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The Riot Baton Revisited

by Steven J. Kaplan

In 2006, I wrote an article for Arresting Solutions titled, "The Riot Baton: Taiho-Jutsu's Versatile Asset". In that article, I spoke of the uses of the 36" riot baton, both for riot control as well as for individual defenses against armed and unarmed attacks, and restraining techniques. I further encouraged advanced training by those in all areas of law-enforcement and military police. 

Additionally mentioned in that article were the arts of hanbo-jutsu and tanjo-jutsu, both utilizing a 36" staff in a variety of techniques, and stated that these arts would be excellent adjuncts for the police and military. However, given the vast amount of techniques (leading to Black Belt) in hanbo-jutsu, and tanjo-jutsu having twelve kata, I concluded that "reality demands that we can't expect law enforcement professionals to master the twelve kata of the tanjo or achieve Black Belt rank with the hanbo". While I still feel this to be an unrealistic expectation, I believe, upon closer examination of the twelve kata of the tanjo, that while law-enforcement and military police may not master the techniques of tanjo-jutsu, they are certainly capable of learning them with an adequate degree of competency.

Prior to elaborating, let us take a brief glance at the tanjo's history in Japan. The tanjo was introduced in Japan in the mid to late1800s, at the height of what was then great Western influence there, in all areas of life and culture. Amongst the many things adopted and adapted was the walking stick, which became a widespread rage.


Since the populace was now carrying walking sticks, a defensive art around it was formed, with twelve defensive kata comprising the art. The twelve kata are primarily seen to defend against someone with a sword. As may be obvious, a sword can represent almost any weapon, long or short, or even a fist attack. Each kata is generally 2-4 moves.

What is most important is that we see a great compatibility to taiho-jutsu in tanjo-jutsu. All defenses center on taisabaki as the initial defense. Once the defender is out of the line of attack, counter moves are made, ranging from a disarm, to a disarm and strike. If one were to compare the level of difficulty of the tanjo techniques to those of the riot baton for both crowd control and defense, the levels, in my opinion, would be nearly identical. What of the ease of learning techniques? After all, taiho-jutsu has as a core prerequisite that techniques must be easily learned, easily executed, and easily retained. The techniques of the tanjo do in fact meet these criteria. Repeating my earlier statement of mastering the techniques, a mastery of the techniques may be an unrealistic expectation, but how many of those utilizing the techniques of the riot baton are "masters" of its use? So too is the case with the tanjo. One may use it most adequately, but does not have to master the movements.

In summation, I would recommend those who are able, to take advantage of the techniques, both specific and functional, of the tanjo.

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