The Bō Staff as a Tool, Not a Toy

The Bō Staff as a Tool, Not a Toy

When we look at what a wooden staff or pole is, we see just that:  Something made of wood that’s shaped like a stick or a pole, for the most part.  But, when we hear the words “Bō staff,” as martial artists, we think of something else completely different.  In fact, many of  us could be picturing ourselves in a nice stance, holding the staff as taught to us by our Sensei (“sen-say”), or instructor, getting ready to throw it around in what’s called a Figure-Eight move, or use it in a Front Spin move.  The list of possible techniques we can use to defend ourselves against attack is endless, because there are so many combinations that can be joined to together to make up a form, or kata, in Bōjutsu, the study of using the Bō as a self-defense weapon.

In almost every situation, it helps us to think of the Bō as an extension of ourselves when we use it.  If we move forward in an overhead downward strike, after blocking a blow from some opponent, we may follow up after the strike with a side kick or a leg sweep to make sure the person who we’re defending ourselves against will go down or at least won’t counter our own overhead strike with one of his or her own.  The point is that the Bō can’t usually be separated from the body.  We use both, and it doesn’t matter to us if we like the Japanese version of self defense in using the Bō more than we like the Chinese system of using the Guan, which is their name for the wooden staff.  Also, we always must use it with clear thought and clear focus.  In other words, we don’t let what we’re thinking about in our heads get in the way of what we’re doing in the time we’re working with a wooden staff like the Bō.

Here is an Amazing Bo Staff that is Custom Made for a child by Weapons Manufacturer Buki Yuushuu.


Many times, students run into problems when they begin studying how to use a wooden staff for self-defense against attackers because they forget that it’s nothing more than another way in which their bodies and minds come together for a single purpose.  They also fail to understand that their bodies and minds are unable to complete the joining up without the active help of the spirit they all have within them.  This “spirit,” in martial arts is more than just the kind of spirit a group of high school cheerleaders work so hard to cause at a basketball game, for example.

What we really mean by spirit in the martial arts is what happens when you’re really focused on the Bō right at that moment in time, and when you’re really, really happy and confident that you know what you need to do with the staff almost without knowing it on any conscious level.  Think about a time when you were practicing in the dojo (“dough-joe”) with a Bō and every movement or strike or block came very easy to you, and your technique was great, and you weren’t even sweating, and you could almost see the attack by your opponent before he or she even thought of doing it themselves.  That’s what we mean by making your mind and body into a single unit, which is held together by the actions of your spirit.

In the end, you must realize that any good Bō is a tool to help you, and be an extension of yourself.  Your energy will flow from your body to it and then from it back to you.  If you can make that positive energy on a regular basis, your skill with the Bō will increase with each day or week.

The people at Buki Yuushuu recognize that a Bō is not a toy, and yet can also be a highly personal weapon to each student.  Please see the online catalog at for finely crafted examples of what a serious Bō can look like.

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