GabWhackers: A Comparison
One of the joys of Xena: Warrior Princess is watching the chatty bard wannabe from Poteidaia mature into a self reliant woman. Gabrielle learned the hard way what weapons can lead to (note 1). When the time came to choose one, she opted for a defensive weapon, the Amazon Fighting Staff (note 2).
Gabrielle received training from Eponin and Ephiny in the episode "Hooves and Harlots". Later in the episode, she was proficient enough to fight next to Ephiny and save her with her newly acquired staff skills. In the end Ephiny presented Gabrielle with her own staff.
Gabrielle with an early version of the GabWhacker
Note the fuzzy merkin and dark shaft and grip.
It didn't take long before the XWP fans named the staff, affectionately known as the GabWhacker. Over the four seasons, Gabrielle improved her skills with it in many skirmishes until her new Way of Love caused her to toss it into an Indian river (note 3).
Since that time, fans have been trying to resurrect the beloved GabWhacker.
The basic staff. Light colored grip and brown staff.
Gabrielle's staff changes height and ornamentation almost every episode, but some characteristics are relatively constant.
The length is typically a bit taller than her 5 feet 3 inches, about 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet at most.
Upper: Note the faceted surfaces of the Gabrielle's Staff Replica
Lower: WNC GabWhacker staff is round
The diameter varies from approximately 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches. Most photographs indicate that it is round, but at least one photograph (note 3) shows signs of flats indicating a polygonal faceting.
Top to bottom: mini-GabWhacker (WNC),
GabWhacker (WNC),Gabrielle's Staff Replica
The grip consists of two tightly wound areas of cord with a sparsely wound area in the middle. The middle seems to be wrapped in a patterned cloth. The ends of the wrappings are secured with leather bands.
Top to bottom: GabWhacker (WNC), Gabrielle's Staff Replica
The upper end of the staff is wrapped with a piece of fur held in place with two leather bands. This furry piece morphs from episode to episode, at times white or tan, fluffy or sleek.
It's interesting to note that the first Amazon staff shown in Hooves and Harlots wielded by Eponin is barely over 4 feet tall with two distinct cord wraps and a feathery collar just above the upper wrap.
On the other hand, the height of the staff given to Ephiny by her mother is a bit over her head, making it about 5 feet 6 inches complete with a stone raptor head. Ephiny's staff also shows something fuzzy just below the stone head, indicating the likelihood that these fur or feather collars are for ornamentation rather than to indicate which end is up <g>.
Three present day GabWhackers.
This article examines three GabWhackers currently available along with a typical martial arts staff, the Bo.
Pacific Renaissance Pictures LTD
Certificate of Authenticity # 27
The first staff is the "authentic Staff forged by the propmasters at Pacific Renaissance Pictures LTD". This is the offical licensed reproduction. I have staff number 27 of a limited edition of 500. Creation Entertainment markets it for $269.95 US. This replica matches the staff Gabrielle used in the episode Maternal Instincts.
The staff is constructed of a medium light wood, stained dark brown, 64 -1/2 inches long with a diameter of 1-3/8 inch hand faceted with between 8 and 9 flats. The collar is medium brown sleek fur (probably synthetic). The grips are of twisted plant cordage approximately 1/5 inch in diameter. The sparse wrap crosses 4 times. The fabric under the grip has a dark blue pattern with deep red highlights. It seems to be printed on the cloth. The leather bands are the same brown as the stained staff with a smooth surface.
The second staff is "one of WarriorNutCase's Replica GabWhackers (a Merwolf Pup Pack Exclusive)". WarriorNutCase (WNC)fashions these staffs as a special benefit for sale to the members of the Merwolf Pack, a group of fans devoted to Melissa Good's XWP and Uber fan fiction. It costs $55 US.
The staff is a hard wood (likely birch) stained black, 66 inches long with a diameter of 1-1/4 inch with no facets. The collar is a fluffy white synthetic fur. The grips are of twisted plant cordage approximately 1/10 inch in diameter with the sparse portion wrapped 3 times in doubled strands. The fabric under the grip is of a tan background with a dark brown diamond pattern. The leather bands are of black suede leather.
