The third section of Zachary Wylde’s “English Master of Defence or The Gentleman’s Al-a-mode Accomplish” contains his instructions on using the “true British Weapons” (Wylde’s own words) the Quarterstaff. Wylde specifies that the common length for a staff is seven feet. No thickness or type of wood is mentioned.
The staff section is the culminating evidence for Wylde’s being a holistic and self-referential system – one in which it was expected that you would learn specific lesson from specific weapons then be able to combine all you learned. Wylde calls out that the staff:
“f[u]lly depends both of Broad and Small-Sword, upon the Broad-Sword, more in reference to the Blows, Chops, Strikes, Slips and Traverses; It only borrows from Small-Sword the Lunge, Thrusts and Darts”
He tells us that the staff is easy to learn because the method and plays are so simple. This is true, but I think this is also taken in the sense that once one has learned smallsword and broadsword (more a Mortuary Hilt early basket hilt than the Scottish basket hilt) then applying those lessons to the staff is simple.
First, Wylde tells us he divides the staff into three parts:
Butt/Handle – the part you take hold of, the part of the staff from the middle to the Butt.
Middle – the halfway point of the staff
Remaining – the part of the staff from the middle to the point.
As for actually holding the staff, Wylde simply says to “take hold of the Butt end with your left (non dominant) Hand…take hold with your right (dominant) Hand, about a Foot distance from your left.”
Second, Wylde tells us that the staff has four guards and these are the same as four of the five broadsword guards:
Inside – staff held on the non-dominant side of the body with the point at eye level. The staff crosses the body to the outside.
Outside – staff held on the dominant side of the body with the point at eye level. The staff crosses the body to the inside
Medium – staff held in the middle of the body (slightly to the side depending on how much Butt you leave on the staff). The other point of the staff is at eye level in the middle line.
Pendent – Hanging guard, arms high on your dominant side & staff sloping across your body to the inside. Wylde dislikes this guard because the point being low weakens your defense, this guard leaves you open on both inside and outside lines, whereas Inside and Outside guards close those respective lines. This is a shift from his advice with the broadsword.
Wylde specifically leaves out the St. George guard in this first mention of the guards with the staff, but later on in the plays he mentions a Level Guard, which functions the same as St. George. He then explains why it’s such a bad idea to try to block a downright blow with hands apart and staff held level – namely that one shouldn’t do it if they enjoy having knuckles that work.
Like in the broadsword section, Wylde gives his students a drill to work through called Advancing or Raising the Guards. I like the term “Throwing” that he uses in the broadsword section as so use it here. The drill is itself exactly the same as in the broadsword section; in that one moves from a position of rest (not pictured in the video, but this is with the staff laid in front of you, held in the non-dominant hand with the point on the ground) to Inside Guard, Outside Guard, Medium Guard, then Pendent Guard, before returning to Inside and repeating the process.
Sean Mueller bought some eight foot long composite oak closet rods that he then cut down to seven feet. We were able to use these to get through this drill, but on subsequently going through Wylde’s plays I parried (moving from Outside to Inside) and caused Sean’s staff to split along the compositing. Oops! We continued drilling with some six foot poplar staves.
I really love these Throwing the Guards drills Wylde has for broadsword and staff because they are easy to remember and cover all guards and blows made with those weapons.