View Full Version : Okinawa bo vs. Yamato bo

5th April 2001, 03:38
Can clear distinctions be drawn in the way that the bo is used in Japanese ryuha and the way Okinawans use it?

For Japanese arts, I have seen the bo kata for Katori Shintoryu and the bo and jo kata for Kashima Shinryu. For Okinawan arts, I have seen the kata done by Matayoshi Shimpo, Inoue Motokazu, Chotoku Kyan, Soken Hohan, Tatsuo Shimabuku and several of the Yamaneryu kata.

Both Katori Shintoryu and Kashima Shinryu tended to use one end of the bo and employ it as a longer range weapon, presumably because it was being trained for use against a sword. Based on what I've seen, the Okinawan arts tended to break the bo into thirds and used both ends (though a couple of systems taught users to slide grips up and down the bo freely at a certain level, enabling the long-grip use as well). Footwork was a little different too, in part I assume because the Japanese arts I've seen were "sogo bujutsu" where ancillary weapons are heavily affected by the kenjutsu core.

I realize that this question may be unanswerable because it requires one to first lump disparate arts into two groups. For example, there may be a disparity in usage between Japanese groups who learn the bo as a supplement and those who focus on bo. Nevertheless, has anyone else tried to make this sort of comparison between Japan and Okinawa and if so, how fruitful was it? (I also welcome explanations why this is a waste of time.)

Also, if possible I'd love to see a Tokyo school teaching good bo and jo. (I am in Minato-ku.) I am happy to give whatever info about me you need.

Best regards,

Rich Boyden

Doug Daulton
9th April 2001, 05:37
Originally posted by JosephBlow
Can clear distinctions be drawn in the way that the bo is used in Japanese ryuha and the way Okinawans use it? Rich,

If I am not mistaken, Meik Skoss wrote an interesting piece for Aiki Journal, that covered this issue in part, if not whole. I'll have to dig through my archives to find it. When I do, I'll post it here.

He and I discussed this issue as well once. As I recall, his central tenet was that mainland bo waza were based more on a military model. That is to say the techniques were designed to account for troop formations and movements on the battlefield. They also accounted for movement in armor and use against armor.

In contrast, Okinawan bo waza were more plebeian in derivation. That is to say they were used largely by individuals for home/property defense. As such, they did not need to take in to account situations that soldiers might encounter. Thus, the movements are larger and more "free".

Based on my limited experience and study, I believe his theory is pretty much accurate.

In fact, my Okinawan kobudo teacher, Devorah Dometrich recounts her teacher, Akamine Eisuke telling her that the gusan (Hogen for Bo) of old were not rokushaku (~6ft). Rather they were only about 5 feet or under. This was because they were designed to be stored close to the door and to pass through the doorframe without hindrance. And, as the Okinawans were, and still are, a relatively short people ... the door frames of old were rarely much more than 5.5 ft high.

This would seem to support Meik's position. I am going to PM him and ask him to lend his thoughts to the thread if he has the time.

Take care,

9th April 2001, 05:45
Thanks Doug. I'd love to hear what anyone has to say.

Best regards,


Pavel Dolgachov
10th April 2001, 11:40
I'm agree with Doug Dalton point of view. Okinawan 'samurai' (peichin) were mostly policemen than warriors. They used to protect people and themselves from bandits. In this case their techniques are not intended to fight at the battlefield (as you remember, samurai liked to fight in the open pleces like on on tournament one to one). In case of Okinawan peichins they had to fight with people who had no deep experience in martial arts, but have dangerous weapon. I think, it is the reason why in karate and kobudo the system is not structured as in Japaneese martial arts such as Katori-Sinto-ryu or other.

In any case it would be great to make analysys with historical resourses.

But I think that okinawan movements which are (as discussed before) larger and more "free", is just a teaching model. I have seen different kobudo schools and can say that they have wide turns and sweeps because it is moresimple to teach people that way.

Pavel Dolgachov