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How To Choose the Best Traditional or XPT Bo Staff

The bo staff,  joong bong (Korean), bang (Chinese), or kun (Okinawan), is a long slender wooden weapon used in Japanese martial arts.

How is a Bo Staff Made?

Bo staffs are traditionally made of wood with several different types commonly used. Typically a hard or flexible wood may be used, like red oak or white oak, although bamboo and pine wood, which is much softer, have been used. Rattan wood is the most common species used in traditional bo staffs.

Traditional bos are round, square, hexagonal, or octagonal and relatively long. The standard length is 6 ft (1.8 m), but some are made up to 9 ft (2.7 m) in length. These weapons are made to be strong and durable as they were traditionally created for combat and had to hold up against multiple strikes.

XPT or Extreme Performance Training has brought about a new type of bo staff, which is much lighter and flashy. These bos are made for competition forms and not for fighting. Extreme bos are usually tapered so they are thicker in the center than on the ends. They are also coated in glossy paint or a reflective film to create a flash effect when manipulated quickly.

How Do I Choose the Correct Bo Staff?

Choosing the right bo staff will depend on the following 3 factors:

  1. Length: In today’s competition circuits such as NASKA (North American Sport Karate Circuit) or ATA (American Taekwondo Association), a general rule of thumb is to select a bo staff that is about as long as you are tall. However, if this staff is for XPT or Creative forms, you may want to settle on one that is 2-4 inches shorter.

    Here is world champion bo staff competitor, Jackson Rudolph to talk about selecting the right length.

  2.  Weight: A heavy bo is good for traditional forms or strength training and are typically less expensive. These staffs are weapons and should be used under the supervision of a trained instructor. Lighter bos are used in Extreme and Creative weapons competition. These staffs are made of light weight wood such as bamboo or lotus, and some are even made of graphite.
  3. Style: Competitors who are performing both traditional and creative forms will want at least 2 different bo staffs. Any traditional form should utilize a heavier, wooden bo. When performing a traditional kata, a martial artist will often wear a traditional, heavy, white gi. When doing so, you may want to consider a darker stained bo staff to stand out with higher contrast against your uniform. This bo staff from Century Martial Arts is perfect for traditional forms. For creative forms, look at purchasing a bo with a flashy foil design to really highlight your performance. The Jackson Rudolph Signature Bo from Century is a great staff for CMX.

No matter which bo staff you choose, always keep it protected with a quality PVC case. We prefer the hardness of the PVC case rather than a soft bag to  better handle the long road trips without ever breaking your weapon.

World Champion Bo Staff Forms

It is so inspiring to see others who have achieved the pinnacle of excellence perform. Here are a couple bo staff forms to keep you inspired:

Grand Champion Traditional Bo Staff Form by Sammy Smith

Sammy is a third degree “Black Belt” in Tae Kwon Do as well as a “Black Belt” in Kenpo Karate. She trains six days a week, about two to three hours a day . She has taught classes to students both younger and older than her. She can often be seen helping fellow students learn the bo staff, nunchakus and kamas. She knows more than 60 Kenpo and Tae Kwondo katas (a series of forms). She is also a certified Hyper Martial Arts Instructor and teaches a weekly competition team classes at Epic Martial Arts.  She is also a full time student at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, majoring in exercise science. (Source: sammysmith.org)

Grand Champion Extreme Bo Staff Form by Jackson Rudolph

Jackson now holds 30 World Titles across ISKA, NASKA, and WKA and has won the ISKA World Title 4 times back to back. Jackson is a professional model and actor and has done work for companies such as Sunny Delight, Sylvan Learning, Big Time Toys, Lifeway, Target and others. (Source: hypermartialarts.com)


How To Do A Basic Bo Staff Release | Jackson Rudolph

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Advanced Training:

A basic release is essential to any advanced CMX weapons form as it is used in several tricks such as a 360, 720, or other insanely awesome moves. Here’s how to perform a basic bo staff release with your right hand:

  1. Start with the bo in your left hand, thumb up. From here, you are going to rotate the bo down and behind your back. From there, your right hand is going to meet your left behind your back. Notice in the video that any time your hands meet behind the back, your thumbs are facing each other.
  2. From here, you will bring the bow around with your right hand, rotating so that your right thumb is facing down. Bring the bow in front of your body to begin rotation for the toss.
  3. Rotate your hand as you hold the bow all the way over until you palm is facing up, which will be a 270 degree wrist rotation. From there, the momentum of the bo will cause it to continue to rotate onto your thumb, which you will use to push the staff into the air.

As you practice step-by-step, you will notice that there is no rotation on the bo when you get to the point of release, and that is because there is no momentum due to stopping before the toss. Rotation speed will increase as you get more comfortable with the movement.

The purpose of starting this move with a pass behind the back is to increase the speed of rotation, which is what you want for an amazing toss.

As you practice this technique, be sure not to grab down at the bo staff. It’s a very good way to smack your bo into the floor! Remember to keep your left palm up and let the bo fall into your hand. Gravity is your friend, and the bo will fall back down. You don’t have to reach out and grab it.

Once you get a good feel for the release, you can start to get more creative with it by catching it behind your back, behind your head, inserting a 360 degree spin, or other creative element.

Remember that if you can develop a feel of the weapon to where that weapon is an extension of your body, you will always have complete control over it. So if you can just practice for half an hour a day with your weapon, twirling it around, and just playing with it, you will find yourself more and more comfortable in attempting tricks of greater difficulty.

For great tips on choosing the right bo staff, be sure and check out Karate Kid Dojo.

Check out the Jackson Rudolph Signature Bo Staff from Century Martial Arts

Jackson is a 43-time sport karate world champion and 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. In addition to being a member of the world renowned Team Paul Mitchell Karate, he is a Hyper Pro Athlete for Hyper Marital Arts, and a professional athlete for Century Martial Arts.