Following the success of last year’s “How to Survive a Slasher Movie” and the sequel I wanted to post something memorable for this year’s Halloween.

Will it be something scary? Something funny? Or will it salute the connection between Halloween and confectionery? I have found something that does all of these and more!
Be warned!
This is Not Suitable For Work.!
You may find it disturbing!
It may not be suitable for those of faint heart or weak stomach!
Yes, I am serious!
Having been so warned, click the link if you dare,
Happy Halloween

Fighting with Spears

It seems my cold has not done with me yet so I will not be writing a lot today. Instead I am posting some interested spear related-videos. The first few are for the Dagohir LARP events but have some interesting points.
Some interesting information on the one-handed use of spears.
A nice video on the use of Wing Chun pole, since a spear is more than simply a point. Shafts can both parry and strike too.

Military Fork

Given the subject matter of the last few blog posts it seems logical that today I feature a polearm with poliorcetic connection.

The military fork is obviously a weapon derived from the agricultural pitchfork. What is interesting is that one reference book I have mentions that it is a particularly useful weapon to have around during a siege. The fork can be used to hold up ladders, or conversely, push them away from walls. It can also be used to raise supplies up to the battlements. The backward facing hooks might have seen application in fighting fires, pulling ignited thatch down from roofs. Given this is essentially a pitchfork, the tines themselves might be used to relocate burning thatch.
As a weapon, the fork part could be used to catch weapons or limbs, perhaps pushing the victim’s guard to one side for the vital seconds needed for a comrade to make an attack. The backward facing hooks could be used to pull an enemy off balance or from his horse. Like many multi-tined weapons, penetration depth would be limited, preventing the weapon burying itself too deep in a target so that it became difficult to withdraw.
A not widely known fact is that the tines of a gladiator’s trident were so spaced that they prevented the likelihood of a point entering the eyehole of another gladiator’s helmet. Blinded gladiators were a poor investment, so trident-armed retarius were therefore always paired with opponents with closed helmets. The military fork seems to have the opposite design strategy. Those two very slender but deadly points would doubtless sometimes menace the eyeholes of an enemy’s visor.

Poliorcetics and Kulgrinda

As a change of pace from the recent discussions on pole weapons, today’s blog is instead about a couple of rare but useful terms.
The first is “poliorcetics”, which means pertaining to the science and art of siegecraft, both its application and resistance. From the Ancient Greek πολιορκητικα (poliorkētika, “things related to sieges”).

The second term is “kūlgrinda”, a Lithuanian word meaning an underwater road or artificial ford. “Kul” means “stone”, so similar structures of wood or earth were known as Medgrindas and Žemgrinda. Underwater bridges were used during the Second, Korean and Vietnam wars, some of them capable of supporting tanks and trucks. I seem to recall in at least one instance the Russians constructed a crossing by driving damaged and obsolete vehicles into a river until they were piled high enough for the troops and tanks to cross safely.

Staff Fighting Grip Techniques.

My cold is still messing with me, but I am on the mend. There is a severe weather warning for Monday, just in time for me to go back to work!
The cold has been messing with my sleep patterns, so I ended up lying awake in the early hours of the morning, drinking copious amounts of water and my slightly fevered brain processing ideas about quarter staves and naginata. One revelation that came to me was that the seemingly complex and dexterous manipulations of these weapons boiled down to just a few simple principles. Simplifying things down to simple principles is what my book is all about.
  • If your left hand (for example) is near the centre of the staff, bring your right hand to the centre and them move the left hand to grip elsewhere.
  • If one hand grips the staff near the centre, move your other hand from the lower quarter to the upper quarter, or vice-versa.
  • To switch between thumb inward and thumb outward grips release one hand and rotate the wrist.
You may also care to practice the baton twirling technique in the book too.
Watch the naginata video in the previous blog post and you will see that the above simple combinations of hand movements are frequently used.



I have a cold, so only a brief post today. Following on from the topic of quarterstaffs, a nice video clip of naginata.


