Traditional bo dimensions

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by Smitfire, Jun 30, 2021.

  1. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    So I'm self-learning a bo kata (shushi no kon from Matayoshi kobudo) and got to wondering what an actual traditional or authentic Okinawan bo is like?
    I see various makes and styles. Red oak, white, etc
    Some have the same diameter along the whole length while others taper towards the ends. I assume the tapered versions are more for demonstrations as you can whip them around a bit quicker but they wouldn't hit as hard in combat. But maybe that's wrong? The tapered ends would concentrate more force in thrusts?
    6ft seems a common length but then other seem longer than that.
    Is there a consensus on what bo were like "back in the day" or is there no right answer?
  2. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    Since my exposure to Okinawan bo is limited, I only know a couple things.

    One, if it's taller than you, it's bo. Shorter than you, jo.

    And the tapered end is not for point striking, but speed. The tapered end especially with flexible woods gives the staff a whiplike quality, which can be seen in a lot of YouTube videos. Standard staves are more rigid and uniform.

    Unfortunately I don't know any bo kata, so that's the limit of what I can share.
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  3. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    The standard of measure I learned was jo was to your armpit, bo was to the top of your head or a couple inches taller.

    I've never seen tapered bo in archival photos, and from a physics standpoint it is sensible to maintain the mass at the end of the weapon. From a production standpoint I don't see any reason to overcomplicate a straight stick.
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  4. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    Hard to tell from the old black and white but this one looks slightly tapered. It's possible the overtly tapered are a newer thing for flashier demos.

    What do you think?

  5. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I think it just looks that way because the bottom is closer than the top, and the bottom is hidden by the quality of the photograph.

    There are some other things which have occurred to me in previous discussions about this which may also be worth mentioning.

    Training was likely done with a variety of of lengths of wood across different schools. These aren't standardized military weapons, they're civilian, and also likely down to personal tastes, and how much someone wants to vary their training, and what was available. In a way it would be like asking for "traditional flintlock dimensions." I could pull up photos with a quite an array of styles and lengths, and, well, people are people and tend to personalize what they're using. Is a bo one inch in diameter or three quarters in diameter? It's a stick, and you're going to use whatever is to hand, doesn't break, and fits comfortably in your hand and with your body dimensions, and is close enough in terms of length.

    The tapered bo, I wonder if it didn't begin by someone training with a length of pole which was initially meant for or taken from a spear, and they just cut the other end to match. I can certainly see someone liking it because of novelty, or because it moved a bit more easily.
    Grond and Flying Crane like this.
  6. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    How about this one? Seriously curious about this because searching through old vintage photos I can swear quite a few at least appear to not be uniform width (could be my old eyes). Not that BB magazine is a great source of historical facts, but at least it's a start.

    This looks tapered on both ends?


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