, or fighting stick is a heavy stick of oak
, or blackthorn
from 18 to 36 inches in length, with a hard knob on one end. The most common form seen today is the shillelagh
, so named by an English
writer for the Shillelagh forest in county Wicklow
When crafting a bata, it is common to leave the bark on and either bury it in manure or coat it with butter and place it in the chimney to keep it from splitting while curing. In many cases, it is also common to pour molten lead into the knob to produce a 'loaded stick' for those not made of blackthorn. For blackthorn batas, this is not necessary as the knob is actually part of the root and already extremely hard.
When fighting with the bata, it is normally held halfway along its length in one hand and snapped towards the opponent with the wrist, rather than simply swung like a club. It was not unknown for some men to fight with two - this style is referred to as troid de bata (two-stick fight, though it literally translates as "fight from fighting stick"). In this style, the stick in the off hand is used for parrying, while the other is used for attack.
The bata was used only by men on other men, it being an extremely shameful act to strike a woman with one no matter the circumstances (though it was common for women to use stockings filled with rocks as a weapon in the same fights that made the bata famous). Usually, a bata was given to a boy by his father, who also taught him the basics of fighting with it. For further training, he might go to a Maighistir Prionnsa (fencing master, though it literally translates as "master prince").
Stick fighting was a common event at fairs of the 18th and 19th centuries, where a man wishing to be challened would drag his coat behind him, saying, "Who'll tread on the tail of my coat?" As noted by Sir John Barrington (a member of the Irish Parliament in 1790) in his book Personal Sketches of His Own Times, these fights were "like sword exercises and did not appear savage."