Bojutsu - Martial Art of Tenbinbo
Not only do we train with Rokubo (6-foot staff) we also train with Han-bo (3-foot), Jo (4-foot), Kuboton (hand stick), Nitan-bo (two sticks), Eku (oar), Bokken (wooden sword), Kona-bo (club) and Nuntei-bo.
Rokubo Of all of the kobudo weapons in the Shorin-Ryu arsenal, few are more traditional than bo (棒術). Bojutsu is part of all Shorin-Ryu styles with the exception of Shotokan.
Bo is, a farming tool known as a tenbin. The tenbin is a pole Asian farmers place across their shoulders to carry buckets of goods. Most are made of bamboo and are measured by shaku (尺). A Japanese unit of 0.994 feet in length. The majority of bo in Shorin-Ryu are roku shaku, or about 6-feet in length.
Prior to 1961, shaku was a common unit of measurement. The unit was equivalent to the average length between mature bamboo nodes. But, there are >1,000 species of bamboo; each grows to different heights, diameters and lengths between nodes. Bamboo includes small annuals to giant perennial timber bamboo, some of which are the fastest growing woody grass plants on earth; known to grow 3 to 4 feet per day. Different species of bamboo vary from a few to 120 feet tall and have diameters as great as 12 inches (now that would be one heck of a bo). Bamboo has been around for some time and there are even species of bamboo preserved in the fossil record 30 to 40 million years ago. The Japanese kanji for bamboo is the ideograph (竹) which represent twigs of bamboo with leaves.
The length of many ancient bo include hasshaku (7.96 feet) or hasshaku gosun (8.45 feet). Modern martial arts supply houses sell rokushaku-bo (6-foot bo). Confusion arises from another archaic unit that was also referred to as shaku. This third shaku was 14.9 inches, or the length of an average whale whisker (had no idea whales had whiskers). Anyway, it was adopted by law in Japan in 1881 for measuring cloth. To distinguish between the two common shaku, the cloth shaku was referred to as kujirajaka (kujira meaning whale) while the bamboo shaku was referred to as kanejaku.
Okinawan karate practitioners train with bo, which is also a Japanese samurai weapon. A bo could out-reach katana (samurai sword). Unlike most Okinawan bo techniques which grasp the bo by splitting the pole into thirds, Japanese samurai grasped the bo near one end to achieve maximum reach. Many techniques that apply to samurai bo also apply to yari and naginata. When it comes to the shape of bo, most are familiar with maru-bo, or round staff. But there are kaku-bo (four-sided), rokkaku-bo (six-sided) and hakkaku-bo (eight-sided). There is even an archaic bo known as the konabo (also konsaibo and tetsubo) which looked more like a caveman’s version of a club studded with iron. Bo kata of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu include Kihon Bo, Sho No Kun, Sho Ken No Kun, Suuji No Kun, Choun No Kun Dai, Choun No Kun Sho, Bojutsu Shodan, Bojutsu Nidan, Bojutsu Sandan. Note Okinawan bo is referred to as kon or kun on Okinawa. See our kama page,