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Martial Arts Staff

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For those "important" fights.

"Simple wooden staff
Made from life, protecting life,
Stronger than cold steel."
Flavor Text from the Magic: The Gathering card Silkenfist Fighter

Staves tend to be the weapon of choice among monks and others who, for moral, religious, and/or ethical reasons, refuse to take a life, but for various reasons find themselves requiring a method of defense. Anyone else interested in practising combat skills is more interested in lethality, and so affix various pointy ends to their poles, making these implements a spear or polearm rather than a staff. Of course, some people take a middle path and conceal various nasty surprises in their staves.

In the West, a full-length fighting staff, at least six feet long, is called a quarterstaff.note  In Japan, the same weapon called a bo, with a slighty shorter version called a jo. The Japanese also have hanbo, short staves that Westerners would call rods. The Filipino fighting art called Eskrima (or Arnis or Kali, depending on which island you're from) also makes use of these short rods, which they call bastón or yantok, although it also occasionally employs full length staves also called bastones.note 

Contrary to general opinion or many movies, in medieval Europe a staff was not held in the middle, which is more typical of Asian styles. It was instead wielded in a similar way to a spear or two-handed sword,note  likely as a way to transfer skill between those weapons. Eskrima also teaches its practitioners to strike with one particular surface of the stick rather than just any part of it — because eskrima is intended to allow the user to switch his relatively non-lethal sticks for blades if necessary.

In Eastern media, the staff is often a Kung Fu weapon, used with much grace and skill (and choreography). Combined with the distance afforded by its long reach, martial artist monks have long been able to smack around roomfuls of Mooks completely untouched. As Western audiences rightly recognize the awesomeness of this, it's spreading to Western media as well. The most famous user of the staff in Eastern media is Sun Wukong from the seminal Journey to the West, and thus most staff-users reference Wukong in some way, especially through his not-so-simple staff, the Telescoping Staff, a related trope.

When the fighters don't actually care as much about the injuries they inflict or actively try to cause lots of injuries, perhaps the staff really is just a long club, or a spear without a spearhead.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: Angemon uses an "Angel Rod" for melee combat.
  • Fist of the North Star: Daimond, one of Shin's henchmen, fights using a bo staff longer than he is tall and tries to take out Kenshiro by combining its long reach with Spectacular Spinning.
  • Gamaran: The series has a couple of sadly misbegotten staff users in the same team of the Muhou School: the first, Tagosaku Yamashita, tries to attack Iori with his personal bo staff (has a spiral pattern and edged ends) but is quickly stopped and killed. Subverted by his master Maniwa, who is a bojutsu practitioner but employs a spear with the same movements. Sequel series has Sakutaro Nagoshi of the Nagoshi Ryuu, an expert of jojutsu who fights with a steel staff hard enough to allow him to easily defeat normal swordsmen with ease by breaking their weapons.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Freya uses a staff as her weapon, it being the tool of choice for her family's style of jojutsu. Her staff is modified by shortening, and she can quickly screw it together to make a longer staff.
  • One Piece:
    • Nami originally used a bo staff for battle before replacing it with her Clima-Tact.
    • Vergo uses a bamboo stick as a weapon.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • This Bites!: Before obtaining the Clima-Tact, Nami's only method of defense was bojutsu with a three-piece staff. After Boss and his students join, Nami has Donny, who also uses a staff, give her help in reestablishing that skill.
  • Twelve Red Lines: Having trained with it during her karate lessons, Jones adds the weapon to her arsenal the first chance she gets, though it gets destroyed on Little Garden. It gets replaced at the end of Chiaroscuro... when Ace gives her his old pipe.

    Films — Animation 
  • Mulan: Shang's troops use staffs during their training montage, though never in actual battle.
  • Quest for Camelot: Garrett uses a wooden staff in battle.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Wheel of Time: Mat Cauthon used a staff as his main weapon before switching to a polearm. He was trained by his father, and he beats down two expert swordsmen in a demonstration bout. At once. While convalescing from a serious curse/illness. (The instructor of those swordsmen then reminds the class that the greatest swordsman in history was only ever beaten once... by a farmer with a quarterstaff.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cobra Kai: Late in season 3, Daniel teaches Sam how to spar in his home dojo using a set of bo staffs. The bo staffs come in handy in the season 3 finale when Tory leads the Cobra Kais to assault Sam in her home. Tory chases Sam into the home dojo, and begins attacking her with a set of nunchucks. Sam initially is too afraid to fight back, but when Tory breaks the picture of Mr. Miyagi, Sam gets the resolve to fight back, grabs one of the staffs, and begins dueling Tory. The staff gives her an advantage as she's able to disarm Tory by slipping the end of the staff under the cord connecting the two sticks on the nunchucks and rip them out of Tory's hands.
  • Deadliest Warrior: Wielded by both parties in the Shaolin Monk vs. Maori Warrior episode; a white wax wood staff by the former, and a taiaha (traditional Maori weapon) by the latter.
  • The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg: In the episode Garett and the Princess, Rohan matches staffs with the yet-unknown Prince Garett and promptly loses (which sets up the entire early character arc for Garett's character).
  • Power Rangers:
  • The Walking Dead: Morgan Jones uses a wooden staff in his practice of Aikido, which he teaches to some others as well. He believes in Thou Shalt Not Kill, but it's quite effective for busting zombie skulls or incapacitating an enemy.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Gabrielle's signature weapon is a quarterstaff.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: A Wrackstaff is to a bo staff what a BFS is to a sword, requiring an Exalted's strength in order to wield properly.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: The Children of Gaia are a tribe of werewolves who advocate for peaceful solutions to dealing with the enemies of Gaia. As such, they developed a martial art called Iskakku that uses staves for subduing opponents, including other werewolves!

