One of the more common and interesting discussions in swordplay is that of which weapon is the “best.” It seems there are as many opinions as there are weapons. Some think the rapier is best, because of its reach and preeminence in the a one on one duel. Some argue for the longsword for its versatility and power. There is the side that likes the basket hilted broadsword for hand protection and ease of carry. Some people even say the katana is best because they know nothing about swords. It’s always a fun conversation.
Of course that’s just swords. The discussion can easily open up to the broader weapon world. Guns, after all, are the easiest to use and most lethal as well. Does that make them the “best” weapon to carry? I would argue not, partially because of the legal ramifications, but mostly because it’s my feeling that killing should never be easy. From the people I have talked to about guns, it seems that the people who most wish they could legally carry one wherever they go are the ones who would be most likely to be willing to use deadly force far too quickly in my opinion. That’s just my observation, mind you and not me trying to enter the gun debate at this time.
It does raise an interesting point, though. In Canada, swords are in kind of a legal grey area. A weapon here is defined by intent. If I carry a sword with a mind to self defence, I am carrying a weapon and thus am breaking the law. If, however, I am wearing one on my way to teach a class, that’s perfectly fine. Technically I could be carrying one for as flimsy an excuse as it being a “fashion statement” and that would also be okay. I wouldn’t advise it, though. A police officer would be well within their rights to take your sword away from you if they suspect you are up to no good.
This law against carrying weapons, besides having some people up in arms, means that in a modern context the sword isn’t the best weapon to use. Looking purely for modern usage I have some criteria for what I consider to the best. First it must be completely legal to carry. It must be relatively easy to carry as well. If it acts as a deterrent without escalating a dangerous situation, that’s a bonus. Finally it must have a non-lethal option.
There is a weapon that meets all of these criteria. Traditionally seen as the quintessential British weapon, the quarterstaff is an excellent self defence tool. The full eight foot staff is a little awkward, but shorten it down to six and you’ve got yourself a nice walking stick. At that length it still has more than enough reach to give you a solid advantage against anyone armed with a sword, knife, bat or any other weapon you’re likely to come across. A big stick is also visible enough to deter a casual attacker without appearing threatening to passersby. Dress as though you may be going on a hike and no one will give you a second glance.
A quarterstaff would appear to be an ideal weapon for self defence. You probably wont see me carrying one, though. Mostly because I think that if anyone who is participating in this discussion can agree on, it’s that there are very few situations where you actually need a weapon. Usually there are other options.