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A Historic Glance at the BO in "Police Tactics"

At first glance, it may seem absurd to think of the BO, the six-foot staff, to be used in any sort of police work. Unless one's vehicle is the length of a 1959 Cadillac, size alone is an obstacle for transport. It's obvious that while many of us still have the memory of the neighborhood patrol officer twirling his "billy club", manipulating a BO would present problems of all sorts. Yet, historically, the BO was used in police work in old Japan, and today it is found in select locales worldwide.

Prior to the actual description of how the BO (often called Kun in the Okinawan systems) was and is utilized, let us briefly examine this interesting weapon. The BO is most widely known via the Japanese and Okinawan systems. Generally speaking, the weapons systems of Japan (Kobujutsu) differ from those of Okinawa (Kobudo). Weapons of Japan tended to be tools of the professional warrior. The weapons of Okinawa were most often the weapons of the "peasants", the farmers and fishermen. Japanese and Okinawan weapons are different, with the exception of the BO. (Note - the Japanese BO is generally straight, the Okinawan usually tapered). While there are certainly similarities in techniques, they are stylistically noticeably different enough that most people are able to distinguish between the two. It was in the Japanese styles that the BO was employed in police work.


"Guardsmen", i.e. police or military or even samurai who had the responsibility of guarding a location, were the ones who utilized the BO. Held under the right armpit, angled slightly horizontally, with palm facing up, they would patrol the grounds walking back and forth. Since many of the adversaries they would encounter were armed with swords which potentially could cut through the BO, techniques utilized were more similar to the evasive techniques of the JO rather than the direct blocks and strikes of the BO.

Guards from all walks of law-enforcement no longer carry a BO with them. However, Mitsugi Saotome, a former student of Morihei Uyeshiba, and Shihan in his own right, has taken many of the older BO techniques mentioned above and devised a series of "Patrol Katas". These two-man katas find one person employing the BO, and another attacking with either a sword, staff, or almost any other weapon. Using the evasive BO techniques of old, coupled with the patterns of movement of Aikido, the katas are seen in select dojos around the world. While we won't be seeing "guardsmen" with BO in hand patrolling many streets, the use of taisabaki in the BO techniques described above would make it a valuable complement to advanced Taiho-Jutsu training.

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