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Stick Fighting Martial Arts: Top 15 Rod Combat Duel Forms


Last Updated on July 16, 2024

Sticks might seem simple, but if you know how to use them to your advantage, they can quickly disable an attacker. Sounds like fun, huh?

With the different kinds of stick fighting martial arts, you can learn a new way to defend yourself. Armed with a cane, walking stick, baton, or any other staff, you can use an improvised weapon in combats and competitions. 

Are you clueless about the different kinds of fighting stick martial arts? Read on and I will walk you through some of the most popular ones.

The Most Common Martial Arts With Sticks 

From kung fu to Krav Maga, there is a long list of martial arts. However, on this list, our focus is on fighting with staff. These styles will let you defend yourself from an attacker while maintaining a safe distance. 

1. Arnis 

Also called escrima or Kali, it is a weapon-based combat sport that relies on hand-to-hand combat, grappling, and weapon disarming. Aside from sticks, it can also use bladed weapons including knives. 

Arnis is the national sport of the Philippines and one of the most popular martial arts that use fighting sticks.

This Filipino martial art has a diverse origin. It is believed to have originated from the native fighting techniques of pre-Hispanic Filipino tribes. There are also influences from Spanish fencing, as well as Indian, Arab, and Chinese martial arts. 

Baston is the most common impact weapon used in this Filipino stick fighting, which is often made of rattan or mahogany. Modern materials are also available, including aluminum, fiberglass, and plastic. 

2. Bojutsu 

Karate and judo are two of the first things that come into mind when talking about Japanese martial arts. While it is not as popular, you should also know about bojutsu. 

Bo is a Japanese word that means staff. Meanwhile, jutsu means skill or technique. 

The first bo used for this martial art was made of stone. However, it became too heavy and unreliable, and that is when people switched to a stick. 

The main philosophy of the sport relies on using hand movements, which are recognized as the extension of your limbs. Hence, many of its techniques are incorporated into other forms of empty hand fighting, such as karate. 

Fun Fact: Stamina is just as important as speed and power. Train to improve your physical and mental stamina by using the best jump ropes for boxing and other fitness routines.

3. Canne De Combat 

A French martial art style, canne de combat uses a cane, which is a kind of walking stick. It is a light and slightly tapered material that is often made of chestnut wood. 

During combat, the opponents will only use one cane, which they must hold with one hand. You are free to change the hand position throughout the fight. 

You can only make horizontal and vertical strikes during cane fighting. You are not allowed to thrust or stab your opponent. 

To score a point, you will need to hit the other person on the head, calves, and torso. The person with the highest score wins. 

4. Gatka 


More than just a form of self-defense, Gatka is also known for being a spiritual practice. 

It is known as yoga for empowering oneself. The goal is not merely to fight. Instead, it is a way of thinking and living with contentment and joy. 

Gatka is a Punjabi word that translates to wooden sticks. It became popular in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was practiced by Sikh warriors to defend themselves from the Mughals. 

Today, Gatka is practiced based on how it was in the early 19th century. It is played either through traditional or sports style. If you want to formally master this art form, then you must enroll at the Punjab University Patiala, which offers a diploma course on Gatka. 

5. Hanbojutsu 


Hanbo is a three-foot wooden staff, which is the main weapon that you will use in Hanbojutsu, a form of Japanese martial art. 

Many of the techniques are similar to what you would practice in cane fighting. It involves poking, thrusting, and blocking, among others. 

One of its main differences with Filipino stick fighting or arnis is that Hanbojutsu is less aggressive.

It is quieter but equally powerful, especially if you master the right timing and footwork. 

6. Jojutsu 

Jojutsu or jodo is another form of Japanese martial art. It uses jo staff, which has a length of four feet versus a bo staff that is approximately six inches.

It involves different actions, including thrusting, sweeping, striking, and cutting. 

In Japan, Jojutsu is practiced not just by civilians but even by the police. Many police have up to four jo staff, which are ready for deployment when necessary. 

Fun Fact: Judo is also of Japanese origin and has similarities with Jojutsu. Read more about Judo vs Taekwondo to know how the former compares to the latter!

7. Juego Del Palo 

Juego del Palo is a combination of martial arts and folk sports that started in the Canary Islands. Playing Juego del Palo requires two players to have a spontaneous interplay of attack and defense stick fighting techniques. 

Its name translates to stick play. 

In traditional combat, the players do not wear protective equipment. Nonetheless, practitioners are thought to execute skillful controlled attacks instead of a full force on the opponent. 

