MA History Q & A

Q: Name two specific incidents (that took place on opposite sides of the world), in which noted swordsmen were defeated by opponents who were armed with wooden staffs.

Hint--both occurances took place in the 17th century.

"Name to specific incidents"


"Name TWO incidents..."

Sorry, folks.

The Musashi answer is actually in two parts; you got half of it right. Now, can you name the reverse incident (Musashi being beaten by a staff wielder--who?)?

As far as the other incident, I'll say that it took place in Spain. Anybody out there know the answer?

One is Miyamoto Musashi beating fools with swords down with wooden sticks. I don't know the other.

As for the Musashi incident...

Noted swordsman Gonnosuke Muso supposedly used a bo staff to fight against Myamoto Musashi (supposedly armed with 2 swords). Muso was defeated and his life spared. For the next few years Muso tried to think of a way to deafeat Musashi. He finaly came up with the jo staf (about 4 feet long). He met up with Musashi again and defeated him.

As 16th century fencing master George Silver wrote:

"The short staff or half pike, forest bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of perfect length, have the advantage against the battle axe, the halberd, the black bill, the two handed sword, the sword and target, and are too hard for two swords and daggers, or two rapier and poniards with gauntlets, and for the long staff and morris pike"

"The long staff, morris pike, or javelin, or such like weapons above the perfect length, have advantage against all manner of weapons"

Silver explains some of the reasons here:

"The short staff hath the vantage against two swords and daggers, or two rapiers and poinards, and gauntlets, the reason and causes before are for the most part set down already, the which being well considered, you shall plainly see, that whensoever any one of the sword and dagger men, or rapier and poinard men shall break his distance, or suffer the staff man to break his, that man which did first break his distance, or suffer the distance to be won against him, is presently in dangr of death. And this cannot in reason be denied, because the distance appertaining to the staff man, either to keep or break, standeth upon the moving of one large space always at the most, both for his offence or safety. The other two in the breach of their distance to offend the staff man, have always four paces at the least therin they fall to great in number with their feet, and too short in distance to offend the staff man."

He also wrote:

"The short staff is most commonly the best weapon of all other, although other weapons may be more offensive, and especially against many weapons together, by reason of his nimbleness and swift motions, and is not much inferior to the forest bill, although the forest bill be more offensive, the short staff will prove the better weapon"

interesting. I like threads like this.

Englishman Richard Peeke defeated 3 Spanish rapier and dagger men with a quarterstaff as a captive in Spain in 1625. Here is the story:

" 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 yeare.

"No replied Peeke."they would prove to be pullets or chickens."

Peekes 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 create 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, hel to the throat of senor Tiago brought forth the
necessary capitulation. Spanish pride had been orely 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. Hisa first blow left one of his adversaries dead and
his subsequent blows left the other two injured and disarmd. 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"

People underestimate the Quarterstaff (used the way it was in medieval/renaissance times noe holding it in the center}. There is an incident where a famous Italian rapierman named Rocco Bonetti (not Sifredi)drew his rapier on a fisherman and was beaten down with an oar.

Great thread.

Does anyone know how the English methods of quarterstaff fighting differed from those of the Eastern styles?

TrueFightScholar and Ye Lunatic.. I have a more modern-day fun stumper for you. This has stumped quite a few people.

Who taught Bruce Lee how to use "nunchucks"? Hint- it wasn't anyone working with Japanese Martial Arts, and nunchucks are not covered in Wing Chun.

Thank you, now if I could only post pics. HTML seems to be disabled again.

Very interesting thread. I was going to tell the Gonnosuke Muso incident, but Ye Lunatic beat me to it.


Ye Lunatic,

Great Posts!!!

Dan Inasanto.

my last name is reiter - i traced it back to austria (one account has it from holland) - perhaps you have a point in it's germanic origins - very cool - thanx - as far as the english and french and italian influences on spanish fighting - i cant remember exactly where i learnt it - i'm a FMA instructor, although i havent really practiced in 2 years, but for a time it was my main art. as a guess, i either learnt it from, dan inosanto, anthony de longes(the top hollywood stage fighting stunt coordinator - it was him in the magic circle episode of highlander, just in case you saw it,i took a few classes, now a days the only way to learn that type of sword fighting is to take stage fighting classes), or at the metropolitian musem of art sword exibit, or a video tape i have on the history of sword fighting. other than that, it could have been anywhere. lastly - remember that mindineo (sp?) never fell to the spanish, although they tried. you kind of arent including this in your spanish victory for 350 years over the PI. the blade beat the gun in the jungle.

lunitic - i'm just saying that some you make points for spain being so superior, and i was mearly pointing out historical reference arent always non-bias

Yawara would be my call as well.

Anybody else here have a subscription to "Journal of Asian Martial Arts" because it sounds like you all do!

Great thread


I gotta read this when I get back from work. What I wrote about the Filipinos and the Spaniards was based on some snippet I read in Black Belt Magazine like 15 years ago. Before I read the whole post, did the Spaniards with swords get waxed by the Filipinos with sticks or not?


What you read in BLACK BELT 15 years ago was typical of most MA historical "research" (ie., none) at the time, but hey, that was then, and this is now. Time to set the record straight (as far as we can).

There is no doubt that the Spaniards were defeated from time to time in the jungles of the Phillipines. However, the same can be said of the Filipinos themselves--they, too, were bested in combat by the foriegn invaders, hence the subjugation of their country for the next 350 years or so. The situation was probably similar to what Alexander the Great and his Macedonians encountered when they fought Porus and his Indians--here you had two forces of skilled fighting men who were dealing with mutually unfamiliar styles of combat. Losses were doubtlessly heavy on both sides, regardless of who ultimately won. Also, the Filipinos were not armed merely with sticks--they had spears, bows and arrows, and swords and knives of various designs. Pigafetta describes these in his account.

BYT everyone, virtually all Filipino MA authors use the "50 Spaniards vs over 1000 Filipinos" figure for the Battle of Mactan Island. I'll admit that I've never heard of the 5000 natives figure, though.

"The short staff is most commonly the best weapon of all other"

If you've ever been to a Dog Brothers gathering especially the early ones, you'd have seen all manner of weapons beig defeated consistently by the single stick...Escrima/Kali.

Ye Lunatic, good stuff. I had heard about the wing chun boxing connecton also.