A bō (棒: ぼう) or kon, is a Japanese long staff used in Japanese martial arts, in particular bōjutsu.


The bō is usually made of tapered hard wood, such as white oak, bamboo, or, in some cases for training purposes or for a different style, rattan. Sometimes it is made of or plated with metal for extra strength.

A full-size is sometimes called a rokushakubō (六尺棒: ろくしゃくぼう). This name derives from the Japanese words roku (六: ろく), meaning "six"; shaku (尺: しゃく); and . Shaku is a Japanese measurement equivalent to 30.3 centimeters (0.994 ft). Thus, rokushakubō refers to a staff about 6-shaku (1.82 m; 5.96 feet) long. The is typically 3 cm (1.2 inch) thick , sometimes gradually tapering from the middle to 2 cm (0.8 inch)at both ends. This thickness allows the user to make a tight fist around it in order to block and counter an attack.

The most common shape is the maru-bo, or round staff. There is also the kaku-bo (four-sided staff), rokkaku-bo (six-sided staff), and hakkaku-bo (eight-sided staff).[1] Other types of range from heavy to light, from rigid to highly flexible, and from simple pieces of wood picked up from the side of the road to ornately decorated works of art.

Martial arts

The Japanese martial art of wielding the is bōjutsu. The basis of bo technique is te, or hand, techniques derived from Quanfa and other martial arts that reached Okinawa via trade and Chinese monks. Thrusting, swinging, and striking techniques often resemble empty-hand movements, following the philosophy that the is merely an "extension of one’s limbs".[2] Consequently, bōjutsu is often incorporated into other styles of empty hand fighting, or karate. Traditionally this was mainly true for the Okinawan styles, such as Shōrin-ryū, but Hirokazu Kanazawa, 10° Dan Shōtōkan-ryū, created two kata of his own in the 1970s (which he published on DVD in 2009) and regularly teaches bō seminars worldwide. With these kata he is the first master to create Shōtōkan-ryū bōjutsu. Stan Schmidt, Chief Instructor South Africa JKA, writes: [3]

"Master Kanazawa has realised the benefit of weapons training and thus extended The Art of The Empty Hand to include weaponry as natural extensions of karate techniques. All leaders of Karate should seriously consider that their advanced students would be a whole lot better off for having some insight into weaponry such as the Bo, as an extension of Karate-do."

As in Okinawa-te, in bōjutsu attacks are often avoided by agile footwork or jumps and returning strikes made at the enemy’s weak points.[2]

The is typically gripped in thirds, and when held horizontally in front, the right palm is facing away from the body and the left hand is facing the body, enabling the to rotate. The power is generated by the back hand pulling the , while the front hand is used for guidance. When striking, the wrist is twisted, as if turning the hand over when punching.[4] technique includes a wide variety of blocks, strikes, sweeps, and entrapments. The may even be used to sweep sand into an opponent’s eyes.


The earliest form of the , a staff, has been used throughout Asia since the beginning of recorded history.[5] The first bo were called ishibo, and were made of stone. These were hard to make and were often unreliable. These were also extremely heavy. The konsaibo was a very distant variant of the kanabo. They were made wood studded with iron. These were still too cumbersome for actual combat, so they were later replaced by unmodified hardwood staffs.[6] The bo used for self defense by monks or commoners, the staff was an integral part of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, one of the martial arts’ oldest surviving styles. The staff evolved into the with the foundation of kobudo, a martial art using weapons, which emerged in Okinawa in the early 1600s.

Prior to the 1400s, Okinawa, a small island located south of Japan, was divided into three kingdoms: Chuzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan. After much political turmoil, Okinawa was united under the Sho Dynasty in 1429. In 1477, Emperor Sho Shin of the second Sho dynasty came into power. Determined to enforce his philosophical and ethical ideas, while banning feudalism, the emperor instituted a ban on weapons. It became a crime to carry or own weapons such as swords, in an attempt to prevent further turmoil and prevent uprising.[5]

In 1609, the temporary peace established by Sho Shin was violently overthrown when the powerful Satsuma Clan invaded Okinawa. Composed of Japanese samurai, the Satsuma Clan took over the island, making Okinawan independence a thing of the past. The Satsuma placed a new weapons ban on the people of Okinawa, leaving them defenseless against the steel of the samurai’s swords. In an attempt to protect themselves from the devastating forces of the Satsuma, the people of Okinawa looked to simple farming implements, which the samurai would not be able to confiscate, as new methods of defense. This use of weapons developed into Okinawan kobudō|kobudo, or "ancient martial art," as we know it today.[5]

Although the is now used as a weapon, its use is believed by some to have evolved from non-combative uses. The bō-staff is thought to have been used to balance buckets or baskets. Typically, one would carry baskets of harvested crops or buckets of water or milk or fish, one at each end of the , that is balanced across the middle of the back at the shoulder blades. In poorer agrarian economies, the remains a traditional farm work implement. In styles such as Yamanni-ryū or Kenshin-ryū, many of the strikes are the same as those used for yari ("spear") or naginata ("glaive"). There are stick fighting techniques native to just about every country on every continent.

Mortal Kombat

Jade uses Bojutsu as her weapon style in Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. She also uses a as a weapon in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Khameleon also uses the in Mortal Kombat Trilogy. In Mortal Kombat (2011), Jade's Bo is similar to that of the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Trilogy.

Raiden uses a staff throughout the Mortal Kombat series, specifically Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. However he is seen carrying one throughout the series. He eventually gives his staff to Kai in his Mortal Kombat 4 ending as a reward for defeating Shinnok. Although, Raiden's staff may be based on the Chinese chang gun staff.

Kitana uses Bojutsu in her Mournful variant in Mortal Kombat X.

Jade uses Bojutsu in Mortal Kombat (mobile).

In Mortal Kombat X, Kung Jin has a custom bow (as in archery) that also doubles as a bo. Bojutsu is also one of Kung Jin's character variations; it focuses on Jin more frequently using the weapon as a bo.


Mortal Kombat series - Weapons
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