Whoosh! Issue 45 - June 2000


By Jim Yuen
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
2295 words

Introduction (01-10)
Three Present-Day GabWhackers (11-18)
How They Compare (19-20)
How Do These GabWhackers Compare To A Modern Bo? (21-22)
How Realistic Is Gabrielle's GabWhacker? (23-25)
Do You Really, Really Need One? (26)
Conclusion (27)
Last Thoughts (28)
Comparative Table

GabWhackers: A Comparison


[01] One of the joys of Xena: Warrior Princess is watching the chatty bard wannabe from Poteidaia mature into a self-reliant woman. Early in the series, Gabrielle learns the hard way what weapons can lead to [Note 01]. Later, when the time comes for Gabrielle to choose one, she opts for a defensive weapon, the Amazon Fighting Staff [Note 02].

[02] Gabrielle receives training from Eponin and Ephiny in the episode HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110). Later in the episode, she becomes proficient enough to fight next to Ephiny and save her life with her newly acquired staff skills. In the end, Ephiny presents Gabrielle with her own staff.

Wait... did I leave the oven on in Poteidaia?

Gabrielle with an early version of the GabWhacker. Note the fuzzy merkin and dark shaft and grip.
[03] It did not take long before the Xena: Warrior Princess fans named the staff, affectionately known as the GabWhacker. Over the next 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 03].

[04] Since that time, fans have been trying to resurrect the beloved GabWhacker.

I dare you to limbo THIS low!

The basic staff. Light colored grip and brown staff.
[05] 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 six feet at most.

[06] 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 (see above) shows signs of flats indicating a polygonal faceting.

Which one of these is a pencil with delusions of grandeur?

Top to bottom: mini-GabWhacker (WNC), GabWhacker (WNC),Gabrielle's Staff Replica
[07] 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.

No cottontail rabbits were harmed in the making of the top staff

Top to bottom: GabWhacker (WNC), Gabrielle's Staff Replica
[08] 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.

[09] The first Amazon staff shown in HOOVES AND HARLOTS wielded by Eponin is barely over four feet tall, with two distinct cord wraps and a feathery collar just above the upper wrap.

[10] On the other hand, 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 that perhaps these fur or feather collars are for ornamentation rather than to indicate which end is up.

Three Present-Day GabWhackers

[11] This article examines three GabWhackers currently available along with a typical martial-arts staff, the Bo.

[12] The first staff is the "authentic Staff forged by the propmasters at Pacific Renaissance Pictures LTD". This is the official 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.

[13] 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 8 or 9 flats. The collar is medium-brown sleek fur (probably synthetic). The grips are twisted plant cordage approximately 1/5 inch in diameter. The sparse wrap crosses four 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.

[14] 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.

[15] The staff is a hard wood (likely birch) stained black, 66 inches long with a diameter of 1-1/4 inch and no facets. The collar is a fluffy white synthetic fur. The grips are twisted plant cordage approximately 1/10 inch in diameter, with the sparse portion wrapped three times in doubled strands. The fabric under the grip is tan with a dark-brown diamond pattern. The leather bands are black suede leather.

[16] The third staff is SoundWarrior's make-it- yourself project, presented on his Website. A rough estimate is approximately $10 to $20 US for materials-and your own free time. The site provides explicit and thorough details on construction.

[17] Making the typical staff requires a hardwood rod stained dark walnut 66 inches long with a diameter of 1- 1/2 inches. The collar, called a merkin [Note 04], is sheepskin stained light brown. The grips are twisted wool cordage (unraveled from a scrap of carpet!) perhaps 3/16 inch in diameter. The sparse wrap crosses five times. The fabric is a cotton material printed with an "Egyptian Prayer Scarf" pattern via an iron-on t-shirt ink-jet transfer sheet [Note 05]. SoundWarrior avers that this pattern is identical to the real GabWhacker through close study of photographs. The leather bands are dark natural brown with a matte finish.

[18] Interestingly, the SoundWarrior staff positions the center of the grip three inches above the center of the staff. The other two GabWhackers' grips are centered.

How They Compare

The mysterious and seldom-seen GabWhacker graveyard

Top to bottom: mini-GabWhacker, GabWhacker, Gabrielle's Staff Replica
[19] 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).