The third staff is SoundWarrior's make-it-yourself project presented on his website. A rough estimate is approximately $10-20 US for materials and your own free time. The site provides explicit and thorough details on construction.
The making the typical staff would require a hardwood rod stained a dark walnut 66 inches long with a diameter of 1-1/2 inches round. The collar, called a merkin, (note 4) is sheepskin stained a light brown. The grips are of twisted wool cordage (unraveled from a scrap of carpet!) perhaps 3/16 inch in diameter. The sparse wrap crosses 5 times. The fabric is a cotton material printed with an "Egyptian Prayer Scarf" pattern via an iron-on t-shirt ink-jet transfer sheet. SoundWarrior avers that this pattern is identical to the real GabWhacker through close study of photographs (note 5). The leather bands are of a dark natural brown with a matte finish.
Interestingly, the SoundWarrior staff positions the center of the grip 3 inches above the center of the staff. The other two GabWhacker's grips are centered.
How they compare:
top to bottom: mini-GabWhacker, GabWhacker, Gabrielle's Staff Replica
These three staffs are very similar, the major differences being in the length of the cord wrapped grips and the faceting of the official reproduction staff (ORS).
Whereas the WarriorNutCase and SoundWarrior staffs are round and smooth, the surface of the ORS has been roughly power sanded into irregular facets to simulate the effects of a craftsman whittling the shaft with a knife. The leather bands are worn at the corners. The effect is to look as if the staff has seen some use in the field.
How do these GabWhackers compare to a modern Bo?
A typical martial arts Bo (notes 6, 7) is 6 feet long, 1-1/4 inches in diameter in the center tapering to 1 inch at the ends. It is made of either white or red oak. It is completely naked; no wrappings of any kind. This permits the rapid movement of hands on the shaft. The taper reduces the weight at the ends to permit a faster, whippier snap action. Typical cost is $16 US at your local martial arts supply store.
A competition staff would be of 1 inch wood tapering to 3/4 inch at the ends. The lighter weight permits sustained action with less fatigue.
How realistic is Gabrielle's GabWhacker?
A 5-1/2 to 6 foot staff would aid walking, especially on uneven terrain. The extra length permits Gabrielle to defend herself without getting too close to the enemy, especially one with a sword. A non tapered staff provide more momentum during a strike for a knockout punch.
The grip is problematical; during most fight scenes, Gabrielle holds onto the wood, not the grips. A smooth shaft would facilitate the rapid sliding shift of hands during battle.
And what of the fur collar? Most feel that it is a useless decoration. However it could be used to mark the top of the staff, especially when the bottom of the staff can be muddy and icky from the road. Sometimes it's nice to know which end to grip without wondering if Argo passed by lately <g>.
Do you really, really need one?
Does Gabrielle need nutbread? For the crafty person, check out the instructions at SoundWarrior's site (note 1). He even has instructions to make Xena's Chakram). WarriorNutCase's GabWhacker is well made AND she also makes a mini GabWhacker (3 feet high) or how about her pencil sized one? (note 3) Finally, run, don't walk, to Creation Entertainement's site to order your limited edition (500 max) high priced "authentic Staff" (note 2).
When Gabrielle chose the Amazon Fighting Staff as her defensive weapon, she gave us the term GabWhacker and tales and legends of the Gab Whacking Warrior Bard. Since the end of the fourth season, she has truly become the Warrior Bard, graduating to Sais, and showing her skill with sword, rope, mace and staff (note 8). But the GabWhacker remains in our hearts as the first and best weapon of the peace loving Amazon queen.
If you want to play with a staff, buy a 1-inch, 10 feet long grey plastic electrical conduit at your local hardware store for $3 US. Cut it in half to make two 5 feet staffs. They are light weight, smooth, whippy and cause less damage to objects (and bodies) when accidentally struck. You can practice your whacks, spins, sweeps and fancy moves without damaging your prized GabWhacker.
