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Juego del Palo or “the Game of the Stick” is a traditional martial art/folk sport of stick fighting practiced in the Canary Islands. It involves the combative use of a slender stick between 4 to 6 feet in length that is wielded in both hands, and is characterised by fluid and attacks and defences.
The origins of Juego del Palo may be traced back to the Guanches, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canaries prior to the period of Spanish conquest during the early 1400s. A Spanish engineer named Leonardo Torriani wrote a history of the Canary Islands in 1590, and included a record of early Juego del Palo, accompanied by an illustration of two Guanche warriors performing a type of ritual combat with short staves in a small arena.Torriani wrote;
The art has been maintained through to the present day, undergoing a particular renaissance during the 1970s as part of a general effort to maintain native Canarian folk traditions. It bears resemblance to the Portuguese martial art ‘Jogo do Pau’ and the Venezuelan martial art Juego del Garrote.
Comparable in many ways to the Filipino martial arts, Juego del Palo is divided into a number of specific styles or local traditions that have been developed on particular islands within the archipelago, and/or by particular families. The nine primary styles practiced in modern Juego del Palo include the Deniz, Morales, Verga, Acosta, Quintero, Vidal, Confiero, Juego del Garotte and Juego de la Lata.
Each style is distinguished from the others by specific fighting techniques and strategies, and also by the rules under which it is played as a competitive game. This may be described as a form of stick fencing between two players that is characterized by the spontaneous interplay of attacking techniques and defense techniques. No protective equipment is worn in traditional Juego del Palo; safety is maintained through the skilled control of attacks, which are indicated) rather than being made with full force upon the opponent’s body.
Juego del Palo is now a popular sports activity in the Canaries and has been the subject of considerable academic interest as well, with a number of professional conferences having been held at local universities to investigate the history, culture, and technique of the art.
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