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A club (also known as a cudgel, baton, bludgeon, truncheon, cosh, or nightstick) is among the simplest of all weapons: a short staff or stick, usually made of wood, wielded as a weapon since prehistoric times. There are several examples of blunt-force trauma caused by clubs in the past, including at the site of Nataruk in Turkana, Kenya, described as the scene of a prehistoric conflict between bands of hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago. In popular culture, clubs are associated with primitive cultures, especially cavemen.
Most clubs are small enough to be swung with one hand, although larger clubs may require the use of two to be effective. Various specialized clubs are used in martial arts and other fields, including the law-enforcement baton. The military mace is a more sophisticated descendant of the club, typically made of metal and featuring a spiked, knobbed, or flanged head attached to a shaft.
The wounds inflicted by a club are generally known as strike trauma or blunt-force trauma injuries.
Police forces and their predecessors have traditionally favored the use, whenever possible, of less-lethal weapons than guns or blades. Until recent times, when alternatives such as tasers and capsicum spray became available, this category of policing weapon has generally been filled by some form of wooden club variously termed a truncheon, baton, nightstick, or lathi. Short, flexible clubs are also often used, especially by plainclothes officers who need to avoid notice. These are known colloquially as blackjacks, saps, or coshes. They are also used in olden ages of the Philippines to punish citizens.
Conversely, criminals have been known to arm themselves with an array of homemade or improvised clubs, generally of easily concealable sizes, or which can be explained as being carried for legitimate purposes (such as baseball bats).
In addition, Shaolin monks and members of other religious orders around the world have employed cudgels from time to time as defensive weapons.
Though perhaps the simplest of all weapons, there are many varieties of club, including:
- For other types see Baton (law enforcement).
- Aklys – a club with an integrated leather thong, used to return it to the hand after snapping it at an opponent. Used by the legions of the Roman Empire.
- Ball club – These clubs were used by the Native Americans. There are two types; the stone ball clubs that were used mostly by early Plains, Plateau and Southwest Native Indians and the wooden ball clubs that the Huron and Iroquois tribes used. These consisted of a relatively free-moving head of rounded stone or wood attached to a wooden handle.
- Baseball, cricket and T-ball bats – The baseball bat is often used as an improvised weapon, much like the pickaxe handle. In countries where baseball is not commonly played, baseball bats are often first thought of as weapons. Tee ball bats are also used in this manner. Their smaller size and lighter weight make the bat easier to handle in one hand than a baseball bat.
- Blackjack: see cosh.
- Clava (full name clava mere okewa) – a traditional stone hand-club used by Mapuche Indians in Chile, featuring a long flat body. In Spanish, it is known as clava cefalomorfa. It has some ritual importance as a special sign of distinction carried by the tribal chief.
- Cudgel – A stout stick carried by peasants during the Middle Ages. It functioned as a walking staff and a weapon for both self-defence and wartime. Regiments of clubmen were raised as late as the English Civil War. The cudgel is also known as the singlestick.
- Crowbar – The crowbar is a commonly used improvised weapon, though some examples are too large to be wielded with a single hand, and therefore should be classified as staves.
- Flashlight – A large metal flashlight, such as a Maglite, can make a very effective improvised club. Though not specifically classified as a weapon, it is often carried for self-defense by security guards, bouncers and civilians, especially in countries where carrying weapons is restricted.
- Gunstock war club – The wooden stocks of firearms introduced during the European colonization of the Americas were reportedly re-used by First Nations as improvised weapons; other sources claim that the club was an indigenous weapon before European contact, and acquired the term gunstock from the similarity of its shape. Regardless, the gunstock is an essential part of firearms, but it was stylized as a war club made famous by the American Indians as the gunstock war club. Another more modern variation of this kind of war club is the combat skill of bayonet usage. Even without a knife or blade type attachment, the rifle's body itself is used for close-quarters combat (CQC).
