Notice I use the word “staff” here. This is because the bo is one specific type of staff. There are many different types of staff, and they come in a range of lengths and therefore serve different purposes.
Let’s examine a few (this is not a comprehensive list), from longest to shortest and based on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean examples.
- The Wing Chun Long Pole (a.k.a. Luk Dim Boon Kwan, the 6 1/2 – point pole, or Dragon Pole) is an 8-foot (or more) hardwood pole. This staff may have been derived from the ancient Chinese military staff used for long-range fighting (e.g., soldiers on the ground fighting opponents on horseback). Today, it’s primarily used as a strength training implement for the wrists and forearms. The Fujian White Crane and Hung Gar kung fu styles use similar poles for strength training.
- The longer Kung Fu Staff used by Shaolin Monks or Wushu athletes range from just over 6 1/2 feet to just over 8 feet.
- As mentioned previously, the Okinawan Rokushakubō is 5.96 feet in length. The Korean Jang Bong is of similar length.
- The Japanese Jo is often 4.2 feet long.
- The Japanese Hanbō is approximately three shaku or about 3 feet long – half the length of the rokushakubo. The Korean Joong Bong is of similar length.
- The Japanese Tanbō does not have an official length, but it typically varies betwen 18 to 24 inches long. (Compare this to Filipino Escrima/Arnis/Kali sticks, which are usually 26 to 28 inches long).
- The Korean Dan Bong typically measures between 8 and 12 inches in length. Some have a rope threaded through one end of the stick.