Singlestick, also known as cudgels, is a martial art related to fencing and stick fighting, and a wooden weapon for the art, used for attack and defence, the thicker end being thrust through a cup-shaped hilt of basket-work to protect the hand. The French cane-fencing has a general similarity to single-stick play, but is designed more for defence with a walking-stick than as a school for the sabre.


The singlestick itself is a slender, round wooden rod, traditionally ash, about 36 inches long (three feet) and one inch in diameter and thicker at one end than the other, with a basket hilt. It bears approximately the same relationship to the broadsword as the foil to the smallsword in being a sporting version of the weapon for safe practice.

The original form of the single-stick was the waster, which appeared in the 16th century and was merely a wooden sword used in practice for the backsword (see Sabre-fencing), and of the same general shape. By the first quarter of the 17th century wasters had become simple cudgels provided with sword-guards, and when, about twenty five years later, the basket-hilt came into general use, it was employed with the cudgel also, the heavy metal hilt of the backsword being discarded in favor of one of wicker-work. The guards, cuts and parries in single-stick play were at first identical with those of back-sword play, no thrusts being allowed (see Fencing).

History and technique

The old idea, prevalent in 16th century England, that hits below the girdle were unfair, disappeared in the 18th century, and all parts of the person were attacked. The modern target area is the upper body, with the exception of the back of the head, and the upper part of the forward leg; historically, the target area has varied, with bouts sometimes only being decided by the drawing of blood from the head of one of the contestants, in the manner of the Mensur.

Under Kings George I and George II, back-sword play with sticks was immensely popular under the names cudgel-play and singlesticking, not only in the cities but in the country districts as well, wrestling being its only rival. Towards the end of the 18th century the play became very restricted. The players were placed near together, the feet remaining immovable and all strokes being delivered with a whip-like action of the wrist from a high hanging guard, the hand being held above the head. Blows on any part of the body above the waist were allowed, but all except those aimed at the head were employed only to gain openings, as each bout was decided only by a broken head, i.e. a cut on the head that drew blood. At first the left hand and arm were used to ward off blows not parried with the stick, but near the close of the 18th century the left hand grasped a scarf tied loosely round the left thigh, the elbow being raised to protect the face. Thomas Hughes's story, "Tom Brown's School Days", contains a spirited description of cudgel-play during the first half of the 19th century. This kind of single-sticking practically died out during the third quarter of that century, but was revived as a training weapon for the sabre within some military and civilian academies, the play being essentially the same as for that weapon . The point was introduced and leg hits were allowed.

American President Theodore Roosevelt and his friend, General Leonard Wood were fond of this sport and used to emerge from a contest quite bruised from their rounds.

Singlestick was an event at the 1904 Summer Olympics, but the sport was already in decline. By the beginning of the 20th century singlestick play had become much neglected, as the introduction of the light Italian fencing sabre having rendered unnecessary. Stickplay with wooden swords as a school for the cutlass remained common in some navies.

The art, occasionally practiced by a few fencing veterans in the UK, was revived by the Royal Navy in the 1980s. Within today's martial arts community, a growing interest in traditional European martial arts has revived interest in this particular form of weapon training.

ee also

*Egyptian stick fencing

ources and external links

* [ The Scottish Combat Academy]
*Broadsword and Single-stick, by R. G. Allanson Winn and C. Phillips-Wolley (London, 1898)
* Manual of Instruction for Singlestick Drill (London, 1887, British War Office)
* Schools and Masters of Fence, by Egerton Castle (London, 1892)
* The Sword and the Centuries, by A. Hutton (London, 1901).
* Supplier of Single sticks,
* Begin with Singlestick (basic movements)
* Pirate Dojo Singlestick league info: or email

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Singlestick — Sin gle*stick , n. (a) In England and Scotland, a cudgel used in fencing or fighting; a backsword. (b) The game played with singlesticks, in which he who first brings blood from his adversary s head is pronounced victor; backsword; cudgeling.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • singlestick — [siŋ′gəlstik΄] n. 1. a swordlike stick fitted with a guard and formerly used for fencing 2. the sport of fencing with such sticks …   English World dictionary

  • Singlestick — Der Singlestick ist eine dem Fechten entstammende Kampfkunst und bezeichnet gleichzeitig die dabei benutzte Fechtwaffe. Das französische La Canne ist dem Singlestick verwandt, wobei ersteres zum Fechten mit dem Spazierstock benutzt wird, während… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • singlestick — noun Date: 1749 fighting or fencing with a wooden stick or sword held in one hand; also the weapon used …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • singlestick — /sing geuhl stik /, n. 1. a short, heavy stick. 2. (formerly) a. a wooden stick held in one hand, used instead of a sword in fencing. b. fencing with such a stick. [1765 75; SINGLE + STICK1] * * * ▪ weapon       a slender, round stick of wood… …   Universalium

  • singlestick — sin•gle•stick [[t]ˈsɪŋ gəlˌstɪk[/t]] n. a wooden stick held in one hand, used instead of a sword in fencing • Etymology: 1765–75 …   From formal English to slang

  • singlestick — /ˈsɪŋgəlstɪk/ (say singguhlstik) noun 1. a stick requiring the use of one hand only, used in fencing, etc. 2. fencing, etc., with such a stick. 3. any short, heavy stick. {single + stick1} …  

  • singlestick — noun a stick used instead of a sword for fencing • Syn: ↑fencing stick, ↑backsword • Hypernyms: ↑stick …   Useful english dictionary

  • Fencing at the 1904 Summer Olympics - Men's singlestick — The men s singlestick was a singlestick event held as part of the fencing at the 1904 Summer Olympics programme. It was the first time the event was held at the Olympics. Three fencers from two nations competed. The competition was held on… …   Wikipedia

  • Liste der Kampfkünste — Dies ist eine Liste von Kampfkünsten und Kampfsportarten. Während bei Kampfkünsten das möglichst schnelle Besiegen des Gegners mit allen Mitteln im Vordergrund steht, sind Kampfsportarten vor allem auf den Einsatz im reglementierten Umfeld… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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