- Jutte – One of the more distinctive weapons of the samurai police was the jutte. Basically an iron rod, the jutte was popular because it could parry and disarm a sword-wielding assailant without serious injury. A single hook on the side near the handle allowed the jutte to be used for trapping or even breaking the blades of edged weapons, as well as for jabbing and striking. The hook could also be used to entangle the clothes or fingers of an opponent. Thus, feudal Japanese police used the jutte to disarm and arrest subjects without serious bloodshed. Eventually, the jutte also came to be considered a symbol of official status.
- Kanabō (nyoibo, konsaibo, tetsubō, ararebo) – Various types of different-sized Japanese clubs made of wood and or iron, usually with iron spikes or studs. First used by the Samurai.
- Kiyoga, a spring baton similar in concept to the Asp collapsible police baton, but with the center section made of a heavy duty steel spring. The tip and first section slide into the spring, and the whole nests into a seven-inch handle. To deploy the kiyoga, all that is necessary is to grasp the handle and swing. This causes the parts to extend from the handle into a baton seventeen inches long. The kiyoga has one advantage over a conventional collapsible baton: it can reach around a raised arm trying to block it to strike the head.
- Knobkierrie, occasionally spelled knopkierie or knobkerry, is a strong, short wooden club with a heavy rounded knob or head on one end, traditionally used by Southern African ethnic groups including the Zulu, as a weapon in warfare and the chase. The word knobkierrie derives from the Dutch knop (knob or button), and the Bushman and Hottentot kerrie or kirri (stick); in the Zulu language it was called the iwisa. The weapon is employed at close quarters, or as a missile, and in time of peace may serve as a walking-stick. The head, or knob, is often ornately carved with faces or shapes that have symbolic meaning. The knobkierrie itself serves this function in the crest of the coat of Arms of South Africa. The name has been extended to similar weapons used by the natives of Australia, the Pacific islands and other places.
- Kubotan – a short, thin, lightweight club often used by law enforcement officers, generally to apply pressure against selected points of the body in order to encourage compliance without inflicting injury.
- Leangle An Australian Aboriginal fighting club with a hooked striking head, typically nearly at right angles to the weapon's shaft. The name comes from Kulin languages such as Wemba-Wemba and Woiwurrung, based on the word lia (tooth).
- Life preserver (also hyphenated life-preserver) – a short, often weighted club intended for self-defense. Mentioned in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance and several Sherlock Holmes stories.
- Lil Lil - An aboriginal club with boomerang like aerodynamics. Can be thrown or hand held.
- Mace – a metal club with a heavy head on the end, designed to deliver very powerful blows. The head of a mace may also have small studs forged into it. The mace is often confused with the spiked morning star.
- Mere – a type of short, broad-bladed club (patu), usually made from Nephrite jade (Pounamu or greenstone). A mere is one of the traditional, close combat, one-handed weapons of the indigenous Māori of New Zealand. The designed use of the mere for forward striking thrusts is an unusual characteristic of Maori patu, whereas in other parts of the world, clubs are generally wielded with an ax-like downward blow.
- Morning star - a medieval club-like weapon consisting of a shaft with an attached ball adorned with one or more spikes.
- Nulla-nulla – a short, curved hardwood club, used as a hunting weapon and in tribal in-fighting, by the Aboriginal people of Australia.
- Nunchaku (also called nunchucks) – an Asian weapon consisting of two clubs, connected by a short rope, thong or chain, and usually used with one club in hand and the other swung as a flail (weapon).
- Oslop – a two-handed, very heavy, often iron-shod, Russian club that was used as the cheapest and the most readily available infantry weapon.
- Paddle Club - Common in the Solomon Islands these clubs could be used in warfare or for propelling a small dugout canoe.
- Pickaxe handle – Pickaxes were common tools in the United States in the early 20th century, and replacement handles were widely available. In developing countries, where manual labor is still prevalent, it is pervasive. Strong and heavy, they make a formidable club and have often been used as club weapons. Pickaxe handles were handed out by segregationist Lester Maddox to the white patrons of his Pickrick Restaurant to keep that establishment from being "integrated". In the British Army pickaxe handles are or were officially used as guards' batons.
