Gripping the Staff
There are a number of ways to grip the staff, however we’ll start with the basics.
Grip the staff in the right hand at one end in the same way you’d hold a longsword. Now place the left hand a third or so of the way up the staff, thumb pointing in the same direction as the right. This is the orthodox grip.
If we release our front hand and turn it the other way so that the thumbs face toward each other, this is a reversed lead hand grip. The two grips can be shown in the foreground of the plate from Meyer, below, the orthodox on the right, the reverse on the left.
Very occasionally we also turn the rear hand so the thumb faces backward instead, as shown in the "Bastard" gaurd below.
We can grip the staff these ways, right hand at the butt, left up the shaft, while standing with both the left or right foot forward.
We can also change the grip on the staff so the left hand is at the butt and the right hand further up. This is supported by illustrations in the text such as the one below, where the halberdiers face each other in mirrored stances, as well as by sections of the Halberd text which talk about holding the right hand up the haft, and the final section of the polearm text which tells us that anything done on the right can be done on the left in the reversed hand position.
Gripping the staff is similar to a sword - not too hard and with a somewhat angled hand. Our hands constantly move on the staff to meet the situation. Normally our rear hand grasps the base of the staff, or a hand’s breadth or two up from it. Sometimes, however, we hold the staff evenly around the centre with a quarter or so out from each side (see the centre figures in the illustration above); we’ll call this a half-staff position.
When we swap from the left to right hand experience shows it is best done with a sliding motion of the hands. On hand should slide up, then the other down, to alternate their positions. It’s best to try to avoid moving both hands at once while doing this; it tends to lead to clattering staffs on the training hall floor.
Table of Hand Positions
The following table formalises the hand positions on the staff with some consistent terminology.
|Description||Lead Hand||Lead thumb direction||Rear thumb direction|
|Left lead orthodox||Left||Toward point||Toward point|
|Right lead orthodox||Right||Toward point||Toward point|
|Left lead reversed||Left||Toward butt||Toward point|
|Right lead reversed||Right||Toward butt||Toward point|
|Left lead bastard||Left||Toward point||Toward butt|
|Right lead bastard||Right||Toward point||Toward butt|
|Left lead fully reversed||Left||Toward butt||Toward butt|
|Right lead fully reversed||Right||Toward butt||Toward butt|