The Bo is a six-foot long staff, sometimes tapered at either end. It was perhaps developed from a farming tool called a tenbin: a stick placed across the shoulders with baskets or sacks hanging from either end. The bo was also possibly used as the handle to a rake or a shovel. The bo, along with shorter variations such as the jo and hanbō could also have been developed from walking sticks used by travellers, especially monks. The bo is considered the ‘king’ of the Okinawa weapons, as all others exploit its weaknesses in fighting it, whereas when it is fighting them it is using its strengths against them. The bo is the earliest of all Okinawan weapons (and effectively one of the earliest of all weapons in the form of a basic staff), and is traditionally made from red or white oak. Also most of the time they used dark oak for tournaments with the bō.
The Bo is used to block, thrust, and strike an opponent and is effective against most other forms of martial arts weapons. A typical Bojutsu technique will be to block an opponent’s attack with the top part of the staff and then in a fluid motion to counter strike with the lower end. In the hands of a master, there will only be a split second between block and strike. This is one of the reasons why the Bo is one of the most difficult of martial arts weapons to defend against.
Sensei Pete Halloran is our Okinawan weapons instructor who also holds a position on the Shizendo Technical Committee overseeing standards in our Organization.