View Full Version : Irish Stick-Fighting

7/07/2004 7:12pm,
I wrote this piece on Irish stick-fighting a few months ago. It's more cultural than technical in detail, but I'll be happy to answer any questions about the style that I can.


Sorry for the big ole image. There's no online version, so this is a scan from the mag (Saturday Night).

Celtic Samurai
7/07/2004 7:44pm,
Hell yeah. "Shillelagh Law" rules.

7/07/2004 8:04pm,
LOL...this is hilarious. Good one.

7/07/2004 8:08pm,
so drunk irish people leaving the bar had to learn to defend themselves with their canes?

Celtic Samurai
7/07/2004 8:23pm,
When I was in Ireland a few years back, some friends of mine were all sitting in pub in Cork. There was this old guy (with a shillelagh/cane) in there drinking himself slowly into oblivion. It was in the middle of the day. When the bartender cut him off, he flew off the handle. Began calling everyone a **** and challenged every man in the pub to a fight. No one kicked him out, apparently thry just found it incredibly funny. The worst part was when he came to our table and pleaded his case, as if three Americans on shore leave had any say so in the matter. We all agreed that the bartender was indeed a ****, much to the bartender's amuesment (that guy was cool as hell and gave a round on the house afterwards). After awhile it became clear to the old man that no one was going to challenge his mad shillelagh skillz and he called us all pussies and left.

That's my fondest memory of the Emerald Isle . . .

Mr. Mantis
7/07/2004 8:49pm,
... both hallmarks of a congenital inability to back down from a fight.

LOL That's frickin' awesome!

So, what is there to whiskey stick dancin'?

7/07/2004 9:13pm,
It's an interesting style. Irish stick-fighting almost invariably uses a one-handed approach similar to that of arnis. However, the guy that came up with the Doyle family style was first and foremost a boxer. He wound up combining his knowledge of stances, positioning and movement into a two-handed style, where the stick was gripped evenly with both hands. Just like in boxing, there are orthodox and southpaw stances, jabs (flicking the stick out with one hand) and other goodies. The reason that it's so effective is that it employs a highly reactive approach, where practitioners actually wait for the other fighter to move. From there, they tend to attack the hands and rapidly move in. This is indeed an inside style, which is another fundamental difference from Arnis. Once in there, there are some pretty great combos and takedowns. The Doyle's amassed a real reputation as fighters because of this.

Sun Wukong
7/07/2004 9:32pm,
It's Scotch or it's crap.

7/07/2004 10:05pm,
Sorry, I thought you were kidding. I thought shillielahs were magical leprachaun sticks. I didn't know they were real.

Apologies if I offened anyone.

Mr. Mantis
7/07/2004 10:09pm,
I would like to see it in action. I enjoy two handed stick work.

7/08/2004 1:55am,
On a related note, the history of Martial Arts in the UK

Prior to the Norman invasion of England in 1066 martial arts consisted of the celtic style or the viking/saxon style. I don't know anything about the saxon styles, so I'll concentrate on the celtic styles.

The celts fought at 3 ranges, grappling, striking and weapons. At least they did until the Normans invaded Ireland in the 12th Century, when almost all their martial culture was wiped out.

In the manner adopted by all subjugated peoples, the martial arts were disguised until such a time as they were free of their oppressors, unfortunately, the irish were quite thouroughly oppressed for 800 years so this didn't really work.

The normans ignored the wrestling, allowing it to continue as a sport to keep the natives happy, and this is still seen today in Cumberland wrestling which is very similar to Sumo except the participents start off in a clinch. The objective is to throw your opponent to the ground, without the use of any punches or strikes.

http://home.clara.net/pb/calendar/caw_cu_e.htm is a link to this and other styles of wrestling in the UK

The striking arts consisted of kicking and punching, with the emphasis being on low kicks with wooden clogs. The hands were mainly used to block or evade, with the aim of closing to grappling distance. This was disguised from the Normans by being incorporated into a series of dance forms. This can now be seen in those wonderful performances by Michael Flatley. Pretty much all martial content has been lost.


The weapons art was known as the Morrigans Dance (the Morrigan is the Goddess aspect of Death, the others being the Cerydwn, Goddess of Taxes and War and the Blodwyn, Goddess of Beauty and Healing), and consisted of units of 6 to 12 men armed with short weapons (blade length was around 18"). It was an extremely effective and brutal style, but was no match for cavalry, which was unknown prior to the norman invasion. Although it died out quickly in Ireland, it did migrate to England between 1420-1450. It was taught within a few villages in North Somerset (between Cornwall and Wales) as a set of forms known as the Morri's dance. In the last 400 years it has slowly spread across the south of England and up the Penines into Lancashire and Yorkshire and it was during this spread that it became accompanied by music. Morris dancing displays are common throughout the summer in many villages now, and tournaments are increasing in popularity despite the ban on full contact competetive Morris Dancing after the incident in 1983 when one person died and another 2 were injured in a tournament in Frome, Somerset.


7/08/2004 9:04am,
I like watching Gaelic field hockey.

Don Gwinn
7/08/2004 10:08am,
Very cool. I'd love to learn that.

7/08/2004 10:27am,
Currently, the classes are being held in conjunction with La Punte Arnis. The teachers feel that the styles--one for mid to long-range and the other for short-range fighting--compliment one another very well. For the first generation of non-Doyles to be studying this, not only are there no Irish students, the majority are Filipinos.

7/08/2004 2:50pm,
Someone named Ken Pfrenger has a website concerning the Irish Stick. You can do a google search. Any martial history is bound to be interesting.

WingChun Lawyer
7/08/2004 3:05pm,
In the manner adopted by all subjugated peoples, the martial arts were disguised until such a time as they were free of their oppressors, unfortunately, the irish were quite thouroughly oppressed for 800 years so this didn't really work.

He, he.