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Breaking a Bo

The other day I heard a story about a Karate expert who broke a bo while performing a kata. Of course, this kind of thing happens from time. Wood is not perfect and the stresses during kata (or pairing off) can be great.

I thought of two issues. The first is safety. When a bo breaks, one end tends to fly off. The break is usually very jagged and sharp. Someone can be serious injured. If the broken end hits the floor or a wall, it can even bounce back and injure the person performing the kata.

It is essential to carefuly examine your bo before each and every use. This is especially true if you are a visitor to a dojo and borrowing a bo.

The second issue has to do with the perception of breaking a bo. Usually, the audience is very impressed. "Wow! That guy broke the bo!"

It is indeed good to be able to break the attacker's bo, but you definiltely do not want to break your own. You would be a serious disadvantage if you suddenly had a 3 foot bo and you opponent still had his six foot bo.

Actually, there are ways to swing a bo that are more likely to break it. There are also ways to block or strike the opponent's bo that are more likely to break your own bo. Advanced bo students are aware of this and move in a manner that protects their own bo from possible breakage. This usually involves thrusting rather than cutting down forcefully, and blocking with a circular angle rather than directly (at 90 degrees).

If you see a demonstration where a master breaks his own bo by swinging it, you should be aware that he is most likely embarrassed -- despite the fact that the audience may be impressed.

Like I always say, an audience is a very poor judge of Karate matters.


Charles C. Goodin