A bo staff, sometimes called simply a bo, is a long, thin stick. Most traditional martial arts include instruction on how to use the bo as a weapon. While some of this instruction involves partner work, most training revolves around kata, which are choreographed, one-person routines. Kata competitions are common at martial arts tournaments. Most bo kata competitions require that your bring your own bo and that that bo meets the competition's specific guidelines. Choosing a bo for competition requires you to balance your needs with the rules of the organization sponsoring the competition.
Read the official rulebook for the competition you will be attending. Some organizations specify size, weight and material for the bo staffs they allow in competition. If you can't find a copy of the rulebook, call the tournament organizer and ask about weapons specifications.
Talk to someone who competes regularly in the kind of competition you plan to attend. Ask whether a certain style of bo is most common. Some organizations use only traditional wood bos. Others use bos made of modern synthetics. Don't bring a synthetic bo to a traditional competition or a wood bo to a competition that favors flashy, synthetic bos.
Talk to the senior people in your style of martial arts. Determine whether they use a straight bo or a tapered one, a long bo or a short one, a bamboo or wood bo or a synthetic one. The length and type of bo is determined by the kind of martial art you study and the kind of kata you do.
Decide whether you want a custom bo or a mass-produced bo. Beginners should start with a mass-produced bo. When they get good enough to begin to have opinions about how a bo handles, they will be able to select a custom bo that suits their personal style of movement.
Weapons-makers will often set up a sales table at large tournaments. Talk to them about your needs. They are usually a valuable source of information.
Test your bo before going to the tournament. Judges will sometimes put one end of the bo on the floor and hold the other end so the bo is at about a 45-degree angle. They will then press down slowly and firmly in the center of the bo to test if the bo is sturdy. Test your own bo at home before bringing it to the competition.
Never bring an unusual style of bo into a class or tournament without first checking with your teacher. Your teacher will understand the safety and traditional implications of your choice better than you do.