Comparative table : all measurements in inches
Official Staff WarriorNutCase SoundWarrior Top shaft 2.5 2.5 2.5 Leather band 2 brown 3 black 2.5 dark brown Fur 3 light brown 2.75 white 3 off white Leather band 2 3 black 2.5 Upper shaft 11.5 dark brown 9 black 6.6 dark brown Leather band 2 3 2 Upper grip 5.25 / .2 dia / off white 4.25 / .1 dia / tan 8.4 / .2 dia / off white Spiral grip 9 12 10 Lower grip 4.5 4 8.8 Leather band 2 3 2 Bottom shaft 21 20.5 20.2 Total length 64.5 66 66 Shaft diameter 1.375 octagonal 1.25 round 1.3 round Weight 1 lb 7.6 oz 1 lb 14.4 oz 2 lb (?)
1. Dreamworker. Gabrielle learns about the dangers of using a sword and how to vault using a staff.
2. Hooves and Harlots. Gabrielle is introduced to the Amazon Fighting Staff. Eponin trains her while Ephiny gives her an object lesson on how to theoretically kill a Centaur.
3. The Way. Gabrielle renounces violence for the way of love and tosses her staff into a nearby river.
4. SoundWarrior calls the furry piece a "merkin". According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1998: "merkin \Mer"kin\, n. Originally, a wig; afterwards, a mop for cleaning cannon." Although the furry piece resembles a cleaning mop at the end of a rod for swabbing cannon bores, the term "merkin" is probably not appropriate here.
5. "In the episode 'Blind Faith' we see Gabrielle haggle for what the trader calls an 'Egyptian Prayer Scarf'. On closer inspection this scarf is the exact fabric as used on her staff. Perhaps that's why she liked it so much." Quoted from SoundWarrior's webpage http://www.iinet.net.au/~chrisj/swxp/ArtCraft/GabStaff1.html
6. Bo Karate : Weapon of Self Defense by Fumio Demura. This book contains a description of various staffs and staff techniques.
7. Dexter A Hansen offers instructions on how to make your own Japanese Bo with excellent detail and background information. http://home.att.net/~dexter.a.hansen/bo/bo.htm
8. Gabrielle uses a spear as a staff in Back In The Bottle. In Little Problems, she starts with a sai, disarms the thug and grabs a sword, later a mace. Earlier, while protecting the unconscious Xena, Gabrielle grabs a piece of rope and proceeds to demolish the opposition.
1. SoundWarrior's excellent web pages on how to build your own GabWhacker is fun to read even though you may not wish to build your own. Lots of thought and research went into this page.
2. Creation Entertainment's Gabrielle's Staff
3. WarriorNutCase can be reached at WarriorNutcase@aol.com
4. GABRIELLE'S STAFF TECHNIQUES <IAXS project #435> By Donald Plunkett <Whoosh 17>. An excellent discussion on Gabrielle's use of the staff and how it compares with staff usage in other cultures.
5. A BATTLIN' BARD: GABRIELLE AND STAFF COMBAT TECHNIQUES <IAXS project #440> By Terry Fines <Whoosh 21>. An excellent discussion on how Gabrielle's technique evolves over time.
Jim Yuen (aka FuzzyButt the Elder) started watching Xena:Warrior Princess in early 1999 after the Babylon 5 arc ended. An avid Fantasy and Science fiction reader since elementary school, Jim is no stranger to strong, competent women growing up with his five sisters.
First episode: Sins of the Past in rerun, after watching Gauntlet.
Favorite episodes: Too many, but certainly ADITL and HH.
Least Favorite episode: Ulysses (?)
Favorite lines: Gabrielle-- I want you to understand something. We both have families we were born into. But sometimes families change, and we have to build our own. For me, our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could. Xena to Gabrielle in TIES THAT BIND.
"For many years I walked in Xena's shadow... she taught me something. It's warmer standing in the sun.", Gabrielle in THEM BONES THEM BONES.