[20] Where 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 as if the staff has seen some use in the field.

How Do These GabWhackers Compare To A Modern Bo?

[21] A typical martial-arts Bo [Note 06] is six feet long, 1-1/4 inches in diameter in the center tapering to one 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.

[22] A competition staff would be of one-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?

[23] A 5-1/2 to six-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. Untapered staffs provide more momentum during a strike for a knockout punch.

[24] The grip is a problem. During most fight scenes, Gabrielle holds the wood, not the grips. A smooth shaft would facilitate the rapid sliding shift of hands during battle.

[25] What of the fur collar? Most feel that it is a useless decoration. However, it could mark the top of the staff, especially when the bottom can be muddy and icky from the road. Sometimes it is nice to know which end to grip without wondering if Argo passed by lately.

Do You Really, Really Need One?

[26] Does Gabrielle need nutbread? For the crafty person, check out the instructions at SoundWarrior's site. (He even has instructions to make Xena's Chakram). WarriorNutCase's GabWhacker is well-made, AND she also makes a mini GabWhacker (three feet high)-or how about her pencil- sized one [Note 07]? Finally, run-do not walk-to Creation Entertainment's site to order your limited-edition (500 max) high-priced "authentic Staff" [Note 08].


[27] When Gabrielle chose the Amazon Fighting Staff as her defensive weapon, she gave us the term GabWhacker and tales and legends of the GabWhacking 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 09]. But the GabWhacker remains in our hearts as the first and best weapon of the peace-loving Amazon queen.

Last Thoughts

[28] If you want to play with a staff, buy a one- inch, ten-foot-long gray plastic electrical conduit at your local hardware store for $3 US. Cut it in half to make two five-foot staffs. They are light-weight, smooth, and whippy, and they 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

Insert merkin A into twine B...

Gab Staff Diagram
Official StaffWarriorNutCaseSoundWarrior
Top shaft2.52.52.5
Leather band2 brown3 black2.5 dark brown
Fur3 light brown2.75 white3 off white
Leather band23 black2.5
Upper shaft11.5 dk brown9 black6.6 dark brown
Leather band232
Upper grip5.25/.2 dia/off white4.25/.1 dia/tan8.4/.2 dia/off white
Spiral grip91210
Lower grip4.548.8
Leather band232
Bottom shaft2120.520.2
Total length64.56666
Shaft diameter1.375 octagonal1.25 round1.3 round


Note 01:
Gabrielle learns about the dangers of using a sword and how to vault using a staff.
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Note 02:
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.
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Note 03:
THE WAY (84/416).
Gabrielle renounces violence for the way of love and tosses her staff into a nearby river.
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Note 04:
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.
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Note 05:
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 Web page.
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Note 06:
Bo, Karate Weapon of Self Defense. Fumio Demura. Burbank: Ohara Publications, 1976.
This book contains a description of various staffs and staff techniques.
Martial Arts Page. Dexter A Hansen.
This Website offers instructions on how to make your own Japanese Bo with excellent detail and background information.
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Note 07:
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.
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Note 08:
Creation Entertainment's Gabrielle's Staff
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Note 09:
Gabrielle uses a spear as a staff in BACK IN THE BOTTLE (97/507). In LITTLE PROBLEMS (98/508), she starts with a sai, disarms the thug and grabs a sword, and later a mace. Earlier, while protecting the unconscious Xena, Gabrielle grabs a piece of rope and proceeds to demolish the opposition.
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SoundWarrior's excellent Web page 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.

Creation Entertainment's Gabrielle's Staff

WarriorNutCase can be reached at WarriorNutcase@aol.com

"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.

"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 Jim Yuen
Jim Yuen (aka FuzzyB*tt 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 five sisters.
Favorite episode: Too many, but certainly A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110).
Favorite line: Xena: "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." TIES THAT BIND (20/120). Gabrielle: "For many years I walked in Xena's shadow... she taught me something. It's warmer standing in the sun." THEM BONES THEM BONES (95/505).
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) in rerun, after watching THE GAUNTLET (H12/H112).
Least favorite episode: ULYSSES (43/219)

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