Can Your Character Handle A Bo?

The bo is a long staff used as a weapon in martial arts.


Okinawan man with tenbin. Taken by Harold K Fawcett, 1945

During the early Japanese occupation of Okinawa, strict laws prohibited locals from carrying weapons.  In order to protect themselves, Okinawans began to convert common farming and fishing tools into weapons. The bo came from the tenbin, a staff used like a yoke over the shoulders to carry buckets of water or food suspended on each end. The training of bo and other traditional weapons is known as Okinawan kobudo which translates as “old martial way of Okinawa.”

The modern bo is a well known weapon used in many styles of martial arts around the world.  Though it can vary in length, the most common size is six feet long.  This full size bo is sometimes called a rokushakubo (roku = six, shaku = a unit of measurement about 1 foot in length, bo = staff).  Diameters can also vary between one and two inches and may or may not taper at the ends. Bo can be made from a variety of hard woods, bamboo or rattan.  Depending on what they are made from, they can be heavy, light, rigid or flexible.

In combat, the bo acts as an extension of the fighter’s limbs.  Many of the blocks and strikes are executed using similar body mechanics to empty hand techniques. The advantage of the bo over many other weapons is its reach.  The disadvantage is that it requires both hands to properly execute techniques with precision.

Chances are your martial arts character won’t have a bo handy to fight the villain, however, she can use her kobudo experience with an improvised weapon like a stick, broom, mop, cue stick or anything else you can imagine.

Leave your questions about the bo in the comments section and I’ll answer them as quickly as I can.

~KM Fawcett

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