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Bataireacht – Ireland
Source: Nick/In-Kungfu posted on: June 24, 2010          |     


Bataireacht(pronounced “bata-rokt,” bata meaning stick in Irish) is the Irish martial art of stick fighting, sometimes also called Bataireacht Sail-Éílle (Shillelagh Stick Fighting), a shillelagh (pronounced shil-ey-lee) being the Irish term for a stick used for combat purposes. 

Although there isn’t an exact date as to when the fighting system was developed, it was taught for centuries in Ireland, handed down from father to son or taught in military fencing schools, with many different styles being developed according to family preference and size of stick being used. Training within the martial art included techniques for sword, spear, staff and axe fighting, which would have been used for self-defence and battle purposes. 

Bataireacht at Faction FightingOriginally the shillelagh was used in a gentlemanly manner as a means of settling disputes (much like duelling) but increasing use at Irish faction fights — large groups of men from different clans or neighbouring towns engaging in brutal battles — led to the demise of Bataireacht and it’s traditional use of the shillelagh and rules of combat, the fights often including other weapons and farm implements. Furthermore, the move towards Irish independence from the British in the 19thcentury led to political leaders distancing themselves from anything to do with the factionalism, Bataireacht being one of the customs they disfavoured. Eventually, with the rise of the Fenian Movement, the shillelagh was replaced with the gun and Bataireacht all but died out. 

More recently Bataireacht has begun to be revived with modern practise being carried out by those who wish to maintain Irish traditions and culture and those with a keen interest in Western martial arts. Some styles of the art have been kept alive by being passed down through the family in the traditional way — such as "Rince an Bhata Uisce Bheatha" (the whiskey stick dance) of the Irish Newfoundlanders Doyle family — and much research and reconstruction from historic texts and manuals has been carried out by groups and individuals with martial arts knowledge in other fighting systems, both Asian and Western. 

A common style of shillelagh Characteristics and Structure

Bataireacht has no standardization in the size or design of stick used and so different styles developed with different techniques to suit the length and features of the stick in question. 

Shillelagh fighting sticks were traditionally made from blackthorn, oak, ash or hazel and smeared with butter then placed up a chimney to season, giving the stick its typical shiny, black appearance. Some sticks would have their tops bored out and molten lead poured in to add extra weight to the butt of the stick. Although no standardization existed in the length or design of the sticks some names for categories of stick do exist: 


Irish Name(s)

English Name(s)

Length (in feet)

sleá, ga


maide ceathrún

stafóg ceathrún








sail éille

bata siúil éille


bata mór/tríú




great/third stick


bata pionsa

"backsword" cudgel or "single-stick"


bata siúil

maide láimhe

bata mór/tríú

walking stick

walking stick

great/third stick



hurley stick



crann bagair




smachtín buta luaidhe

"loaded butt"



A selection of different shillelagh stylesWithin the different styles variations exist on the position and number of hands used to wield the stick. Some styles prefer a single hand grip, much like fencing, whilst others use a double handed grip, the position of both hands varying from close together (like a double handed sword) to spaced apart (like staff fighting).

Fighter employs a single handed Bataireacht techniqueTechniques, of course, depend on the size of the stick being used. Some styles (usually single-handed styles) use techniques akin to fencing, often incorporating other techniques with the free hand, whilst others favour movements similar to staff or spear fighting. 


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1. What benefits do you want from martial arts?

a. I want self-defense and discipline
b. I would like to improve my health and body
c. Everything. Defense, discipline and fitness

2. Where is your body's powerhouse?

a. Most of my strength comes from my upper body
b. My legs are the strongest part of my body
c. My entire body is a powerhouse
d. Nowhere, I prefer to use weapons or skill

3. How would you defend yourself from an attack?

a. Striking my opponent down with all my might.
b. Blocking or controlling an opponent's strike
c. Somewhere in between.

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