Two Handed Stick
Single hand sticks have generally a length of 90 cm (like the average sword), but can be shorter or longer. It's a dynamic fencing, played in circular movements and in straight lines. Very powerful in the striking and trusting. The practice includes "scherma da sala" (fencing for the academy), with "assalti cortesi" ("courteous assaults" and sparring) performed in full contact but with protections and gears and "in misura" (maintaining the measure) aiming to focused targets. It is also practiced as "scherma da terreno" (fencing for the street or self defense), which includes "gioco stretto" or close distance, with grappling, wrestling, disarms with the sticks and "assalti cavallereschi" ("chivalry assaults" or with no defined rules for points and competitions).
Codified by Masters Cerri and Ceselli in the XIX century, derives from the renaissant Italian fencing of the two hand swords, like the one presented by Master Alfieri in the XVII century. Sticks can be from 120 cm tall to a lenght above the shoulder. Sticks are handled with both hands close together to the guard or on both ends of the stick for closer distance parries. This fencing is practiced with protection gears in full contact and it is a very dynamic fencing, with peculiar applications very effective in self defence against multiple attackers.
The walking stick (or cane), is a beautiful and very effective fencing art developed in the XIX century from fencing masters, like Giannino Martinelli, who translated the practice of sword, saber in particular, to the walking stick, in an age when the walking stick was popular and the use of the sword for civil fashion became illegal. It is mostly a fencing "in line", with straight movement. Elegant, precise and effective. Sparring and assaults in full protective gears are fun and intense.
The short stick is defined in many ways (bastoncello, bastone da braccio, corto, etc.). It is an object easy to carry, hide and improvise (a rolled magazine for example). It's use is mostly for 'conservazione della vita" (self defence), and it is practiced as a training for the dagger and as a tool to protect and neutralize unarmed attacks (grappling and striking) and armed attacks (knife in particular).
Italian Stick Fencing
The use of the stick in Italian martial arts is the beginning and the end of this tradition. Descriptions and images of warriors with a stick from pre-indo European cultures are found everywhere across the Italian peninsula. Medieval fencing and combat Italian manuscripts indicate the stick as the base of the fencing arts, together with swords, daggers, spears and unarmed fighting. Great example is the manuscrips "Flos duellatorum" written by Magistro Fiore De Liberi and dated 1409. We find the use of the stick across the centuries. In particular, a rich Italian fencing literature develops in the XIX century, codifying the stick fencing similarly to the swords (one hand, tow hands, walking sticks).
Parallel to the academia, on the streets, in taverns and restaurants, squares and hidden meadows, the use of the stick has been heritage of familiar and regional traditions (two of the most famous examples are the Sicilian and Pugliese schools). The "wood" has always been used as the starting point for the practice before the "steel". It is employed to learn the use of a very effective fencing, fighting and defending skills, but also to train for the practice of the short steel or "ferro corto" (dagger or knife), as well as the long steel or "ferro lungo" (swords). Stick fencing is a wonderful art to learn. Effective, modern, practical.
Vegetio (aristocratic lived in the Imperial Rome IV - V century), wrote in his military work "Epitoma Rei Militaris" of the use of the stick (simulacra d'arme) to train in the swordplay.
Later Fiore de Liberi will write in his Flos Duellatorum (XV century):
“E quello che cum bastone faco cum la spada lo faria, ben che più forti giochi con quella trovaria”
[I can do with the stick what I would do with the sword, although I would find with It (sword) stronger plays].
Centuries later, Giuseppe Rovani will write in his "Cent'anni", Milan, (XIX century):
"Per avere un'idea di codesto spirito guerriero passato di quel tempo dai campi aperti delle battaglie europee nelle anguste vie della tortuosa citta' nostra, basta dare un'occhiata ai bastoni dei nostri padri (...), bastoni di frassino o di spino o del piu' formidabile corniolo, con pomi d'avorio grossi come biglie, e puntali di ferro. (...) in quella guisa che gli spadoni a due mani (...) ci danno idea dei feroci costumi del medioevo; cosi' questi bastoni ci isegnano senza parlare la storia..."
[To get an idea of that ancient warrior spirit presnet at the time of European battles in open fields or in the narrow dark steets of our cities, just take a look to the sticks of our fathers (...), sticks made of ash wood, or of pine or of the exceptionally hard conelian tree, (they have) ivory pommels bis as marble blass, and with iron endpins. (...) similarly to gread two handed swords that give us an idea of ferocious traditions of medieval times; similarly these sticks are teaching us history without speaking..."
Today the stick fencing traditions are still alive and practiced, not only in several fencing academies, or "Sale d'armi", but also in transmitted and centuries years old regional schools and methods. The school Pugliese (Puglie), Siciliana (Sicily), Napoletana (Naples), Genovese (Genoa), among others, are major examples, as well as different sticks methods around Italy (taccaro napoletano, bordone piemontese, cornoler veneziano, etc.).
Nova Scrimia is part of this Italian tradition, and the practice of the sticks is a major component of the art.
It is a very effective martial art, efficient for self defence, as you can turn into a stick many objects that surround us today (an umbrella, a broom, a rolled magazine, etc.). It is also a full contact sport, a beautiful fencing practice, elegant and educational and fun to learn and compete. Like any martial fencing arts and sciences, no geneder or age make really a difference, guided by the principles of "modo, tempo and misura" (manner, time and space).