- Rungu (Swahili, plural marungu) – a wooden throwing club or baton bearing special symbolism and significance in certain East African tribal cultures. It is especially associated with Maasai morans (male warriors) who have traditionally used it in warfare and for hunting.
- Sally rod – A Sally rod is a long, thin wooden stick, generally made from willow (Latin salix), and used chiefly in the past in Ireland as a disciplinary implement, but also sometimes used like a club (without the fencing-like technique of stick fighting) in fights and brawls. In Japan this type of stick is called the Hanbō meaning half stick, and in FMA (Filipino martial arts) it is called the eskrima or escrima stick, often made from rattan.
- Shillelagh – A shillelagh is a wooden club or cudgel, typically made from a stout knotty stick with a large knob on the end, that is associated with Ireland in folklore. Shillelaghs have traditionally been made from oak, holly, or more famously blackthorn. It is surmised that the name of the weapon came from Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow, Ireland. It is also known as a ‘bata’. Shillelaghs are almost exclusively made from blackthorn today. Whether made as a club, a walking stick, or a combination of the two, the stickmaker will generally pull up a sapling and carve the head out of the root ball, with the trunk serving as the shaft. A large branch with a section of the trunk has also been used. A properly made shillelagh can take up to two years to make, which includes curing time.
- Slapjack – This is a variation of the blackjack. It consists of a longer strap which lets it be used flail-type, and can be used as a club or for trapping techniques as seen in the use of nunchaku and other flexible weapons.
- Telescopic – Telescopic batons are rigid batons that are capable of collapsing to a shorter length for greater portability and concealability. They are illegal in the United Kingdom and some other countries. In Hungary these weapons are named vipera ("viper") and though officially illegal, they were reported as being repeatedly used by riot police units.
- Tonfa (also known in slang as a "PR-24" or "Stanky Doodle") – a staff of Okinawan origin and featuring a second handle mounted perpendicular to the shaft
- Totokia - traditional Fijian weapon
- Ula - Traditional throwing club from Fiji.
- U'u - A exquisitely carved ceremonial club from the Marquesan Islands used as a chiefly status symbol.
- Waddy – a heavy hardwood club, used as a weapon for hunting and in tribal in-fighting, and also as a tool, by the Aboriginal people of Australia. The word waddy describes a club from New South Wales, but is also used generally by Australians to include other Aboriginal clubs, including the nulla nulla and leangle.
Animals using club-like appendages
- Club-winged manakin (bird)
- Jamaican ibis, extinct bird
- Mantis shrimp
- Rodrigues solitaire, extinct bird with carpal spurs or knobs
Ball-headed War Club with Spike, Menominee (Native American), early 19th century, Brooklyn Museum
An iron jutte from Japan.
Small Japanese Tetsubo, an iron club with a leather grip.
Various assorted shillelagh (club).
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 564. .
- Lahr, M. Mirazón; Rivera, F.; Power, R. K.; Mounier, A.; Copsey, B.; Crivellaro, F.; Edung, J. E.; Fernandez, J. M. Maillo; Kiarie, C. (2016). "Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya". Nature. 529 (7586): 394–398. doi:10.1038/nature16477. PMID 26791728.
- Image of clava cefalomorfa Archived 2014-03-14 at Wikiwix Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
- 1991 edition of Chambers's Dictionary
- "Jutte". E-budokai.com. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
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- Francis, Dick. Straight (New York: G.P Putnam's Sons), 1989, pages 99 - 100 and 309.
- "leangle - Definition of leangle in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries - English. Archived from the original on 2017-08-23.
- "Notes on the Sherlock Holmes story ''The Bruce Partington Plans''". Sherlockholmes.stanford.edu. 1908-12-12. Archived from the original on 2011-12-26. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- Hiroa, Te Rangi (1949). The Coming of the Maori. pp. Short Clubs, 278–280.
- Eric Kjellgren, How to Read Oceanic Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2014), p. 153.
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