Jogo do Pau

Jogo do Pau: An introductory view

1) Jogo do Pau: Main traits



Jogo do Pau instructor Luis Preto
Combat against multiple opponents,
of central importance in Jogo do Pau
Jogo do Pau (game of the stick)or Esgrima de Pau (stick fencing, as so it was called by master Frederico Hopffer in the 1940's) is a self defence combat art, which includes the practice of both multiple opponent and one on one combat

Jogo do Pau is, for the most part, commonly believed to be a Portuguese stick fencing system, traditionally focused on 1,5m long staves.
Jogo do Pau - Bladed staff
A traditional Jogo do Pau stick 
with a sharp blade fitted at one end

These are made of either lotus or quince, and have the striking and parrying tip thicker than the grip [1]

Additionally, Jogo do Pau's traditional combat-oriented staffs included an iron tip on one end and a sharp blade on the opposite end (kept hidden by means of a metal cap) [2].




2) Historical note: Jogo do Pau, a part of European history



Though there is no absolute certainty as to the origin of Jogo do Pau, given the media induced tendency to trace the origin of all martial systems back to Asian arts, it is important to keep in mind that Portugal conquered both its independence and territory by force during the XII and XIII centuries.

This means that the Portuguese were already proficient combatants long 
before interacting with far away cultures, as they set off to sea en route to discovering Brazil, the sea path to India and so forth. 

Therefore, if anything, it is ever more likely that the Portuguese system was the one to influence others and not the other way around, just like it were the Portuguese who introduced both Japan to firearms, and Portugal's central European neighbours to a new concept of jousting by means of using a barrier between the riders [3]


Jogo do Pau - seated parries
Seated parries drill
Nevertheless, since the French combat system (Jeux du baton) shares both designation and technique of Jogo do Pau, it seems to be more plausible that Jogo do Pau symbolizes the preserving of a central European combat system, than being an exclusively Portuguese art absent of any influence from its neighbouring countries [4]

Supporting this hypothesis is the fact that King D. Duarte’s description of medieval swords’ striking techniques and outnumbered combat tactics for battlefield application match Jogo do Pau’s contents [5].

Hence, it is indeed quite likely that Jogo do Pau represents the preservation of a medieval combat system which, being power oriented (and, thus, applicable to both staffs and swords), ended up being preserved through staves due to social and economic variables




More recently, a newer designation of Lusitan Fencing was created when referring to Jogo do Pau, to signal this link between wooden and steal weapons and, thus, between European's lost historical martial systems and this European living tradition.


3) Recent history: Modern preservation of tradition


Driven by motivations related to self defence, Jogo do Pau was traditionally more heavily focused around the practice of combat against multiple attackers, considered to be the art’s roots [6].

Consequently, as the XX century came about, this approach to Jogo do Pau was heavily practiced by the country’s northern population of the Minho region, with the most well known schools having been located in Fafe and Cabeceiras de Basto [7].

Jogo do Pau - baton practice

The surge of the more recent industrial cities ignited both: 

a) staff practice being given a more leisure type purpose, focused on one on one combat (dueling) [8]


b) the application of the art to one handed walking canes & batons 

Lastly, given that the practice of combat free play requires that all combatants perform at maximum speedprotective gear and adapted weapons have been developed. 




Though these were initially developed as an additional tool for training, they've recently ignited the organization of stick fencing competitions, so that trainees are given the chance to test their skill against Jogo do Pau trainees from other schools, as well as against other styles.





References

[1] Caçador, António (1963) – Jogo do Pau: Esgrima Nacional

[2] Preto, Luis (2003) – Jogo do Pau: The art and science of Portuguese stick fighting

[3] Natário, Rui (2013) – As grandes batalhas da história de Portugal

[4] Frederico Hopffer, "Duas Palavras sobre o Jogo do Pau", Lisboa 1924

[5] Piel Joseph M., ed. ‘Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela’ que fez Elrey Dom Eduarte de Portugal e do Algarve e Senhor de Ceuta - Ed. crítica, acompanhada de notas e dum glossário. Lisbon: INCM (Imprensa Nacional – Casa da Moeda) 1944.

[6] JOAQUIM ANTONIO FERREIRA (da Cidade de Guimaraes), "A Arte do Jogo do Pau", Porto 1886.

[7] Ernesto Veiga De Oliveira, "O Jogo do Pau em Portugal", no suplemento da Revista da Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa, Geographica no 32 - ano VIII - outublo 1972.

[8] Hopffer, Frederico (1940) – Programa d’ensino para instrutores de esgrima de pau

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