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Bo and Elbows

I recently watched a Karate student perform a Yamane-Ryu (or Yamanne-Ryu) bo kata. He would improve 20% if he would just keep his elbows closer to his body.

You have to understand that 20% is an incredible amount of improvement. Sometimes we work hard for just a 2 or 3% improvement.

Keeping our elbows close helps us to connect our bo movements to our "whole body" and koshi. It also streamlines the movements of the kata, presenting a smaller or narrower target.

In Kendo, the wrist or forearm area (kote) is one of the three main striking points. In combat, if you cut the opponent's kote, he will not be able to use his sword. The same is true with the bo. If your elbows stick out, you are presenting very inviting targets. However, if your elbows are kept close to your body, your wrists and forearms will not stick out and will be much harder to strike.

When using the bo, particularly in the Yamane-Ryu system, keep your elbows close to your body -- the closer the better.

I should note that I usually use the term "Yamani-Ryu" to describe our system of bojutsu because that is the way my sensei spells it. Other people use the terms "Yamane-Ryu" or "Yamanne-Ryu". My sensei is Prof. Katsuhiko Shinzato. He learned bojutsu from Chogi Kishaba. I understand that different students of Kishaba Sensei might use slightly different terms. The student I observed had learned from one of Kishaba Sensei's other students.

However, I pretty sure that the kanji is the same, whether we use the terms Yamani, Yamane, or Yamanne.

Yamani-Ryu is distinctive because it is truly a bojutsu system -- not simply Karate using a bo. I often say that our Shorin-Ryu is influenced more by bojutsu than our bojutsu is influenced by Shorin-Ryu.


Charles C. Goodin