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Jogo do pau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jogo do pau
Demonstration of 'jogo do pau' on a Portuguese street during a festival
FocusWeapons (sticks)
Country of originGalicia (Spain) Galicia, Spain
Portugal Portugal
Olympic sportNo

Jogo do pau, 'lit. stick game' (IPA: [ˈʒogu du ˈpaw]) is a Portuguese and Spanish martial art which developed in the regions along the Minho River: Minho, Trás-os-Montes, Pontevedra and Ourense, focusing on the use of a staff of fixed measures and characteristics.[1]

It was used for self-defense and also to settle arguments and matters of honour between individuals, families, and even villages. While popular in the northern mountains, it was practically unknown elsewhere, and those who did practice it were taught by masters from the North of Portugal and Galicia.[2]



Amid a conflict between nobles and liberals, the latter were forbidden from carrying or wearing swords.[3] In response, liberals embraced staff combat, a practice that extended its influence across Portugal, reaching both the lower and noble classes.[3] Many Portuguese immigrants skilled in these methods introduced this art to Brazil.[3]

The popularity of this martial art was partly due to the demeanor of the northern folk, who valued personal and family honor enough to kill for it. It was also due in no small part to the relative ease of obtaining a staff as well as the versatility of such a tool: a staff or stick was almost universally present, used as a support for the long daily walks, to help cross the rivers, by the shepherds to protect the cattle from wild animals, and so on. There are references to this martial art being used by the guerrillas against the troops of Napoleon that were occupying Lisbon during the Peninsular War.


Monteiro with young students

The origins of the jogo do pau are medieval civil techniques of combat, used in times of war by foot soldiers who were often poor peasants who could not afford a better weapon. Evidence of this are found, for instance, from reports on the Battle of Aljubarrota. The technique was incorporated into horseback riding in the medieval book A ensinança de bem cavalgar em toda a sela, 'lit. The art of being a good horseman on any saddle' by Edward I of Portugal (1391–1438).[4] This martial art developed not in the urban areas more open to foreign influences, but in Galiza and the most isolated mountain regions of continental Portugal.

The flag of the ancient school of jogo do pau in Ateneu

During the 19th century, jogo do pau was brought to Lisboa by northern masters, resulting in an amalgamation with the technique of the Gameirosabre, growing into a sports competition, removed from actual combat.[2] It was practiced in clubs such as the Ginásio Clube Português and the Ateneu Comercial de Lisboa.

Modern practice


In the 20th century, the practice of jogo do pau suffered a quick decline due to the migrations from rural areas to the cities and the greater ease in access to firearms. The players born between 1910 and 1930 were the last generation to experience the flowering of the sport. The memories of this generation provided a continuity in the 1970s, when the sport was revived. The driving force of this revival was Pedro Ferreira, followed by his student Nuno Curvello Russo, who dedicated his life's ambition to jogo do pau, frequently visiting the North of Portugal, getting acquainted with surviving variants there, especially with the school of Cabeceiras de Basto. He studied at the Ateneu Comercial de Lisboa, whose master is now Manuel Monteiro. Today, the sport is still rather marginal in Portugal, but there is a stable number of practitioners organized in two federations: the Federação Portuguesa de Jogo do Pau and the Federação Nacional do Jogo do Pau Português. This art is also practised in the Azores and Madeira, and outside Portugal in Galicia, Spain.

See also



  • Desch-Obi, Thomas J. (2008). Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-718-4.
  • Preto, Luis (2013). Jogo do Pau: The ancient art & modern science of Portuguese stick fighting, 2nd. Ed. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1480228146.


  1. ^ de Oliveira, Paulo. "Jogo do Pau". home.dbio.uevora.pt. Archived from the original on 2017-07-04. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  2. ^ a b d'Aça, Zacarias (1883). "Esgrima Nacional". Diário da Manhã. Portuguese: Há três escolas: A do Norte, chamada galega por ser oriunda da Galiza..., lit.'There are three schools: The North, called Galician for being from Galicia...'; Portuguese: Os seus professores foram os mais dextros que então havia em Lisboa - um d'elles era gallego, lit.'His teachers were the most highly-regarded in Lisbon at the time - one of them was Galician' (regarding the Galician master that taught José Maria da Silveira, the founder of the Lisbon school of jogo do pau in the 19th century)
  3. ^ a b c Desch-Obi 2008, pp. 180.
  4. ^ Duarte, King of Portugal (2011). Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela [The art of riding on every saddle]. Translated by Preto, António Franco; Preto, Luis. Createspace. ISBN 9781461106616. OCLC 794305428.