Stick Fighting

Of all the weapons available in genre literature,  perhaps none is more universal than the humble stick. Whether you’re writing a classical fantasy, a Steampunk romp, zombie apocalypse or urban fang-fest, your characters will likely be able to gain access to a stout length of wood, even if only a broom handle.

Sticks are among the most abundant and easily improvised of weapons. They can be broken off trees or pulled from hedges, and if well chosen they have the length to hold back assailants, and the heft to cause injury and death.

Sticks are also one of the oldest weapons in the human arsenal, and people have been fighting with them throughout recorded history.

Many readers will be familiar with Eastern stick-related martial arts, such as the Japanese art of Bojutsu, but stick fighting traditions also exist in Great Britain, Ireland, Europe, Africa,  and India.

The lengths and weights of the staffs used vary from tradition to tradition. There is even a Victorian self-defence technique for use with a walking stick, called Bartitsu.

So, wherever and whenever you set your story, it’s possible that at least one of your characters will possess a rudimentary grasp of stick fighting techniques; and who knows, the next time they find themselves in a tight spot or sticky situation, maybe they’ll be able to extricate themselves using only a little know-how and a stout length of wood?

In the meantime, I recommend you all read the excellent short story that won this year’s Caine prize for African writing: Stickfighting Days by Olufemi Terry.

Gareth L Powell is the author of the novels The Recollection and Silversands, and the short story collection The Last Reef. He is also a regular contributor to Interzone and can be found online at

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