Stickfighting arts exist all over the world, I thought I would start with an Irish one which is relatively obscure, although it shouldn't be since caricatures of the Irish often show them carrying their "shillelagh" with them, especially held roughly in the middle and overhead.
The shillelagh was actually called a "bata" (Gaelic for "stick") more often than shillelagh. The normal use, other than general one-on-one bashing, was in a Faction Fight. TFS, I really think you should look into the Faction Fight aspect of the Irish stickfighting because I?m sure there will be many parallels with what you are researching with the Venetian Bridge Battles. At least on the level of sociological parallels if nothing else.
AFAIK, Ken Pfrenger is the leader here in the US in terms of promoting the bata. He has an overview of the bata at the link I give later. I think it will be easiest just to copy his Faction Fight paragraph, so here it is:
A little about the Faction fights: Faction fighting was prevalent from the seventeenth century up until the famine of the 1840's. Most often the factions were members of certain families or of political groups. Some of the more infamous factions were named Shanvest, Caravats, The Three year Olds, The four Year Olds, Coffeys, Reaskawallaghs, Cooleens, Black Mulvihills, Bogboys, Tobbers. Sometimes the fights would consist of hundreds or even thousands of men and women. The weapon of choice was the Bata. Although other weapons were brought to the fights, guns were rarely used (at least by the faction fighters...the police trying to control the riots are a different story altogether) Women used rocks, often wrapped up in a sock as their weapon, leaving the stick play to the men. Even though the women were free to hurl stones at the men and to wallop them with their loaded socks it was considered foul play to hit a woman with a stick. A large staff called a wattle was sometimes seen during the faction fights as well as the odd sword that had perhaps been in the family for years. Some fighters specialized in the use of two sticks. This was called the Troid de bata or two stick fight. The stick held in the off hand was used as a shield. There are reports of people using rocks in their off hand to bludgeon their opponents when they got inside, and there is even mention of bayonets being used in the off hand. After the 1840's the faction fights became fewer and farther in between. The last recorded Faction Fight was at a fair in Co Tipperary in 1887.
[I did make some grammatical corrections here- Ken does his own html and it's always toughest to catch your own mistakes]
As you can see, the Faction Fights look pretty damn interesting. Don't forget, these are some of the same guys who brought us the twisted art of purring (see Purring thread on History Forum). John Hurley, within the last year, has published a book wherein he pulls together accounts of Irish stickfighting from the works of William Carleton- a monumental task. You can buy it here:
Irish Gangs and Stickfighting in the Works of William Carletonhttp://www1.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.asp?bookid=11114As depicted in period artwork, the bata was normally gripped with the hand positioned just past halfway down, closer to the pointy end (buta), rather than the knob end (ceann) of the stick. You'll find your comfort zone anywhere from 1/3 to ½ up the stick. An important consideration is to hold high enough so the stick can cover down to your elbow for blocking purposes.