For several years Sensei from around the world have looked to create a tournament environment for staff fighting. This has typically been through the introduction of foam staffs and helmets.
Events using foam staffs are popular, particularly in the USA and though such competitions are amusing to watch and participate in, the techniques employed have been open to criticism from the perspective of realistic application.
Recently in Okinawa there have been attempts made at the Budokan to introduce competitive staff fighting tournaments using more realistically weighted weapons. Competitors are requested to wear full bogu with the addition of shin protectors. This has caused split opinion on the island between those who promote such events and others who feel it is reckless and spiritually destructive. Some say it is not traditional practice and has no place in Kobudo.
Interestingly, there is an older pedigree for such competitions, unbeknown to 21st century Okinawa it can be found in 19th century England.
Quarterstaff fighting was considered an essential skill of close quarters fighting within the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was useful for the practical development of techniques with the bayonet and with the pike; it was also good fun and gave rise to numerous inter-regional tournaments. Baden-Powell famously learned staff fighting in the Army and later introduced these skills to the Boy Scouts.
At the height of the British Empire's reach, the Great Grandfather of Jikishin Kobudo's Sensei, was a weapons instructor and Regimental Sergeant Major for the 1st Royal Dragoons. For several years during his long service he was stationed at Aldershot barracks, a dedicated training centre created to enhance the Army's physical fitness and fighting skills. Here he was exposed to the joys of Quarterstaff matches, which were intended to keep the eye keen and the feet swift whilst, developing the strength of heart amid tough physical conflict.
During staff fighting matches, the soldiers would wear fencing masks, wicket keeper's gloves, cricket pads and a thick leather tunic to protect the ribcage and groin. The fights were full contact and the only restricted technique was a thrust. Just as with boxing, musketry and fencing, there were regimental champions for Quarterstaff fighting and the matches drew quite a crowd and gained significant press attention.
It may may be interesting for Okinawan Kobudo-ka to know that there was a methodical system of instruction for Quarterstaff fighting in the British Army during the Victorian era and it is sometimes taught at Jikishin Kobudo for research purposes. The British system includes blocks, strikes and combinations based upon fencing guards, parries, cuts and thrusts. Interestingly for students, many of the techniques taught within the British Army in the 1800s are very similar to those practised in Okinawa today.
(Picture - training session at Aldershot 1891.)