Staff simulators for sparring

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Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Cutlery Penguin » 25 May 2011 22:30

kit wrote:Oz - what are you using for staves?


Nothing at the moment*. I'm still searching for the perfect material. I suspect some form of slim bamboo bundled together would work but have yet to test it. Thrusts are the killer.



*James is clearly too cowardly to fight me! :D
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Re: I challenge Kit.

Postby Mark Shaw » 26 May 2011 05:50

"Thrusts are the Killer"


I know what you mean. I've been trying to find a decent staff sim for some time. The problem is when the staff is safe for thrusting, its then too flexible for cuts.
Yet when its safe for cuts it becomes dangerous for thrusts!
The Jogo Do Pau/Lusitan Fencing guys have had the same problem.
At the moment I use a Naginata bamboo simulator (forgotten the proper name for it) for staff sparring because of the flexible end; not ideal but it will do for now.

I'm hoping HEMA comes up with something after the Longsword and Saber sims development cycle is complete.
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Re: I challenge Kit.

Postby Cutlery Penguin » 26 May 2011 18:06

Mark Shaw wrote:At the moment I use a Naginata bamboo simulator (forgotten the proper name for it) for staff sparring because of the flexible end; not ideal but it will do for now.


How are you finding them? The ones we tried were very fragile. You put in a decent parry and you risk it snapping in two!

I agree about the need for a decent one, I wonder how big the market would be?
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Re: I challenge Kit.

Postby Mark Shaw » 27 May 2011 04:52

Cutlery Penguin wrote:
How are you finding them? The ones we tried were very fragile. You put in a decent parry and you risk it snapping in two!

I agree about the need for a decent one, I wonder how big the market would be?


You are right that they are too fragile really for decent parries, and I'm always suprized there arn't more breakages in competitions between two men. I dont know why their so thin in the middle either.
Really they are no good for proper quaterstaff or greatstick study, just a means for me to "study" basic long stick cuts and thrusts at speed.
I've got some hollow polypropylene tubes from the hardware store that I might try out in the near future, if I can get someone to test them with me.
They are about the length of a short stave: 5ft long approx and about 3/4" thick. Wall thickness is about 3-4mm I think. Any longer than 5ft and they are too whippy. They flex a little when you thrust against a wall a like a HEMA nylon sim which is good.
I've superglued and taped thick rubber chairleg caps on the ends to make them safe for thrusting. They are made of the black polypropylene that has a waxy feel that does not shatter when you do a hard cut with them. Like the naginata sim they wont be very good for parrying much, unless you support the stick at the 1/2 or 2/3rd mark.
Havent tried them out properly yet due to lack of time and because basic naginata + kendo is enough at the moment.
I like the hollow tube solution because it seems to me that you cant have any mass whatsoever at the tips or the staff becomes too dangerous due to the momentum you can build up with moulinet type motions.
I think the market for a good staff sim would be good, because there simply isnt one that covers all the bases well at the moment; even the Lusitan Fencers dont seem to have solved the problems, and they've probably spent more time on it than anyone.
The difficulty of making a good staff sim really gave me a good appreciation of how freaking dangerous a long stick is.
(When I have two knackered shinai available I'm thinking of dovetailing two together to make a staff like simulator. Wont be able to slip the hands with much, or do anything more than basic diagonal cuts and thrusts (against kendo chest armor) but it will be a laugh when I turn up at the dojo with it.).
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby admin » 27 May 2011 10:05

We never had a problem using rattan poles for polearm sparring, with a little padding added to either end - we wear the same as for longsword sparring. I don't think they hit any harder than nylon longswords, and the rattan takes a lot of force out of both the strike and thrust thanks to its flex.

I think you have to accept that for any polearm type sparring you have to wear at least as much protection as for longsword though.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby OdinoSenzaOcchi » 27 May 2011 11:18

In yarijutsu we used to use a wooden pole with a cloth padded end, which is the classic japanese method.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby admin » 27 May 2011 11:27

I think spear is very easy to deal with, because you're not really smacking each other hard with it, so it can afford to be harder in substance.

