Proposed Terminology for Gripping the Staff, Spear, and Similar Weapons

The article is from     

And with some additions  from George E.Georgas

There are numerous ways to hold a short staff or quarterstaff. Unfortunately none of the manuals I’ve run across seem to enumerate these succinctly. So in order to make conversations about these weapons easier, I am proposing this set of terminology.


To begin with, here are the conventions I am using to describe the guards.

Right-handed or Left-handed

A weapon is said to be in a “right-handed grip” when the right hand is closer to the front of the weapon than the left hand. It is called this because when using the longsword, right-handed fencers have their right hand near the cross and the left near the pommel.


For the sake of argument, we are assuming that there are only 5 locations a hand can be placed: Bottom, Lower Quarter, Middle, Upper Quarter, Top.

These are not meant to describe exact placements, but rather just gross approximations.

Types of Grips

Note that the names of the grips are meant to be referential only. Do not, for example, assume that an English master such as Hutton only uses the “English grip”.

English Extended Grip (Bottom Only, Thumbs Forward)

The English Extended grip has both hands at the bottom of the weapon, nearly touching, so that you have the longest possible reach with the weapon. This grip is named for the English fencing master, Alfred Hutton.


German Half Grip (Bottom & Middle, Thumbs In)

The German Grip is seen in Paulus Hector Mair. One hand is at the bottom, the other roughly in the middle such that half of the staff is in play. The thumbs are facing inwards.


It is not only  German grip. Also this grip was in  use in Greece and propably in Byzantine empire.It has a a litle differnece on the uper hand  grip. The photo is from Greek school of 1880.

German Shorten Grip (Bottom & Upper, Thumbs In)

The purpose of the shorted grip is to reduce the effective length of the weapon. This is done by placing the hands at the bottom and upper quarter, allowing for greater leverage in the bind.


French Quarters (Lower & Upper, Thumbs Forward)

The French grip is described by Hutton when illustrating three parries by the same name. The hands are in the lower and upper quarter, thumbs forward.



Very similar with the above photo of the students of a Greek school of 1880.

German Quarters (Lower & Upper, Thumbs In)

Like the French Quarters, the German Quarters have the hands at the upper and lower quarter. However, the thumbs face inwards making this an ambidextrous grip.


German Three-Quarter Grip (Lower and Middle, Thumbs In)

This is called the Three-Quarter grip because three quarters of the weapon are in play, one quarter below the lower hand and one half above the forward hand. As with all “German” grips, the thumbs are facing in.


Narrow Pike (Bottom & Quarter, Thumbs Forward)

The Narrow Pike is named for the illustrations in Meyer’s Pike section. You place the hands as if you were holding a staff at the bottom and lower quarter, but with the thumbs forward.

imageWe have similar grip at the following fresco.It is the icon of St. Dimitrios, with the hand of Theophanis the Kris,monasteri of Great Lavra in Greece, 1535


Half Pike (Bottom & Middle, Thumbs Forward)

The Half Pike has the hands separated a bit more, as if you were holding a staff at the bottom and middle, but with the thumbs forward.


Wide Pike (Bottom & Middle, Thumbs Forward)

The Wide Pike has the hands separated as much as possible. This resembles the “German Shortened” grip, but, as with all pike grips, both thumbs are forward.


Underhand Spear (Quarter, Thumb Forward)

This one-handed is illustrated by Marozzo when using the partisan.

imageBellow is the Byzantine grip and  it was much older than the Marozzo’s illustration.

Again the same grip used from Byzantine scutatus.

On the bellow fresco  we have  the same  grip from the promachos of the Byzantine scutatus and his band.

Overhanded Spear (Quarter, Thumb Back)

This one-handed grip is commonly seen in ancient illustrations of Hoplites fighting. If you see again the above  fresco the upper sctatos  use the same grip.


In the above Byzantine fresco all the solldiers of the left side represent a Byzantine phalanx and they  use this type of grip.

Rare grip of two handed  spear

Byzantine soldier holding a two handed spear, from Goliath, Khludov Psalter fol.141r , mid 9th C.

Rare grip of spear

From Xanten ivory casket 10-11 th C. Look the stance or the right warrior with the spear.



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