The bo and eku are my favourite traditional Okinawan weapons.
In this article I’ll explain how to size and hold these long weapons. You can watch this video for a demonstration of these, as well as of various basic techniques:
There are different types of bo that you can buy. In the above video I’m using the style of bo that we use in Meibukan Goju-Ryu Karate and Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan. Feel free to use whatever bo that you can find or afford. (Note: when I started karate, I used a broom handle to practise my bo kata. There’s no shame in using whatever you have available!)
This bo is made of wood, and is thicker in the middle and tapered at either end. This style of bo comes in 6-inch/half-foot increments (i.e. 5 feet long, 5.5 feet long, 6 feet long, 6.5 feet long). You want your bo to be slightly taller than you. My bo, for example, is 5.5 feet long, which is the right length for my height of 5 feet 2 inches.
The eku I have is slightly shorter than me, at about 5 feet long. I’m actually not certain about proper sizing for the eku. The one I have is what was available at the dojo from which I purchased it. Most articles I’ve read online state that the eku should complement your size. If this is the case, my eku is slightly too short for my height. I’ve read other articles that state that the eku should be longer, as with the bo. (If you know the proper sizing for the eku, feel free to share that information in the Comments section below!)
The bo and eku are held in a similar fashion. For the bo, the basic grip is right hand palm up, and left hand palm down. Position your hands on the bo so that the bo is visually “cut” into three equal pieces, with your hands dividing them. (So you will place your left hand one-third of the way in from the left end of the bo, and your right hand halfway between the remaining length of the bo.)
With the eku, you position your hands similarly, but your right hand will be just beneath the paddle end of the weapon, and your left hand will be a comfortable distance away.
When using both the bo and eku, you might need to slide your hands along the length of the shaft or handle as you’re using them. That is totally fine, and will make some techniques easier to do. Just keep your hands in the same grip (right hand palm up, left hand palm down).
For some bo kata and bo techniques, you do need to switch your grip, so that your left hand is palm up, and your right hand is palm down. There are two different ways you can do this, as shown in the video. One technique involves opening up both hands, palm open, and sliding each hand along the bo towards and past one another, while flipping the bo, until your hands have switched position along the bo. (This will make more sense to you when you watch the demo in the video.) The other technique is to hold the bo upright, and simply let go with both hands and quickly switch your hands. So if your right hand is on top, you will quickly let go with both hands, and place your left hand on top, and your right in the bottom position.
Now you know how to size and hold the eku and bo. In the video above I also show some basic strikes and blocks with these Okinawan long weapons.
If you want to learn some more techniques you can do with your bo, check out the following videos. I’ve also included video demonstrations on how to use your tonfa and sai. Stay tuned for more karate and kobudo demonstrations in the near future.
Thanks for reading and watching!