Assuredly the history of using the stick in the martial arts is as old as time.
Every culture has a transmission of the stick, as it is a natural object found in nature and is an effective force multiplier. As cultures evolved, it is only natural that the methods of the stick would evolve.
In this post we are going to explore some training concepts found in bojutsu- the Japanese use and methods of the six foot stick.
What are the techniques and what place do they have in martial arts training?
As a training tool, what can they teach us about movement in the martial arts?
Japanese history at the time of the samurai has the yari (spear) as being the primary weapon on the battlefield.
But what happens when the spear breaks?
Many bojutsu techniques evolved out of this question.
The key to understanding bojutsu is the distance of the stick- six feet, which when combined with footwork gives another six feet or so- ~12 feet in range and distance.
Framed a bit more simplistic, if the stick is six feet, you can reach your training partner and they can’t reach you.
The stick extends your range of distance beyond.
Bojutsu training begins with understanding kamae- ways of holding the stick and body. Kamae are used to fluidly change the angles of the stick, opening up opportunities of movement and ways of manipulating distance and timing with it.
Building on kamae are the kihon of the stick- ukemi, uchi waza, and shiho furi gata.
Ukemi is the way to receive an attack with the stick, uchi waza are ways to strike, hit, and thrust with it, and furi gata are ways of spinning the stick.
Receiving the distance (ukemi), using the distance (uchi waza) and increasing or pushing out the distance (furi gata).
Layered on next are kata- various forms to teach strategies and body movement dynamic of the stick- ways to set up distance and rhythm, and ways to break it.
As a traditional training tool that bo (6 foot stick) has many uses- there are many “stick” like objects still to be found in the world.
As a martial artist, the lessons found in bojutsu will help you evolve regardless of experience, rank, or style. The bo, as a long weapon allows concepts such as distance and angles to be clearly seen- this is often why we use big movement in the martial arts when receiving instruction.
It is easier to “see” big movements.
It is easier to approach big movements.
And if you can see them, you can begin to understand, emulate, and use them, followed by making the movements quicker, and smaller.
In this way the stick also becomes a tool of instruction that carries over into other aspects of your training in the martial arts.