Monday, September 14, 2015

The Bo: Sticking With It

This weekend we had "pre-test" and review for our Kobudo rank test with the bo coming up next month.  In parts I did really well.  In other parts, well... not so much.

Nope, still not me in a white gi.

As I wrote before, I've been practicing a lot more, and yes, I do think I'm seeing results.

Before I started studying bo, I actively disliked the weapon.  It's very big (six feet), it's unwieldy, it requires (for the most part) both hands, and honestly, there aren't a ton of analogues to the bo in the real world.  Mostly farming implements, and I'm personally not much of a farmer.

To one of you getting ready to object - I use a six foot bo.  Your broom handles and what not are more analogous to the jo, not the bo I use.  And if you are using one of those four to five foot toothpick bo... I've personally witnessed one of those breaking by scraping the tip on a carpet, so no, I don't consider those useful in terms of actually using a weapon in self defense terms.

My interest in weapons is actual use, even if it's not terribly practical, versus performance.

But after studying bo for nine months now, I feel a little differently.

If you said, "Pick a non-firearms weapon to defend yourself", no, bo would not be my first choice.  But if you handed me a bo and told me that's what I have to use to defend myself, I can and I feel pretty good about my chances.

So here's how my pre-test went.

First, we did our "seven count" drill, the very first thing we've learned.  We need to know this both right and left handed.

Well, several times, in the middle of it I "switched hands" for no good reason - I'd get turned around and end up starting on the right, and ending on the left.


The thing is, I knew it was happening, I just couldn't fix it!  I did it at least three times before I was able to get it corrected.  Usually this drill is done in pairs - it wasn't this time - and if we had been in pairs, I know I wouldn't have made this mistake at all.

Next we did our kata.  Here, I'm going to say I did pretty darn well.  I was fluid, my footwork was good, my grip was good, and my targeting was good, and I had no hitches or pauses to think about what I was doing.  I know these forms.

I did have one minor slip-up in the middle of one kata (I was thinking slightly ahead and forgot momentarily where I was in the form), but I corrected it pretty fast and without stopping. If you'd watched me and didn't know the form, you'd never have guessed I screwed up.  Our instructors noted that two of us in my group did screw up the form, but only one of us "showed it" (made a face about it) - and that one wasn't me.


Finally, it was our one-steps.  We have four of these, two of which we just learned last month.

I blanked.  Utterly.

These are partner drills, and my partner also was having trouble.  In fact, the entire class was struggling with this part of what we needed to know, so at least it wasn't just me stinking up the joint.

So, we spent the last part of the class working on these one-steps.  I got a lot of clarification on some points that were confusing me a bit, and now I feel much stronger on this portion of what I'm supposed to know.

As an aside,  one of the students at Hidden Sword has been testing out a bo for the organization that is far less expensive than the bo from our normal supplier for the last couple of months.  While getting our stuff together in the parking lot, we noticed a hairline crack in her bo going almost all the way around the shaft of the bo about five inches from the tip.  Luckily we caught it, and she used a different bo in class.

BUT... during our one steps, a different student's bo broke and yep, the tip flew across the room.   This was (presumably) one of our more expensive white oak bo. It's now a white oak spear.

So it just goes to show - you can buy high quality weapons and you'll still end up with breaks, if you are actually using them and not just dancing around in the air with them.

So that's how the bo is going.  We have our first test the second week of October, and while of course I'm nervous about it, I think my program of practicing is paying off. 

I do find myself "geeking out" about applications of various parts of the forms and one steps and what not (for example, my instructor +Mark Lynn and I had a long conversation about one of our one-steps where we debated stepping back vs. stepping off on an angle, and that was kinda fun).

So let's geek out on the bo - or other weapons if you like, I'm all for that - in the comments.