OK, so what's a bowstaff?

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Aug 4, 2004
Watched Napolean Dynamite again last night, and so now I have to know.

("there's a buttload of gangs at this school. Some of them wanted me to join 'cuz I'm pretty good with a bow staff." Lol).

Is this the old plain straight staff that Daffy Duck used to have a heck of a time with ("dodge, parry, spin, whack!")?

Anyone have or train with one? I'm picturing that scene from the first Indiana Jones where he just pulls his sidearm and shoots ol boy towelhead after his fancy sword display.
That all it is, a 6' straight staff.

It may not seem like much of a weapon, and against a gun it obviously isn't, but against someone with a knife, club, sjambok, or other hand held weapon, it can be devestating.

GGB, you know how important it is to have skills so chicks will dig you? :D I just watched that documentary as well, very enlightening and humorous. Where's Grandma? She's at the sand dunes.

The term is "bo". It is from Japanese martial arts (and Korean). It is a staff, usually 6 feet in length. Used in a double end manner. There is also "jo" a three foot staff.

In Chinese martial arts which I study the term is gwan. In the Northern styles, e.g. Praying Mantis, the weapon is used in a double end manner (derived from the way monks used it during their chores) with three main strikes, overhead, side hook and uppercuts. It is usually your height, plus a fist. There are other methods that other styles use.

It is taught first alone, then pitted against another staff, broadsword and the spear. More well-known sets include Fifth Son Staff, Six Harmony Staff and Shepard Staff. It is the foundation weapon for all long weapons, spear, halberd, etc.

In Southern styles (White Crane, WIng Chun, Hung Gar, Phoenix Eye, inter alia) the staff is used in a single end manner (derived from the long poles used to push boats from sand bars, etc. in Southern China). The weapon is usually much longer and heavier and used in a thrusting manner. Used primarily as a training device to strengthen forearms and obtain correct balance and alignment in empty hand work.
isnt a jo staff normally 4 foot long? not trying to argue the point since i know next to nothing about the subject...its just thats what ive always been told.

there was a guy that practiced bo staff at a gym i used to go to...it was pretty neat to watch. when using the tapered ended ones he made those suckers hum through the air.

napoleon dynamite cracked me up. i was amazed to find out ligers really exsist.
best thing about a bo is that it gives donatello a slightly longer reach than the other turtles. at least in the second game. :)

bos are nifty, but require a great deal of space for training. jos are nice cause you can use them inside (if you're careful).
Bo (Rokushakubo)= 6'
Jo = 4'
Hanbo = 3'

Probably the most famous Japanese staff school was the Kukishin Ryu. Kukishin Ruy staff movements are characterized by frequent spinning of the bo, and shifting or sliding the hands over the length of the staff.

As far as using them inside, once upon a time, I practised every night with a 7' bo...in an apartment with an 8' ceiling. ;)

If I'm not mistaken the Jo staff is measured to the armpit of the user so will vary from person to person.

That is how I was taught also.

The staff is a devastating weapon. In the proper hands the only (non-firearms) weapon that is more dangerous is the spear.

I agree the spear is devastating, but I was taught that the bo is a weak weapon, and thus, one's body dynamics have to be virtually perfect to use it well.

"your grandma took a spill at the dunes and broke her COC-yx." :) OK, "BO" staff. Thanks for all the great info guys. Sounds like it'd be a formidable weapon against a contact-weapon wielder, particularly as a primarily-defensive-posture weapon, against say, a swordsman.
one's body dynamics have to be virtually perfect to use it well

Based upon my experience this is true of all weapons, from the Bow, to the Bo. There is no substitute for training, practice and experience. If I were limited to one martial arts weapon, I would choose a spear, my second choice would be a staff, my third choice a sword.

I really prefer standoff weapons. I like firearms, and if you eliminate them, a bow is an excellent choice.

Well, a strong sword in the hands of a decent swordsman will probably take most staff wielders. OTOH, a half-decent spearman will probably take all but the best (and probably lucky) swordsmen...

Distance is good, but wood vs. sharp steel does not favor wood, unless the steel is just a knife.

Respectfully, one can use a firearm well with all manner of body styles. One can push a spear into an opponent, likewise, with a variety of stances. OTOH, one had better be quick and good if taking on a sword-wielding opponent with only a long stick, because it only takes half a second to close that distance and slice the boman.

Maybe there are no decent swordsmen in my art, but I have never, ever been beaten with a sword when I have a staff.

But then again, this is not an edged sword either, but in our class we tried and could not cut through a staff with any real sword on one stroke, mostly we just lodged the sword in the staff in a way that it was very difficult to remove.

I really don’t think a staff could be cut through by most swords, I am sure there are exceptions out there, but I am not aware of them. Again, I would choose a staff over a sword any time.

But then again I am not an expert. I have only been practicing in martial arts for the last 7 years, I should test for my 2nd degree black belt soon. There are many with more experience than myself who may have a different opinion.

It is interesting to study the development of weapons, among foot soldiers, the spear reined supreme. Again, if I could choose and firearms were eliminated I believe the bow is the most dangerous weapon.

Well, we definitely agree on the spear. :)

I wouldn't try to actually cut through a staff (we typically used 1 1/8 - 1 1/4" bos), but just cover and close. I am fairly confident of my own ability with a staff- or, at least I used to be- but I practised every night for months.

Fortunately, firearms require much less practice!


So it is likely too long to fit in his locker

Doesn't matter....no room....can't fit his nun-chucks now
Besides length, doesn't width have something to do with differentiating between bo and jo? I thought the jo was smaller in diameter than the bo, and not tapered. All I am basing this on is my (imperfect) memories of a catalog from many years ago.

As an aside, my brother made me a naginata by attaching a machete to a jo. It's scary looking. :)
'bo' is japanese for stick.
"standard" length of a bo is 6 feet but this is for a training weapon. As far as a real weapon goes, you can have any length/thickness/material you want - as well as whatever attachments you want to put on one or both ends. There is a big difference between training weapons and real weapons.
WOZ: for years I've used a Rattan Lathi as a walking stick. It's about 6-foot, 1.5" diameter. It's much lighter and quicker than an oak or hickory staff, and requires different techniques to be an effective defensive weapon.

I rarely hold in the Japanese position, usually closer to the Southern Chinese techniques as a reaching weapon to attack vulnerable spots on the opponent's body like the back of the knee, elbows, temple, crotch, etc.

I was shown a pattern of strikes to put an opponent on the ground, and either render them combat ineffective, in serious pain, or possibly dead depending on how far into the sequence I go.

Most of the SCA guys I spar with cry foul - they weren't taught to use their staffs like that! They almost to a man use the double-ended method, and I out-reach them and flat-out manuever them.

I'd NEVER try to use a staff against a gun, but against a knife/sword, I stand a pretty good chance of coming out alive.

Northern Foot, Southern Fist

Now, if you havent seen the scene in Kung Fu hustle where the dim sum guy wastes the gangsters that were fully armed with guns with nothing but a bamboo pole... it's time to rent a movie

Though not necessarily "real" in a sense that it's a fictional movie, any well trained martial artist can be deadly with even the silliest of weapons... say... a fan!
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