Basic Bo Staff Techniques

Man in shotokan karate

The bo staff is a traditional martial arts weapon that is typically 5 or 6 feet in length. This long wooden stick has both defensive and offensive applications. The staff is especially good for hitting an opponent from a long range. Experienced martial artists can twirl this weapon at mesmerizing speeds. Before you start spinning the bo staff around your body, try some basic techniques, including the rising block, reverse strike, sweep and downward thrust.

Rising Block

The rising block is a basic technique used to defend against an overhead attack. To execute this block, hold the bo staff in a standard grip. Grab the staff so that your hands divide it into three equal sections. Your right palm should face up and your left palm should face down. To block, keep the weapon parallel to the floor and raise it above your head. The rising block can defend against a stick or sword strike aimed at your head. Make sure you block your opponent’s weapon with the middle section of your staff.

Reverse Strike

After performing a rising block, a possible counter attack is the reverse strike. To perform the reverse strike, start with the bo staff above your head in a rising-block position. Keep the staff parallel to the floor and rotate it counterclockwise. As you rotate the staff, lower it and bring your left hand under your right armpit. This motion should cause the right end of the staff to strike your opponent on the right side of his head or neck.


A basic sweep is performed similarly to a reverse strike. To perform a sweep, start in the same position that you ended up in on the reverse strike. One end of the bo staff should be under your armpit and the other end should be pointed straight out in front of you. Move the striking end of the bo staff toward your opponent’s ankles on the right side of his body. Quickly pivot your hips to the right as you sweep your opponent’s legs out from underneath him.

Downward Thrust

A downward thrust is a basic technique you can use after you have knocked an opponent to the ground. To execute a downward thrust, hold the bo staff in a standard grip. Raise your right hand and lower your left hand so that the staff is tilted at about a 45-degree angle. Extend your right arm and bring your left hand across your chest. Forcefully thrust the low end of the staff downward at your opponent.