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Shillelagh anatomy

A short guide by Max Chouinard

One thing that strikes me when discussing bataireacht with students, is how much we lack a vocabulary to talk about the stick. Most martial arts will have a typology to discuss the different parts of their weapons, but the shillelagh has none. In this article, I propose a short list of different terms to be used when discussing the Irish stick.

Note that this terminology is not part of the tradition that I learned from Antrim Bata. It is taken from Niall Ó Dónaill’s Irish dictionary Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla published in 1977 which mentions many shillelagh specific terms. It is not meant as an official bataireacht typology, and others might use different terms depending on the region and style, though everyone is welcome to use it.

Murlán: The knob. Interestingly, Ó Dónaill mentions that this word not only designates the knob of a stick, but also the button of a foil (murlán ar phionsa) or the knuckles of the hand (ag imirt murlán). Pronunciation: Murr-lonn  – rhymes with English words purr-gone.

Ramhar: This is referred to as the « thick part » (an ceann ramhar den bhata). This would be the part of the stick above the grip, which is used mostly to block with.  Pronunciation: Row-urr. The first syllable rhymes with English « now » or « cow ».

Dorn: This is the grip, the area which is gripped by the hand to wield the shillelagh. Pronunciation: Just as it would be in English.

Buta: This is the butt, the lower part of the stick used to defend the arm and to strike with. Pronunciation: Butt-ah. The first syllable rhymes with English « butt ». Final vowel is neutral. The « T » is pronounced very sharply.

Barr: The point or ferrule. This is the small point of the stick used to stab and thrust with. Pronunciation: Just like English « bar. »


Thank you to Ben Miller for his help with pronunciation and review.

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