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What are the different types of Staff used in Martial Arts?

August 13, 2021

 

There are many different types of staff used within the various martial arts. There are a huge variety of lengths, materials and characteristics available to choose from.  We attempt to break down the different types in this blog post.

Bo Staff

Usually this staff is around 6 feet in length.  They vary in thickness but are generally around 1-1.5" in Diameter.

The origins of the Bo have been lost to history but it is likely that it was used throughout Asia as a defensive weapon.  Pinning down a precise point of origin for the creation of what is essentially just a long stick is difficult.

The Bo staff seem innocuous and this is due to it origins as a tool.  Peasants would often use the staff balanced across their shoulders to counterbalance heavy loads on each end.  If they were attacked then the staff could be used to fend off their attackers.

The techniques of using a Bo are commonly called Bojutsu and it is a core component weapons of Kobudo practice.  The Bo is used as an extension of your arms to extend your reach.

The type of wood used determines the amount of flex the staff has. The choice typically comes down to personal preference and fighting style.  Generally they are made of a hardwood like White or Red Oak.  These oak staffs are extremely strong and capable of striking and blocking against another without breaking.

For a more flexible staff they can be made from bamboo, rattan or wax wood.  These woods sacrifice some durability and rigidity for the ability to bend.

There are also more modern materials used to make Bo Staffs such as Graphite/Carbon Fibre, Polypropylene, or Aluminium.  The Carbon fibre staffs are very light yet are strong and have some flexibility.  They are popular for competitions where the staff practitioner uses more "dynamic" moves such as spins, throws and catches.

Aluminium Bo staffs are about the strongest you can get.  They will take hours of punishment without breaking.  They are however much heavier than any of the other materials and require a lot more caution in their use.  

 

 

Jo Staff

Typically around 4' in length and 1" in diameter.  Much like the Bo staff they are typically made of hardwoods such as Oak.  An inconspicuous weapon, they are elegant in their simplicity.  The practice of fighting with a Jo is known as Jodo.

The grip used with the Jo staff is different to the flow.  Due to the staff being much shorter than a Bo staff, the Jodo practitioner is required to slide their hands up and down the staff in order to maximise the reach.  The result is a flowing motion which incorporates elements of both Bojutsu and Sword techniques.

The origin of the Jo staff is steeped in legend.  The creator is believed to be Muso Gonnosuke the only person to ever beat the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi in a duel.  Gonnosuke studied Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu which contained Bojutsu methods.  He travelled around Japan to test his skills with the Rokushaku Bo (six foot staff).  He lost only one duel and that was to Miyamoto Musashi.  After losing this duel he went away and sat in contemplation.  The idea for the Jo staff's dimensions came to him in a dream.  

The flowing ability of the shorter Jo staff gave him the edge he needed to overcome Musashi's two sword style.  

Much like the Bo staff, Jo are now available in modern materials such as graphite, polypropylene, carbon fibre and aluminium.

 

 

Hanbo

A Hanbo is a short stick of roughly 3 feet in length.  It is typically used as a walking stick and is a handy weapon when required.  It is used in a similar way to the Jo, with hands sliding up the staff to increase the striking range. It can also operate in a similar banner to a bokken so a lot of sword fighting techniques become possible.

 

Wing Chun Dragon Long Pole

Wing Chun makes use of many lengths of staff (referred to as Long Pole). The longest is typically around 8.5 feet in length. Typically they were made of ironwood but they tend to now be made of Red Oak since it is extremely durable. Kung Fu has a rich history of staff fighting with many legends of their use and famous duels.

Wushu Wax Wood Long Staff

Wushu staffs are typically made using Wax Wood.  This wood has amazing strength and durability, yet it is lightweight and has great flexibility.  You may have seen these in action in Kung Fu movies where the flexibility of the staff lets them pull of incredible moves where the staff twists and bends around blocks.

We sell all styles of staff in our shop.  No matter your style, you are certain to find a staff to suit.


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