Perfect Length: Staffs

One of the explanations as to why a quarterstaff is called a quarterstaff is that it is gripped “at the quarters”. One hand is placed a quarter of the way from the bottom and the other is placed at the mid-point of the staff, leaving about half the weapon’s length as the primary striking part. In a previous post I discussed the  “perfect length” of swords and offered the theory that the optimum length of a blade would be that sufficient to defend the remotest part of the body, the ankle/ foot area. For me, being 5' 11" this required a blade of about 28-30.

The same logic can be applied to a fighting staff. The “top” part needs to be about 28-30" for me. For leverage and comfort my hands want to be about shoulder-width apart so the middle part of the staff wants to be at least 18". According to Vitruvian proportions shoulder width should be a quarter of my height. I also want a section of staff projecting below my lower hand for both defensive and offensive purposes but don’t want this so long that it gets in the way when using the primary striking part. About 12" sounds about right. 30 + 18 +12 = 60", or thereabouts. This is a bit shorter than I am, but that is not a bad thing since it makes the staff easier to get through doorways and more useful if fighting indoors or other restrictive terrain.
If we are considering fighting staffs the Japanese bo and jo will come up. The bo is usually the roshakubo (six shaku long staff), which is about 1.82 m or 71.6 inches long. This is probably taller than many historical Japanese bo users. Most staffs sold in martial arts stores these days are around 6 foot length or longer. The jo is usually defined as being 4 foot long but more accurately is 4 shaku, 2 sun, 1 bu = 127.56 cm, 4 foot 4¼ inches or 50¼ inches. An alternate convention is that it should reach up to just under the user’s armpit height, which would be about five-sixths of total height. Readers who know their weapon history will know that the jo was allegedly invented by a bo expert Muso Gonnosuke who wanted a faster and handier weapon after being bested by the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Although not as well known, the classical Japanese arsenal also includes the goshakubo or 5 shaku staff of 1.52 m or 59.7 inches. If we look further afield we will discover that many martial traditions, from Portugal to India consider around 5 foot to be the preferred length for a fighting staff. Sometimes these are given as measurement related to the user’s stature, suggesting the staff should be as high as the chin, nose or forehead, for example. Many Chinese martial arts consider the correct length for a staff to be up to the user’s eyebrow. An interesting snippet of information is that your eye-height is 93% of your total height so an eyebrow height staff for me would be about 5' 7".
A good length for a practical fighting staff seems to be within a range from “armpit to brow” height, which for me is from 59" to 67".
Interestingly, 5 foot is the recommended length for a boy scout hiking staff, which reminds us that a fighting staff has many other applications as well as defence.
For techniques on using a fighting staff, see my book Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence. There is also a brief discussion about hiking staffs in my other book, Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal.

Plate Armour Mobility

Today's blog post is just a link, but an excellent one on how mobile a fighter could be in plate armour. For more on armoured mobility see here.


First Copy Sold

Just looked at my receipts and noticed someone brought a copy of Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal at the end of August. That is actually the first copy sold that I am aware of, so I hope you are enjoying it.

Life Hacks and Split Rings.

Like any modern male my house contains a multitude of electrical items. Television, satellite box, video game consoles, DVD player, computer, backup hard drive.. the list goes on and on. Several times I have pondered the idea that electrical plug should be made with those little windows so you can slide a label into them and know what you are unplugging. One day it occurred to me that I already have numerous pots of acrylic model paints and that a simpler solution would be to simply paint names on the plugs. And so I did. Each plug is now clearly labelled and readily identified.
I mention this since recently someone sent me a link to this page of “Life hacks”.
Some of them are frivolous, others are genius. The wooden spoon across a pot doesn’t work in my experience. You are better off using a wider pot.
One “hack” I particularly liked was this one.

I seem to have had a problem with cheap zippers that will not stay up recently, even though my lean and mean program means I am losing weight. The trick to this is the split ring goes over the button before you button up your pants. The split ring also will make it easier to work your zipper if your fingers are numb or gloved. Apart from the social benefits of having a zipper that stays up when you want it to this a useful thing if you are in places where leeches might seek your tender flesh!