Ideal Length For The Jo

Discussion in 'General Weapons Discussion' started by PhotonGuy, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    The ideal length for the jo staff. The jo which is shorter than the bo and from what I know, generally speaking, 6 feet is the cutoff point. If your staff is 6 feet or longer its a bo, if its shorter than that its a bo. Anyway, the ideal length for the jo depending on the person's size, I read that when you place the bo up and down with one end on the ground the other end should come up to your armpit. So depending on how tall you are that's how long your jo should be although Im not sure how steadfast this rule is. In some ways, it seems a bit long.
     
  2. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    Jo for what? If you're talking about aiki-jo that is done Ueshiba's aikido, most that I am familiar with choose to go with the under the arm measurement. If you are talking Shindo Muso ryu, which is the koryu art that uses the jo, then the standard measurement is 4 shaku, 2 sun, 1 bu, or just a tad over 50 inches. Bo means stick or pole, and has nothing to do with length, which is why you can have words such as bokken. Six feet is generally referred to as a bo because it is actually short for 'rokushaku bo', which is the most commonly used length in the several schools that still practice bojutsu. Shaku is an old unit of measure, and roku is six. A rokushaku bo is actually just a tad shorter than six feet.

    So why are you still making incorrect declarative statements as if you know what you're talking about, and then waiting for someone to correct you? I would have thought that you would have given that up by now. You really should you know, as it does not really reflect well on your personality.
     
  3. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Yeah... as Paul suggested, you don't even know how much you don't know yet.... and you still insist on phrasing things as if you're presenting actual knowledge. This is exactly the type of solidifying a lack of knowledge based on minimalist information that I was cautioning against in the other thread.

    But, to add to Paul's comments, "bo" 棒 means a "stick or rod", basically a rounded straight length, which is often wooden but not always (one little thing, Paul... the "boku" in bokuto/bokken isn't the same... it's 木, pronounced "boku", "moku", or "ki", hence "bokuto", "kidachi", and so on... of course, the left radical of "bo" is the kanji for "wood - boku", so there is obviously the connection). "Jo", on the other hand (also pronounced "tsue/zue") is 杖, and basically means "stick". As a result, "bo" is often used for longer "rods", but even that isn't definitive...

    The founder of Shindo Muso Ryu jojutsu, Muso Gonnosuke, was a practitioner of Katori Shinto Ryu and Kashima Shinto Ryu, and specialised in the use of rokushakubo from these traditions. When he developed the new weapon (due to a divine guidance telling him "Maruke wo motte, suigetsu wo shire"/"With the end of a rounded stick, understand and know the Suigetsu/water on the moon"), the intention was to be shorter, and lighter than his long staff, in order to be faster and more versatile... and the sizing was set as Paul listed above. The same is used in ZNKR Jodo (Seitei Jodo), as it was developed directly from Shindo Muso Ryu by Shimizu Takaji sensei.

    Other arts, though, such as Muhi Muteki Ryu also use the term "Jojutsu", but their weapon measures 5 shaku 5 sun... essentially 5 and a half feet... almost what most would class as a "bo", although the school themselves refer to it as a "jo". Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, in some lines, teach Jubei no Jo, which is about 3 to 3 and a half feet long, and is made of a solid iron core with bamboo around it... one hell of a thing to get hit with... then we have various Tanjo (short jo/short sticks) found around the place... the most common being a two foot length of wood, although the Uchida Ryu Tanjojutsu, an assimilated school taught with Shindo Muso Ryu, use a tapered three foot long "walking stick".... the art was developed to take advantage of the popularity of the new "Western" walking sticks, and to help with the popularity of SMR at the time (the curriculum was originally referred to as "su-tekki-jutsu", which is basically the Japanese sounding out of "stick-jutsu").

    Then you have specialist uses, such as Shikomi-zue (prepared stick), and length of staff weapon with a secondary weapon hidden inside, which may be a chain, a sword blade, a spear tip, or anything else. You also have Hanbo (half-staff), typically referring to a three foot staff (half a six foot one, really), Tanbo (really the same as a Tanjo, just with different preferences based on the school in question), Te-giri-bo, a short stick found in Asayama Ichiden Ryu of about 24 cm, and having a diameter of up to 15mm. Yagyu Shingan Ryu refer to their long staff as Cho-bo (basically "long bo")... but is only around 5 shaku long (note: the Edo line use a 6 shaku weapon, it's the Chikuosha/Sendai line who have a shorter weapon).

    Add to all of this that, in many classical ryu-ha, particularly when looking at sogo bujutsu (composite schools teaching a wide variety of skills and weapons), the bo is not often developed as a weapon itself... it's commonly what is left when a longer bladed weapon (pole arm) is broken in combat, such as a spear or naginata. Within the Kukishin traditions, a rokushaku bo is what was left when the blade of a naginata was broken off... same with Toda-ha Buko Ryu, and Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu. Other schools have it as a broken spear, and a jo as a broken naginata, and so on... as a result, the exact placement of the break can determine the length of the remaining staff... which became formalised for a particular tradition over time.

    So, what's the length of a Jo? That depends... what school are you studying?
     
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  4. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Alright thanks for the information.

    Im sorry you take it that way. Sometimes when I research stuff and get information from certain sources I will post the information here to see if its correct. Im not trying to come across as having accepted the information as being true, I'm posting it here to get feedback as to whether or not it is true. In my posts I will use statements such as, "what I've heard," or "what I read," not, "what I accept as being true." Perhaps I should mention the sources.
     
  5. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    I see. Well there sure are lots of different types of sticks used in lots of different styles.

