The Jo Staff's Ties to Aikido
Both Use Circular Motions to Be Most Effective
In Aikido, the Jo staff is used for spearing, hitting, or deflecting a strike from an opponent.
Aikijo is similar to jodo in that they both involve fencing techniques to a degree, but they differ in the overall nature and strategies that are used.
Jodo techniques are faster and sharper, using angular attacks and defensive moves. Aikijo techniques tend to be slower and softer by using circular movements to blend attacks and defensive moves in order to reduce or negate an attack.
Morihei Ueshiba (1883–1969), the founder of Aikido, adapted the Jo with the intent to teach the principles of Aikido. His use of the Jo is called aikijo.
Even though Ueshiba believed in unarmed battle, he still understood the importance of becoming competent in weaponry. He believed and taught that Aikido is a process that features circular motions and techniques that are more defensive than offensive.
This makes the Jo staff a weapon of choice when harming or killing your opponent is not the desired result.
Jo Staff Basics
The Jo Is Also Known as “The Wooden Staff of Japan”
The Jo staff is usually created from hardwood that is cylindrical or octagonal in shape. Lengths range from 50" to 56" and a diameter of about 1".
The Jo is also called the four-foot staff or short staff, distinguishing it from the long or Bo staff (six-foot stick), and the Hanbo or half (three-foot) stick.
The Jo staff can be used alone in kata or paired with other staves in practice sessions, and it has historical links with the Japanese katana. Staves are preferred by many martial artists above all other weapons due to their elegance, simplicity, and speed.
Proper Jo Staff Length
Selecting the Correct Length Is Important
The Jo staff of Muso Gonnosuke's design and the one used in his school, Shinto Muso Ryu, is 50 1/4" in length with a diameter of 15/16".
Most martial artists use a Jo tailored to their own height, and some dojos and organizations adopt their own size guidelines.
In choosing a wooden weapon for use in the classroom, the first step for a newbie is to find out what is used or required in their dojo.
For instance, a custom-made Jo that is extra thick or excessively long may or may not be welcome in some dojos.
While picking your Jo length, remember that everyone is different, but generally speaking, customizations in size should be on the conservative side.
A taller person may need a Jo 54" or more, and a shorter person might want to stay with the original length of just over 50" rather than ordering a very short Jo.
A general rule for proper Jo length is floor to armpit while standing barefoot. The measurement is with the arm in a normal relaxed position.
Proper Jo Staff Thickness
The Role of Diameter and Balance in Jo Staff Design
A feeling of thickness and weight can be affected by the smallest of differences in diameter.
A mere 1/16" added to the circumference of a 52" Jo will feel noticeably thicker and may affect the overall feel and balance of the staff.
Some students feel they need to custom order a thicker Jo of 1 1/8 to 1 1/4" without realizing the effect of small changes in diameter.
The volume of a cylinder is proportional to the square of its radius. If you increase the radius/diameter by a small amount, the feeling of thickness goes up exponentially.
Two standard thicknesses are used: 15/16 and 1".
You should base the thickness of your Jo on its length and other characteristics that affect how the weapon feels in your hands.
A taller person may want a staff diameter that matches the overall length, but ultimately, it should feel natural and balanced when using.
Advantages of the Jo Staff
Simplicity Is the Key
In the Japanese countryside of old, many farming tools were used as weapons.
Several martial arts weapons like the Bo, Sai, Nunchaku, and Tonfa were crafted from such tools.
The Jo staff could be crafted pretty quickly from a tree branch. This is one advantage that past stick fighters had over swordsmen of the time. When it came time to fight, a Jo staff could easily be made from materials at hand.
The cane or walking stick has been used as a defensive weapon for as long as people have used them as walking aids. A walking stick can be used to hook and trip an attacker, as well as being useful as a club to strike an opponent.
Nowadays, broomsticks, garden rakes, shovel handles, and the like can easily be turned into a Jo staff.
The Jo is a humble weapon with an interesting and noble history: a simple yet complex weapon.
© 2010 Hal Gall
Visitor Comments – What’s on Your Mind?
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on April 16, 2014:
@williamslaw: Aikido doesn't get as much attention as some of the other martial arts, probably because it is not as aggressive as the more popular ones.
williamslaw on April 16, 2014:
Japanese martial arts are very interesting. I like Aikido.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on November 04, 2013:
@Redneck Lady Luck: Canes are pretty good for protection as well, and they have the "hook" at the handle that can be used to pull someone down if need be. As for walking sticks, I would like one like Gandalf has in the Hobbit movies!
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on November 04, 2013:
Fascinating. The history behind the Jo stick is so exciting and you have written it out so well as to hold me captive with the tale from start to end. I really liked the farm tool section as it relates to weaponry. I think I would like a Jo walking stick with a rubber end on the tip that can be quickly removed should the need for a weapon come into play.
KamalaEmbroidery on April 25, 2013:
I have always been interested in Aikido and Japanese martial arts in general although I don't know much about them -- part of my interest in Zen I guess. Anyway, thanks for increasing my knowledge of staffs.
kabbalah lm on March 02, 2013:
I think Mrs K would hit me over the head with one of these :)
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on February 26, 2013:
There is something mystic about aikido. I like that:)
Nnadi bonaventure Chima from Johanesburg on February 26, 2013:
Fascinating history , Thanks for sharing
happymonkeyz on February 25, 2013:
wow interesting japanese history.
robertzimmerman2 on February 25, 2013:
I always have been curious about Aikido, thanks!
Tonto Murray on February 25, 2013:
Interesting history. Thanks for sharing. Blessed
Takkhis on February 14, 2013:
I am familiar with Aikido jo stuffs, get these easily from our local market!
VspaBotanicals on December 19, 2012:
This is excellent. I just learned something very interesting and new. Thanks!
darciefrench lm on December 18, 2012:
Very well done article on the Aikido Jo Staff
DebMartin on December 18, 2012:
anonymous on December 16, 2012:
Aikido is also good for relaxation
Projectlazy on December 09, 2012:
@vineliner57: Maybe the promise of another challenge was to enticing
Projectlazy on December 09, 2012:
I like how you mention walking sticks as weapons. Sherlock Holmes was a master of using his walking stick as a weapon too.
cjbmeb14 lm on December 04, 2012:
Amazing lens, I wonder why each of them spared each others lives.
halloweenprops on December 03, 2012:
I want one of these Aikido Jo Staffs!
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on November 27, 2012:
Hi I enjoyed reading about the Aikido Jo Staffs. Blessed.
Michey LM on November 15, 2012:
This is all new to me Blessings! for a unique subject!
Pat Moire from West Village, New York City on October 18, 2012:
Very comprehensive information. Domo arigato
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on October 14, 2012:
@Linda Pogue: Thanks for the comments and the blessing!
Linda Pogue from Missouri on October 14, 2012:
Thank you for an elegant introduction to the Aikido Jo staff. Someday I would love to take some classes. Blessings!
anonymous on October 06, 2012:
Noble Art one of my Sons used to practice Bushidokan as well.
LaurenIM on September 30, 2012:
I love Aikido - period lol!
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on November 22, 2011:
This is the first I've heard of Aikido Jo Staffs. Thanks for the great introduction.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on October 02, 2011:
@Chris-H LM: Thanks for the heads up on the video. Yeah, Jo staffs are pretty cool in that they look more like a cane or walking stick and don't draw as much attention, but can still be used as a defensive or offensive weapon....Thanks for stopping by.
Chris-H LM on September 30, 2011:
Nice! I have a Bo Staff. The Jo Staff is new to me. May have to get one...
Oh!, btw your first video no longer works. Just thought you'd like to know.