The Japanese martial art of wielding the bō is bōjutsu. Thrusting, swinging, and striking techniques often resemble empty-hand movements, following the philosophy that the bō is merely an "extension of one’s limbs". As in Okinawa-te, attacks are often avoided by footwork and returning strikes made at the enemy’s weak points.
The bō is typically gripped in thirds, and when held horizontally in front, the right palm is facing away from the body and the left hand is facing the body, enabling the bō to rotate. The power is generated by the back hand pulling the bō, while the front hand is used for guidance. When striking, the wrist is twisted, as if turning the hand over when punching. Bō technique includes a wide variety of blocks, strikes, sweeps, and entrapments. The bō may even be used to sweep sand into an opponent’s eyes.
The earliest form of the bō, a staff, has been used throughout Asia since the beginning of recorded history. The first bo were called ishibo, and were made of stone. The Bo Used for self defense by monks or commoners, the staff was an integral part of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, one of the martial arts’ oldest surviving styles.
The staff evolved into the bō with the foundation of kobudo, a martial art using weapons, which emerged in Okinawa in the early 1600s. Prior to the 1400s, Okinawa, a small island located south of Japan, was divided into three kingdoms: Chuzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan. After much political turmoil, Okinawa was united under the Sho Dynasty in 1429. In 1477, Emperor Sho Shin of the second Sho dynasty came into power. Determined to enforce his philosophical and ethical ideas, while banning feudalism, the emperor instituted a ban on weapons. It became a crime to carry or own weapons such as swords, in an attempt to prevent further turmoil and prevent uprising. In 1609, the temporary peace established by Sho Shin was violently overthrown when the powerful Satsuma Clan invaded Okinawa. Composed of Japanese samurai, the Satsuma Clan took over the island, making Okinawan independence a thing of the past. The Satsuma placed a new weapons ban on the people of Okinawa, leaving them defenseless against the steel of the samurai’s swords. In an attempt to protect themselves from the devastating forces of the Satsuma, the people of Okinawa looked to simple farming implements, which the samurai would not be able to confiscate, as new methods of defense. This use of weapons developed into kobudo, or "ancient martial art," as we know it today.