Staff Weapons

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  • Referring to: Bô (Bôjutsu), Jô (Jôjutsu)
  • Description: Any staff weapon over 5 feet can be considered a Bô; lesser lengths are called Jô. On a side note, a stick of 3 feet, considered half the size of a Bô, would be called Hanbô.


Protohistoric times

It is believed that in protohistoric times, the Bô and the Jô were already being used. Ishi-Jô ("stone-sticks"), which measured about 40 inches in length, have been found in the past. It's unclear if they were being used as weapons or as farm implements. No longer lengths (Bô-like stone objects) are thought to have existed as they would have been too heavy and susceptible to breakage. There is no evidence of any Bôjutsu or Jôjutsu techniques (although prototypes) in Japan prior to the 6th centruy A.D.

Emergence The warrior class never gave the same amount of importance to the staff weapons as they gave the sword. It was nevertheless important for them to understand these techniques.

Among the first systematizers were the Sôhei (warrior-priests) of the Kamakura Period. From there, it's possible to see the Chinese influence; the large number of Japanese priests, who had studied in China, made up a vast portion of the Sô-hei intellectuals. But they were not content with only borrowing the Chinese methods; they adapted and modified the techniques to suit their time and culture.

From that point, we have to wait until the late Kamakura or early Muromachi period to see a systematic of Bôjutsu and Jôjutsu techniques. Iizasa Choisai Ienao, founder of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto ryû, brought a Bôjutsu form which is supposely now the root of all functional staff weapons system in Japan. Techniques included striking, poking, blocking, parrying, deflecting, stopping, covering, holding, sweeping, flinging off, and the interception of an armed opponent or his weapon.

On the other hand, it took a little longer before someone developed an extensive Jôjutsu style. Musô Gonnosuke, who had studied the Katori ryû Bôjutsu system as well as its other weapons and then later on the Kashima ryû, was the founder of the first Jôjutsu oriented school, the Shindô Musô ryû.


With the arrival of peaceful Edo period, the Bô and Jô became the ideal weapons for the time. With them, it was possible to defeat an enemy without killing him. The strikes could be directed against non-lethal areas of the body and subdue the opponent, a practice not functional with bladed weapons.

Had it not been for the Tokugawa law enforcement groups, these weapons might have fallen into impractical use as it had happened for other weapons, now lacking a battlefield outlet.


  • Donn F. Draeger & Robert W. Smith, Asian Fighting Arts, Kodansha, edition 1980.
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