    Video Games 
  • Beyond Good & Evil: Jade uses a staff as her primary weapon, in kung-fu style. Naturally, taking out enormous guards in Powered Armor with Hammers With Frickin' Laser Beams is no problem for her.
  • Breath of Fire II: Katt is a former gladiator who tends to think any problem can be solved by whacking it with her staff and uses it quite skillfully.
  • Dragon Quest IX: Marks the first-time staves became their own fully-fledged weapon type, instead of as Magic Staff. Initially useable by Martial Artists and Priests, they have a lot in common with real life bō or quarterstaffs.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has Old Glory, a flagpole tipped with a golden eagle. It's the signature weapon of Ulysses and is gained at the end of the Lonesome Road DLC.
  • Fatal Fury: Billy Kane's skill with a staff are second to none.
  • Final Fantasy series:
    • The Monk of the original Final Fantasy has a few unique martial arts staves they can use but they are quickly outclassed by the classes barehanded damage.
    • Raijin from Final Fantasy VIII used a battle-staff that was weighted on both sides combined with his martial arts skills in battle.
    • The pole weapon type in Final Fantasy XII was a physical combat oriented weapon compared to staves and rods which are magical, in versions that use the job system the pole fittingly found its hands in the martial arts wielding monk's license board.
    • There are several weapons for the Dragoon class in Final Fantasy XIV that are battle staves instead of spears, which fit well with the classes wushu-esque battle animations when wielding a polearm.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics the Oracle class could use martial arts poles as a weapon in battle which did decent physical damage and also gave them a reach of two squares much like the dragoon's polearm.
    • Master Monk's in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 used poles as a weapon, although they mostly specialized in barehanded attacks, they would learn new skills by wielding them in battle.
  • Furi: The Chain, the first boss, wields a plain iron staff as his weapon.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • Ninja Gaiden: One of Ryu Hayabusa's weapons is the Lunar Staff, a quarterstaff thought to possess the power of the moon.
  • Scarlet Nexus: Hanabi Ichijo wields a hi-tech Matchstick Weapon called "Torch" which she sets on fire with her Pyrokinesis powers, and uses to fight in melee. Like most other OSF members, she is rigorously trained with this otherwise-archaic weapon, incorporating martial arts moves in her combat style.
  • Soul Series, starting with Soulcalibur, has Kilik, a monk at the Ling-Sheng Su temple, who fights using an Evil Seed-tainted rod called Kali-Yuga. In the fifth game, his son Xiba inherits his fighting style.
  • Street Fighter: Debutting in Street Fighter 1, Eagle fights by dual wielding kali sticks and his entries declare his fighting style to be bojutsu.
  • Suikoden series:
    • The Hero of Suikoden, Tir McDohl, was taught to fight with the Bo staff by an Old Master Kai. They both has a habit of spinning their staves above their heads before attacking.
    • Jowy from Suikoden II also uses a staff. He trained in martial arts alongside Riou and Nanami, who, curiously, use different weapon altogether.
    • Prince Freyjadour Falenas from Suikoden V used a collapsible tri-sectioned staff.
  • Tales Series:
  • Trails Series: Estelle Bright, the protagonist of the first story arc, uses a bo staff, and is possibly the biggest Action Girl in the series. She was taught how to use it by her father, Cassius, who derived this style from the famous Eight Leaves One Blade school of swordfighting.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Teach, the leader of Colony Gamma, fights using a Blade called "Martial Linkstaff", that extends or turns into nunchucks for some of his attacks. He pays a lot of attention to balanced training, even by the standards of the Forever War-ravaged world, and employs metaphorical teachings, not unlike stereotypical martial arts masters. The main party can use his weapon through the game's Job System.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):



Nami uses her bo staff to take out a platoon of World Government Marines.

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