8. Krabi-Krabong 

Krabi Krabong Sword

When people talk about martial arts style from Thailand, the first thing that comes to mind is Muay Thai. Nonetheless, they are also known for a form of stick fighting called Krabi-Krabong. 

In English, Krabi means sword and Krabong means staff. 

During a fight, the players will use two weapons – a stick and a sword, which is what makes it different from most of the martial arts on this list that rely merely on sticks. Because it includes a sword, it can result in deadly combat. 

9. Mau Rakau 

A traditional Maori martial art, Mau Rakau is all about the skillful use of different weapons. Aside from a staff, it also uses a bladed weapon and an ax-like weapon, among others. 

Mau Rakau translates to “to bear a weapon.” Learning this fighting style requires the mastery of different weapons, not just sticks. 

10. Shintaido 

It is heavily influenced by other styles, such as judo, karate, bojutsu, and kenjutsu. Beyond fighting, it was also inspired by contemporary and ancient arts, including classical jazz music and abstract painting. 

Created in the 1960s through the leadership of Hiroyuki Aoki, Shintaido is a non-combative form of Japanese martial art. 

Shintaido aims to combine individual expression and meditative practice. One of its pillars is the development of ki, which is a Japanese word that refers to vital energy or internal spirit. 

Aside from self-defense, learning Shintaido offers a plethora of benefits, such as eliminating stress, having a cheerful attitude, improving social interaction, and increasing concentration. 

11. Silambam 


A popular form of ancient Indian martial art, Silambam is from Tamil Mandu. It was also historically practiced in Malaysia and Sri Lanka. While there are different styles, nillaikalakki is the most popular outside India.

Aside from stick twirling methods, you also need to learn animated movements and graceful footwork to trick and attack your opponent. 

The length of the stick that you will use will depend on your height. It should reach the forehead, approximately three fingers from your head’s top. 

12. Singlestick 

Also called cudgels, singlestick is an English stick-fighting martial art that started as a way of training sailors with the use of swords. Through the years, it evolved into a sport with competitions recorded as early as the 16th century. 

The main weapon used in singlestick is a circular and slender wooden rod, which is often made of ashwood. It has a basket hilt, which is made of leather, reed, or wicker. 

13. Tahtib 


The main weapon used in Tahtib is a four-foot rattan stick, which is a type of supple and fibrous wood. 

With a rich history dating back 5,000 years ago, Tahtib is an Egyptian martial art. Today, it is still practiced by people in Upper Egypt and North Africa. 

If you travel to Egypt, you might see some locals practicing Tahtib as a tourist demonstration. While it is great for raising awareness about this martial arts style, it is also the reason why people have viewed it with less seriousness. 

14. Taiho Jutsu 

Through the years, Japan’s police force has experimented with different ways to arrest criminals, and one of the most notable is Taiho Jutsu. The goal of the latter is to capture an attacker without inflicting any injury. 

The International Taiho Jutsu Federation or ITJF notes that the practice of this martial art includes a combination of arm and wrist controls, including locking and holding. It can also include karate techniques, especially when the situation calls for more force. 

If you are interested in Taiho Jutsu, you will need to learn several techniques, including body movements, striking, blocking, kicking, strangulation, and throwing. Beyond sticks, you will also use other specialized weapons, such as handcuffs.  

15. Zulu 

Wrapping up the list of staff martial arts is Zulu stick fighting. It is one of the most commonly overlooked staff fighting styles. 

It is a weapon-based martial art that started in Africa. The practice of this sport was exclusive to men belonging to the Banu tribe. 

It uses one stick for defending and one stick for attacking. During a traditional battle, the participants use a heavy weapon and will perform an all-out attack. Its most common goals include gaining higher tribe status, herding cattle, and doing rites of passage. 

Fun Fact: There are some martial arts that employ unarmed fighting techniques. Read more about these different martial arts fighting styles as a complement to this article.

Knock-Out Point: You might want to consider defending yourself without having any sticks on hand. Proceed to read our post here -- Best Striking Martial Arts.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are stick fighting martial arts deadly?

Yes! Martial arts with sticks are deadly. However, this will depend on the specific type, the weapon used, and the force exerted. Among others, arnis or kali is known as one of the most lethal, which makes it common in elite law enforcement and military training. 

How long should a fighting stick be? 

There is no definite length for a fighting stick used in staff martial arts. For arnis or kali, the stick should be at least as long as your arm. Meanwhile, for Silambam, it should be almost the same as the height of the user. 


Fighting with sticks has been one of the oldest forms of martial arts. From the Philippines to the Canary Islands, many global fighting styles incorporate the use of sticks which is complemented by agile body movement and footwork. 

Is there any other stick fighting martial arts that you would like to add to this list? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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