Today around the world martial artists from a wide range of styles study and practice a weapons based art form known as Ko-bu-do, or the "ancient martial way". The weapons most commonly associated with kobudo and familiar to most practitioners are the bo, sai, kama, tonfa, and nunchaku. Each of these weapons has in turn associated with it one or more kata.
Weapons training, while not practiced by every Shotokan Karate Club is an integral part of our art. As supplementary to their karate training my students are taught Bo-jutsu. This broadens the students’ development.
Bo-jutsu is an armed system of combat centreing around the use of a long wooden staff called a Bo.
The Bo can vary in length and size depending on the style of martial art. Basically though it is best described as a stick or pole made from very hard wood and is about six feet long and one inch in diameter.
The staff is employed with a two handed gripping action and form is the main training method. Techniques performed with the Bo include striking, thrusting, blocking, parrying, deflecting, sweeping the opponents leg, holding and sweeping dust into the opponent's eyes.
The Bo staff became a popular weapon in Okinawa at a time when edged and metal weapons were outlawed by the ruling Shimazu clan. It is believed to have been developed from the tenbin which was a pole balanced on the shoulders and was used to carry buckets containing water or grain that hung from each end of it.
The first Bo kata learnt is Tenryu no Kon (The Heavenly Dragon). It was a favourite with Funakoshi Sensei.
Training with the Bo helps develop balance and the ability to be more circular in our actions if and when required.
In a fight, the Bo-staff acts as an extension of your arms and legs. All jabs, strikes and blocks should be executed as you would without the weapon in your hands.
Once proficient in Tenryu no Kon then other Bo kata as well as defensive and offensive drills are taught.
However, in a conflict, to rely solely on a weapon and not on your ability as a karate-ka is a big mistake which may inevitably lead to your defeat. Any weapon is only an extension of yourself. It must never be permitted to be more than that.