Bo staff types?


Green Belt
Oct 12, 2006
Reaction score
Monterey, CA
Ok, so I was watching a coupld videos on youtube (Bo staff stuff), and I saw a comment on one video that read "It's good to see someone that doesn't use a toothpick style bo these days". At first, I was wondering why he made such a derogatory comment on toothpick style bo's, then I looked at my toothpick staff in the corner of my room and cried a little...

Anyways. I was wondering if there are any differences/advantages between toothpick style bo's and standard (Non-tapered) ones.



Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Mar 18, 2005
Reaction score
Tapered bo's work by having less torque. Remember, that torque = force applied over the length of the lever, and by having less weight at the ends, you're creating much less torque than you would, had the middle of the bo been lightened. This way, you can get maximum speed, at the expense of power.

For training purposes, there's nothing wrong with a tapered bo. You can learn how to manipulate the bo, and once you gain skill and confidence, you can select a bo that isn't quite as tapered.

Now, in my opinion, I prefer to simply start people on using normal bo staves. This way, they get an appreciation for the weight of the bo, and understand how torque can be your friend on offense, and your enemy on defense. If you want to use the bo as a striking weapon (swinging), then it's usually better to have a bit more weight than what the lighter ones offer.

Don Roley

Senior Master
MTS Alumni
Sep 25, 2002
Reaction score
Maybe he was talking about the weight.

Okinawan systems use tapered staffs. I don't know why. Grenadier went over the advantages of that.

Aside from the straight bo, there is also things like the octogonal staffs. If you hit someone with the edge portion of one of those, you concentrate the force a lot more.

Heavier staffs require more use of the body and less of the hands. Lighter ones seem to be more popular with competitions. I do not like them. I work out with a staff that is made of iron. You can't just toss it around. You have to use your body together to make it work. But everything else is easy afterwards.

Maybe that is what they were talking about.

Xue Sheng

All weight is underside
Jan 8, 2006
Reaction score
North American Tectonic Plate
A Chinese white wax staff (Shaolin Long Fist) is tapered and fairly light but it gives you a serious whip action on the tapered end and due to the taper there are a few different types of thrusts that are fairly fast and painful if you get hit by it.

The Xingyi staff is shorter and sometimes tapered and sometimes sporting metal caps on either side. It tends to depend on more momentum from the body but if used well it is very effective.

The traditional (old traditional) Yang style and Chen Style staff is very long, similar to the Wing Chun staff. It tends to be hard to manipulate due to length and weight but if you can find someone trained in it that can handle it I do not recommend getting in their way. As to straight or tapered I cannot answer here for sure, I have never practiced the Yang, Chen or Wing Chun staff, but I believe the Chen staff is tapered which would lead me to believe the Yang staff is tapered as well.

There is also a Yang style short staff routine floating around, and although I am not 100% sure about this, I do not believe it is traditional, but it too was a shorter white wax staff.

However with all that said, back when I use to do a lot of training with the staff I did a lot of drills with a much heavier non-tapered wooden staff.

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Sep 21, 2005
Reaction score
San Francisco
I tend to think of a "toothpick" staff as one that is either very thin, or made of a very lightweight wood. Either way, the result is a very light staff that is easy to use with lightning speed.

The problem is that these are very unrealistic weapons. They dont have the strength needed to stand up to any real contact use, and would simply break quickly if ever actually employed as a weapon.

they tend to be favored by people in tournaments, as a way of winning thru flash and speed, while trying to hide the fact that their form and technique is not solid.

Personally, I use a Chinese waxwood staff that is quite thick and heavy for its kind, both for my staff work, and my spear work. My spears have heavy, thick, steel heads; no lightweight, sheetmetal, modern wushu spearheads for me.

Use of a hefty weapon develops your strength naturally to be useful for the purpose of using the weapon correctly. It also forces you to use proper technique and doesn't let you cheat. If you try to cheat with a heavy weapon, that usually means you are swinging it with your arms, and not using your body properly to power the strike. With a heavy weapon, your arms will get tired very quickly and you won't be successful. With a light weapon, you can cheat and only use your arms, and you don't even realize it because it doesn't tire you out. Using a heavy weapon will show you the problems in your technique pretty quickly.

Overall, if you are using a hefty weapon, you will be better off for it. You might still use a lighter weapon for tournaments and demonstrations, but at least you have developed good technique by practicing with a realistic weapon, and you can dazzle the judges that way, instead of with empty flash and techniqueless speed.

When I compete, I use my heavy weaponry, including my Chinese Broadsword. I cannot move as fast as the guys who use the lightweight Modern Wushu junk, because my stuff weighs about 4 or 5 times as much as theirs. But the judges definitely take notice of my weaponry, and I usually place pretty well with it because they respect the tools I am using.

By the way, I custom make all of my weapons, including my swords, because I cannot find stuff on the market that I am happy with. I mount heavy spearheads on heavy waxwood staffs, and I make custom hilts for my swords, after I find a better quality, heavier blade. Everything is solid, which is not the case with 99% of the junk you can find on the market.