Victorian quarterstaffers used fairly light ash poles and just put tons of padding on, including boxing gloves!
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby KeithFarrell » 27 May 2011 12:33

I have to admit, I don't see what the problem is. Both in my karate organisation and in the Academy of Historical Arts, whenever we do a practices with staffs we just use ash or red oak staffs and make a point of not hurting each other. Sure, thrusts hurt, but then we have the incentive to not be stabbed with them! :P

I don't want to get into a debate about levels of control or intent or anything like that, it is not my intention to start such an argument, but I'm having difficulty seeing why wooden staffs can't be used for practicing wooden staff techniques. Surely the correct simulator for a length of wood would be just that: a length of wood?
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby admin » 27 May 2011 12:37

Do you deliberately whack the other person's hand to disarm them? What about thrusts at the face?
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby KeithFarrell » 27 May 2011 12:47

Thrusts to the face are fine if the opponent is wearing a fencing mask, same as with any of our other weapon systems. We acknowledge that staffs don't have any give in them, so we encourage our students to use control when carrying out such techniques. We use other practice methods to ensure that they can deliver such thrusts accurately and with power, for example by using focus pads and kick shields; we do allow them to develop power with thrusts, but for safety in sparring we keep everything controlled to the point where it will not damage a sparring partner.

In terms of striking to the hands, I believe that the notion of striking the hands hard enough to disarm someone is a bad idea anyway. It is certainly a valid technique, don't get me wrong, and we do aim strikes at the hands. But if the strikes are landing with enough force to cause enough pain to disarm a sparring partner then the strikes are landing too heavily in my opinion. We all needs our hands for daily life, so there is nothing to be gained from having them damaged deliberately in training.

They key to everything as far as I'm concerned is to not hurt your training partners. Sure, the odd bruise or cut or whatever is to be expected, but deliberately giving your partner whiplash in the neck from stabbing his face hard, or deliberately rendering his hand useless for a day or two by smacking it hard is unnecessary. So we do train the different techniques, we just keep everything at a level where no one will be injured. I know some people will take issue with this fact and think that perhaps we aren't training hard enough, and fair enough, everyone is entitled to their opinions, I won't argue with that. Training "hard" enough to injure ourselves is not very high on our list of priorities though!
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby admin » 27 May 2011 13:03

I see. I think the crux here is that you prefer to spar with pulled blows. That's fine, but some other people want to spar with more force, which means that they either need to change their weapon or their protective gear (or both). You can't really spar with quarterstaffs with force without changing the equipment you're using. That, I think, is the source of your different view to Oz's. This is much like the debate of 'steel vs nylon' or whatever.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby KeithFarrell » 27 May 2011 13:28

Ah, that makes sense. I have never thought about using anything other than wooden staffs for staff practice, and thus have always had control built into the practices. For that reason I suppose I have never thought about the need to use anything else as a simulator for the weapon, which is where I became confused here. Thanks for clearing that up :-)
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Cutlery Penguin » 27 May 2011 16:02

Matt has pretty much hit the nail on the head. To use a wooden staff you either have to rule out techniques, pull your blows, or pad up in a relatively big way.

I'd like something that I know I can put in a fast, one handed thrust to the torso with, without killing my opponent. It's easy enough to break ribs with shinai thrusts, never mind staves.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby admin » 27 May 2011 16:37

Cutlery Penguin wrote:It's easy enough to break ribs with shinai thrusts


*points at own ribs and nods*
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Mark Shaw » 28 May 2011 02:46

Cutlery Penguin wrote:Matt has pretty much hit the nail on the head. To use a wooden staff you either have to rule out techniques, pull your blows, or pad up in a relatively big way.

I'd like something that I know I can put in a fast, one handed thrust to the torso with, without killing my opponent. It's easy enough to break ribs with shinai thrusts, never mind staves.


Yes, I've seen people's heads get snapped back or torso bent over backwards when a shinai thrust goes wrong and hits the faceplate. The combined energy of two adults lunging forward can have "interesting" results even with lightwieght sims.
The positive aspect to having a fairly stiff sim like a shinai is that it gives thrusts a certain "authority" and adds a good fear factor to the match. But the limiting of the thrust target to only the small neck plate means the thrust become a high risk action which is why you dont see more thrusts in Kendo than you would expect.

The armor, simulator and training method are a system; change one factor and it effects the others.
(Quite redundant of me to state that to you guys I know.)

My focus at the moment is trying to find a cheap, entry level staff/baton contact sparring system to get people interested in stick fencing without needing to spend a lot of money on a set of protective gear; this is why I'm messing with the hollow poly, because at most all you''d need would be a entry level fencing mask, light chest+neck protector, cricket gloves and maybe soccer pad protectors on the shins etc.
As the students interest (and control!) develops, they can move on to the more formal exercises and study involving more substantial sims like singlestick and padded rattan.