    Anyway, concerning the bo not being developed as a weapon itself. I did once read in a martial arts book or magazine that the bo was originally a pole used for carrying buckets of water over the shoulder. As a common tool used by peasants it was developed into a weapon as peasants were banned from owning swords. Many of the other weapons in the martial arts have that same origin as common tools used by peasants and farmers. Weapons such as the nunchaku, sai, kama, and tonfa have that same origin, they were tools with other uses, most notably farming uses. I am not claiming this to be true what I just said about the bo and the other weapons I mentioned. I could be wrong, this is just what I remember reading.

    It does make sense that a stick weapon is the result of a bladed pole weapon that gets broken in combat.

    I am training in Goju Ryu and at this point I am learning the use of the Jo. I've learned my first kata with the Jo. My instructor does not insist on a specific length as long as its under 6 feet. According to my instructor, if the pole is 6 feet or longer its a Bo, if its shorter its a Jo. That's just the cutoff point my instructor uses.
     
  6. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    That there are... and, as mentioned, the preferred terminology and it's application to the training devices and weapons are entirely up to the particular system in question.

    There are myriad stories out there, and, like the terminology, are particular to the system in question... don't look for a single history that way, as it doesn't exist... but, in broad strokes, the story you're mentioning is more common among Ryukyu Kobudo systems, whereas in bushi/buke (warrior family) systems in Japan (what might be called the "samurai arts"), combat on the battlefield was the priority for at least the first few centuries of their existence... so the majority of sogo bujutsu systems (composite arts) have their staff weapons beginning as pole arms. Even there, of course, there is any number of variables... in Araki Ryu Gunyo Kogusoku, for example, bojutsu is taught as a precursor to learning spear and naginata, as the bo teaches the "latticework" for the bladed weapons, giving lessons in long arm wielding, rather than being necessarily designed as a distinct weapon, or coming out of pole arms themselves. Instead, it's a training device laying the groundwork for the battlefield weapons to then be studied in a safer and faster manner.

    Then we have schools like Chikubujima Ryu and Kukishin Ryu who specialise in the bo... they both come from broken pole arms originally, but much of that pole arm material has been lost following the Edo period (peacetime), and the higher focus on the bo... particularly in Kukishin Ryu. There, the origin in a broken naginata or spear... but the weapon has taken on a much more important role in those ryu, leading to a much higher sophistication in using it than in other arts.

    But the most important thing is that there is no single history of any weapon, and staff weapons are no exception.

    Considering that there is no jo work in Goju Ryu, it is likely that this is either brought in from another source, or is something your teacher has come up with themselves... and, when it comes to sizing (in your school), it's whatever your teacher says it is.
     
  7. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    I see. Well I also read about a similar weapon the Chinese would use called the dragon pole. Its much like the bo although I believe its often longer.

    My instructor has experience in a variety of different styles and sometimes he incorporates stuff from other styles into his teachings.
     
  8. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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  9. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    "Bo" (棒) simply means "rod" or "staff"... again... and the idea of staff weapons being unique to any individual culture is completely off base... so no, the Chinese "Dragon Pole" is not "similar to a Bo", it's simply a Chinese martial cultural expression of the concept of a staff weapon... and is again dependant entirely on the art being trained. Some forms are longer than six foot (if you want to take that as "a Bo"), some are about the same, some Chinese staff weapons are shorter, and so on.

    At the end of the day, many different approaches to using staff weapons have existed in many different cultures throughout the world and throughout history... with the specifications being dependent upon the culture, the application, the accessible materials, the contextual usage, and far more. The only thing to say definitively is that a staff weapon will tend to be a long, relatively straight, typically wooden weapon. All else is variable.

    So ask him what he would recommend for sizing. It's that simple.

    Then you read this part:
    "A general rule for Jo length is floor to armpit, standing barefoot. Notice that the measurement is made with the arm in a normal relaxed position."

    And missed entirely the next paragraph:
    "As always in choosing a wooden weapon, the most important first step for a newcomer is to find out what is preferred in the their dojo. In choosing your jo, all situations are different but we would suggest that customizations in size be generally conservative. For example, a taller practitioner might order a jo up to 53 or 54" jo and a shorter person might simply stick to the original parameters of the shinto muso ryu rather than ordering a very short jo. Excessively long or custom made extra thick jo, unless expressly required by an instructor, will certainly not be welcomed in most weapons practice."

    Emphasis mine.

    And this is exactly what I've been talking to you about... you seize on one small piece of information, and ignore everything else. All information requires context... a larger sense of the environment... the bigger picture, if you will. Without that, no single piece of information will ever mean you are speaking from an informed position... which is how your posts come across.
     
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  10. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    As a FYI ... king fisher has some really good products. Back in 1994 I purchased a bokken, jo set made of a composite material. It is a beautiful redish wood. But it's a lot denser than oak. My instructor at the time had one and cut my bokken in half during a demonstration. Another student bought a purple heart wood set, really beautiful. I highly recommend the company. They do custom work so you kind of need to Know what you want.
     
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  11. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    This makes sense, with sticks being one of the simplest and most common weapons. Non asian cultures used sticks too, for instance in Europe they had the quarter staff.


    He is quite flexible. He says that for jo work any kind of staff under six feet would be fine.


    Perhaps you're right. I should work on that.
     
  12. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    Thank you for the feedback. As I said it looks like they make some really fine products but you mention your own experience with them. I've seen their products on their website but I've never seen one up close or handled them. I really like their enhanced jo staffs and would like to get one sometime but they're out of my price range right now. As it is, I've already got a high quality jo staff. Its a really good and beautiful jo although much less expensive than the enhanced staffs from King Fisher.
     

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