or chickens.”
Peeke’s insolent reply brought forth an angry response from the Spaniards.
“Darst thou then ( quoth Duke Mdyna, with a brow half angry ) fight with one of these Spanish pullets.”
Peeke replied that,
“…hee was unworthy the name of an Englishman, that should refuse to fight with one man of any nation whatsoever.”
At this Peek’s chains and shackles were removed and a space was created for him to fight a Spanish champion by the name of Tiago. Both were armed with Rapier and Poinard. The ensuing fight continued for some time before Peeke, using the guard of the poinard, trapped the blade of Tiago’s rapier and simultaniously swept the Spaniards feet from under him. Peeke’s rapier, held to the throat of senor Tiago brought forth the necessary capitulation. Spanish pride had been sorely wounded and it was demanded of Peeke whether he would be willing to fight another Spaniard. Peeke replied in the affirmative provided he was allowed to fight with.
“… mine owne countrrey weapon called the quarter – staffe.”
Upon this remark the Spanish unscrewed the head from a Halbered to create a makeshift Quarterstaff. Armed with the weapon of his choice Peeke stood ready to meet his next challenger. However the Spanish were clearly no longer so confident in the prowess of their soldiers for, to Peeke’s consternation, two Swordsmen stepped forward to fight him. Peeke sarcastically asked if more would like to join them. The Duke of Medyna asked how many he desired to fight.
“Any number under sixe”. replied Peeke.
The Duke smiled scornfully and beckoned a third man to join the original two. Peeke and the rapier men warily traversed each other, all the while thrusting and warding, till finally Peeke gambled on an all out attack. His first blow a left one of his adversaries dead and his subsequent blows left the other two injured and disarmed. No doubt they also left the spanish seriously questioning the wisdom of their invasion plans. Peeke’s feat so impressed his Spanish captors that they released him and granted him safe conduct to England.
These quarterstaffs also were used for other purposes including walking sticks or trekking poles. This is a weapon that in most areas you will be able to carry without violating the law. They will always let you transport it by plane without any problems. If you need it for stability while walking, they will often let you take it on the plane. I know several people over the years that have been able to take theirs on board. If not they will let you take it as checked luggage.
It is an interesting weapon, because you can easily obtain one almost anywhere, it is inexpensive and normally is not a violation of the law. If you are interested in learning how to use one, I would suggest you find out if anyone is teaching the English system in your area. If not find a martial arts school that teaches the JO staff.