Theres positives and negatives to every setup, and all of it is influenced by the objectives your aiming to achieve.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Abomination » 28 May 2011 08:12

I've used 2m x 50mm plastic waterpipes with tennis balls taped over the end. They're ok but not ideal. Safe enough, & cheap. But a little too short & a bit to floppy. We've talked about filling them with foam or something similar to see if that would make them stiffer. Larp people use some sort of core covered in foam. This seems to be an expensive option & IIRC they don't thrust anyway
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Cutlery Penguin » 28 May 2011 08:53

I tried the larper thing of using a wooden pole with pipe lagging and although nice and soft in the blow you lose a lot of the percussive force of the parry making a whole pile of techniques useless.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Mark Shaw » 30 May 2011 04:40

admin wrote:We never had a problem using rattan poles for polearm sparring, with a little padding added to either end - we wear the same as for longsword sparring. I don't think they hit any harder than nylon longswords, and the rattan takes a lot of force out of both the strike and thrust thanks to its flex.


I'll have to check out rattan again. I think I did'nt try it out after seeing some SCA matches where guys where hitting the crap out of each other in SCA plate armor with 4 1/2 foot batons, made of what they claimed was rattan. This was some time ago, maybe 4 years or so, and at the time I also heard supplies of quality rattan were getting hard to access due to its extensive use in the indonesian furniture industry.
I'll have to go to the local MA shops and look again: I wasnt impressed with what was being offered when I first looked; the short batons (as used in ISA) were good but overpriced, and the longer staves were low grade and overpriced.
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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Roger N » 31 May 2011 10:09

Just a short note, since we are working with Meyer staff and Jogo do Pau. The tool depends very much on the style of fencing. For Meyer staff or Jogo do Pau, where you commonly strike holding the end, often with one hand only, even rattan is tough on fencing masks and the neck. Just last weekend we tried fairly soft JdP strikes against fencing masks with shortened, and thus less flexible, rattan bo and it is quite different from even hard strikes with most sparring longswords. Longer rattan with more flex might be different, but then you run into problems with the flex instead...

I really haven't found a solution for this. As a result we work with the following "tools", and I quote from a our approach to this:

1. Higher requirements for student's skills before being allowed to spar with Meyer staff.
Longsword and dussack sparring can be done quite early, but staff requires both very good control, but also very good situational awareness.

2. Slow sparring.
This connects to #1, since slow sparring would still be dangerous for a beginner.

3. Limited sparring
Only a chosen selection of techniques would be allowed. One hand strikes would likely not be allowed.

4. Sparring with lighter and/or padded weapons.
This connects to #3. Lighter/padded weapons will affect e.g. how you can do Ruck/Reissen, ie striking the opponent's staff away with a short or long strike.

5. More protective gear.
A problem here is the fact that part of the protection lies in mass, ie more weight. A steel helmet can weigh up to 4kg and protects well because of that. A fencing mask weighs less than half that and has no real suspension to protect against impact.

There is currently no really good protective gear that suits our needs and looks good enough. The best alternative I have fund thus far is the riot gear sold by KMNW, but I haven't had a chance to try it. A proper helmet alongside of neck protection would likely also be required for safe sparring with heavier staffs.

However, we are also talking to a manufacturer of riot gear that has shown an interest in making protection for HEMA and maybe we can work something out there.

6. Attacking short
In Jogo do Pau, much of the free fencing is done out of range, so that you intentionally keep that partner safe, by striking a bit too short. This can be a bit dangerous, especially for the hands, but works reasonably well, as long as everyone is in control and has the skills to pull it off.

Finally, these suggestions are not meant to be used in isolation. Together they may perhaps give us a better understanding of the principles of techniques in Meyer's section on Halber Stangen.

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Re: Staff simulators for sparring

Postby Mark Shaw » 01 Jun 2011 03:56

Nice info there Roger; as you say, the neck is tough to protect if your using a long staff sim made of anything too substantial, especially if you dont want to go the way of SCA type steel plate armor (too hot, heavy, cumbersome and expensive in my book).

I like the Jodo Do Pau solution of sparring just out of range, especially since you can do it with true wieght staffs, and it doesnt demand heavy protection.
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