Bataireact was a common Irish stick fighting form in the 18th century. Shillelagh was a weapon of choice. Shillelagh is a knotty and thick walking cane or sticks made from oak or Blackthorn. It originated from Shillelagh village in County Wicklow, so the name. In Irish, Shillelagh means ‘descendants of Ealach’. The Gaelic identifies Shillelagh as a fighting stick or bata. In English, Shillelagh means thonged willow-stick.
In competition or clan fights, Irish factions would clash in a violent style. Bataireacht style using Shillelagh was based on fencing but developed in a hitting style rather than slicing motion. Fathers passed the skills and knowledge to their heirs and Shillelagh was passed to the boy as a sign of manhood. This tradition continues even today!
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How is an authentic Shillelagh made?
A thick and knobby stick with bark unharmed is smeared with whisky butter. Just like meat, it is placed over a fire or a chimney for curing. The next step after curing in smoke is to bury the stick deep in dung. It is kept moist and cracks are prevented. It surfaces with a shiny dark surface.
Some people hollow the hitting end to fill it with molten metal and add weight. But if you chose a heavy Blackthorn bark there is no need to create a heavy version. The stick length fits your height. It should reach your elbow from the ground. The shorter the stick, the more potent weapon it becomes and is referred to as bata.
Irish stick fighting techniques with Shillelagh
In Irish Stick Fighting there are no golden rules for holding the Shillelagh. The butt is that part of the cane touching the ground. A standard way is to hold the stick 1/3rd away from the butt.
Rest thumb on the shaft as it allows for control and accuracy while using the weapon. Never wrap around. Stick’s butt must reach your elbow.
- Strike on either side of the head
- Attack on either flank
- Strike on either knee or leg
- Downward stab with buta
- Downward bang to the head
- Two-handed strike with a shillelagh
- Vertical or horizontal strike from a long distance with the buta
In Irish Stick fighting there is no belt system like in BJJ, Karate, and Judo. Irish Stick Fighting Organization or ISFO is the legitimate and largest association for Shillelagh martial art.
Shillelagh is a great self-defense portable tool. You can use it as a walking cane and if necessary it helps to defend yourself with Irish Stick Fighting skills. It is versatile and you can use it efficiently against several attackers on the street. You need to spend some time in training on how to move with the stick, strike and defend. It will offer a huge advantage against attackers.
Never carry a loaded walking cane or Shillelagh filled with lead because it will be legally recognized as a weapon. For the street, use choose a crooked cane with a rubber tip. You can do all the tricks but ensure to choose a heavy cane to generate more power.