Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A staff is a large, thick stick or stick-shaped object used to help with walking or as a status symbol or a weapon. An older plural form of staff, based on the archaic variant word stave, is staves. In modern, especially American, English the usual plural form has become staffs.
Staffs are certainly among the earliest tools used by apes, once it was discovered that opposable thumbs could manipulate sticks as tools or as a weapon. Police forces have used sticks for centuries --actually, since specialised police forces have been trained for anti-riots tactics; before that, artillery or standard cavalry units were used. (for the "t" shaped stick used by police forces, see tonfa).
Staffs, in particular those used for status, are often ornately ornamented, but are sometimes also deliberately bland-looking. Staffs are also associated with wizards and other fictitious users of magic and sorcery. Staffs are a traditional prop for the elderly and infirm, and this has led to their association with wisdom.
Japanese staff techniques, (jo), were reportidly invented by Sensei Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi after he was defeated by Miyamoto Musashi in a sabre duel. Struck by his defeat, he invented techniques to fight against a sabre using only a stick, and defeated Musashi on their next encounter. This is the only time Musashi was defeated.
Haraibou were staffs, in literal translation meaning 'purification stick', that were used by the miko (Japanese female exorcists) to fight demons in Japanese lore.
See also: quarterstaff
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