Meik Skoss: „Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones: A Look at Jo and Bo“

The stick (or staff) is–what?–the second or third oldest weapon known to man, coming right after the fist and the rock. It is deceptive in its simplicity of construction, but quite sophisticated in its use.
Let’s start with a definition of terms. Bo means „staff“ and generally refers to a weapon about six shaku in length, or six feet, or thereabouts, and one sun in diameter.1 Jo, meaning „stick“ or „cudgel“ are shorter weapons and do not have a standard length or diameter, as size depends on the particular ryu. Both the bo and jo lack a cutting edge or sharpened point, so they are classified as impact weapons and derive their effect from the force delivered by accurately hitting or thrusting at a particular target. It is likely that the staff was developed systematically as a weapon before the stick, due to the advantage of longer reach. The stick began to be used in combat as technical sophistication and experience with the weapon increased.