Then during my recent kobudo grading session, I had to partner my husband in his jo grading (he partnered me for my tonfa grading) and I was asked by the grading officer to fetch a bo! I had never held a bo in my life before. Not owning a bo, and not knowing what to do with it anyway, I was despatched to find my instructor and ask to borrow one. Anyway the grading officer was very patient and showed me how to hold it and strike with it. I was hooked! I found the bo reasonably intuitive to use and move with and decided during my husband's grading that it was going to be my next weapon. By the way, my husband passed his jo grading with honours in spite of me!
So my training with the bo has begun. So far, I have learnt to 'bo walk', demonstrating elbow, head, overhead and groin strikes as I move forward. Then we've done something that resembles 'sanbon kumite' in karate where one partner steps forwards doing a particular strike as the other partner steps backwards, blocking the strike. After 4 strikes you swap roles to arrive back at your original starting point. Then you repeat the process with each type of strike/block. Great fun!
Now that I'm getting used to handling the bo I've come to realise that it is in fact a very versatile weapon and not just an uninspiring stick. The basic premise of the bo is to increase the force delivered in a strike through leverage. It can be used to strike an opponent's eyes, throat, solar plexus or groin. You can use it to block an attack, apply joint locks and to sweep an opponent off their feet - all without having to get in too close.
I had always thought of the bo as being an Okinawan/Japanese weapon used in some styles of karate training. I hadn't appreciated that it is also used extensively in a range of other martial arts, including jujitsu and virtually every civilisation in the world has used a long stick as a self-defence weapon. Historically in Okinawa during the feudal period when all weapons were banned, the bo is thought to have originated from a farm implement used to carry two containers of rice or water on either side of the shoulders or from a pole used to 'punt' boats across the paddy fields.
There is something very tactile about the bo. Its thickness makes it easy and comfortable to grip and its smoothness allows it to glide effortlessly through the hands. It feels perfectly balanced when held in the middle and its weight is light enough to manipulate and swing easily but heavy enough to generate some power. The only downside is that I'm acutely aware that I have triceps muscles today and my neck and shoulders ache!
Here's a short tutorial of how to spin the bo: