Survival Staff, Spear, Knife and Ax
Just walk into the woods barehanded and you'll
soon encounter the first tool. A knife takes a little
more evolution to create, but there's always a
stick at hand. Even a crude broken branch has a
myriad of potential uses, from brushing aside the
webs of spiders to keeping enemies at a distance.
Ever since humans learned to walk upright
they've compensated for the loss of those two
other feet with sticks.
Go onto a modern hiking trail today, however, and
the staff is a rare item. People are almost
embarrassed to carry them. Is it a sign of
weakness? a mark of age? a fashion miss
statement? Unless it's a high tech trekking pole,
the staff has fallen out of favor.
My array of hardwood bo's for every occasion. From
left to right, my red oak kung fu staff; short bo ash
model; and my gentleman's juniper walking stick.
(Photo courtesy of AliceOne)
This assortment of Native American weapons is
dominated, not surprisingly, by spears. Pointy
sticks are even more efficient than blunt staves.
Historically, stick weapons
are the mainstay of cultures
where people travel isolated
and wild pathways yet do
not wish to present a
threatening appearance. If
you want a fundamental
level of defensive ability
without looking like a
paranoid invader, the staff
is the perfect choice.
Although we think of today's
world, especially here in the
West, as tame and civilized,
the reality we face in the
backwoods isn't so different
from that of older and
tougher days. Animals of all
kinds share the world with
us and get cranky about it,
and you can't trust
everyone you meet on the
trail. A good poking stick
can preserve the peace
without causing serious
In recent times this society's reaction to any form of animal violence has been to eliminate
both species and ecosystem. I think we've grown beyond that, but not far beyond that. In
modern instances of predation against humans, the individual animals pay the price--as well as
any suspect animals who just happen to be in the area. Our fellow beasts are intelligent as well
as cautious--if they test one of us, and learn that we are pointy and belligerent, they probably
will not try us out again. That's good for everybody. The guy with the stick is not dangerous to
the balance; the guy without one is.
Sadly, I have seldom had any reason to apply this aspect of the art of Stick. The most common
encounters I' ve had are with feral domestic dogs and pigs who probably already had a low
opinion of humans. The only potentially deadly confrontation in my collection was with a stag
deer with a very nice set of pointy antlers, who showed up in a bad mood as I was trying to
unwind my dog from one of his offspring (both of them unhurt). No real carnivores have ever
attacked me, and they probably won't. I carry a big stick.
The hiking staff is much more
than a self defense device. It
will be used most often for
very ordinary things like
keeping your footing. I can
think of any number of
reasons to have one. To part
underbrush on a trail, to give
reptiles a chance to move
along before you put down a
foot, to take some weight and
balance before you shift from
this boulder to that ledge, to
prop yourself against a
current on a swift water
crossing--the needs and the
uses are endless. Yes, you
could make a staff on the
spot, when you happen to
need one--no, if you choose
that last minute response,
you won't have anything
dependable. A good staff will
save your life. A rotten
Getting back to lion
defense--the thing that is
probably the least likely
situation I'll ever face--the
common wisdom is this: pick
up a rock and throw it at the
Native Americans favored shorter weapons
like clubs and tomahawks in woodland
I take an approach I learned from an
old Buddhist martial arts philosophy.
It applies to any sort of wild beast,
human or not. If there is a way to
settle a problem without violence, I
take it. If there isn't, I don't roll over
and play dead; I take an active part
Hiking staff, sword, spear and
blowgun all in one practical
Big Survival Stik: Carbon
fiber hiking staff with
concealed survival spear.
Highland Hiking &
Mountaineering crook staff
and survival kit.
Reviews at the Staff Market
here on JBP.
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I recommend them to everyone. I carry extras in my car. Since I began hiking in the Cascade
Mountains back in the 70's, a wooden staff has gone everywhere along with me--except for the
one summer I yielded to common opinion. Seven miles into the back country, on one of the
toughest trails I've ever climbed, I took an awkward step that a staff would have easily
countered, and I ripped a groin muscle that still hasn't quite healed. I very quickly cut a rough
staff and limped home on it.
in my own defense. A good bluff and maybe a bop on the nose is
usually enough to turn the tide. If what receives that lesson is a
mountain lion--the kind of encounter that has become more
common in recent years as populations shift and territories
change--it's to the animal's benefit. One that successfully
attacks a human will often try again, and the result inevitably is
the death of the animal.
cat; pick up a stick and brandish it. Lucky you if you happen to be
within reach of a rock, or a stick good enough to pack a punch.
Get a good staff and keep it at hand. Here's how.