Saturday, March 02, 2013

On Learning the Bo

We usually practice bo every 2 or 3 classes. I believe it's a good thing for beginners to learn Bo. Many dojo wait until students are much more advanced to begin to learn bo. There are good reasons for this:
  • Beginners have a hard enough time learning empty hand technique
  • Beginners are just trying to remember the movements of kata
  • Bo is a weapon, and a teacher should feel enough trust that the student is not going to do something stupid like brandish a pool cue in a bar, etc
  • Rank requirements of different styles are rigid and Bo is not learned until much later
  • Etc, etc
As I said, these are good reasons.

There are also some very good reasons to learn bo early in training:
  • Bo is different to learn than empty hand kata
  • Using bo forces us to use both hands
  • The hand positions for Bo can translate directly into empty hand technique
  • Bo teaches us to judge distances differently than empty hand technique
  • Training with a weapon can help to eliminate the fear associated with being confronted by a weapon
  • and on and on...
Bo is a good first Kobudo art to learn. For one thing, it's a lot harder to hurt yourself with than the other weapons.

It's very easy to hit yourself with Nunchaku, drop a Sai into the top of your foot, or let slip a swinging Tonfa. I once heard a story from one of my training partners about a time when he was testing with sai and at a key point in the kata, he accidently let go of the weapon, it sailed through the air, and impaled itself in the wall above the head of one of the spectators. Imagine their surprise! I personally had an interesting time learning to swing nunchaku early in my training...this might be the subject of a future post. I have also had several friends hurt themselves severely with Kama. For this reason, I will only teach Kama to people who are Shodan and above.

It's a little harder to hurt yourself with a Bo.

The style of Bo that we practice, Yamane-Ryu, is very fluid and powerful. Yamane-Ryu kata are beautiful to watch.  We practice 4 different Yamane Ryu bo kata in our dojo, but we really focus on only 2: Shuji no Kun and Sakugawa no Kun.  These are excellent basic and advanced kata that will give the practitioner a lifetime of material to train with.

As a bo is a weapon, anyone learning the bo should know to be very careful when training in the dojo. If you accidentally hit someone with a poke from a bo, they will get hurt.  Training with any okinawan weapon should only be done when your Sensei says you are ready.

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