The term "Bojutsu" refers to the art of using a long stick as a weapon in Japanese martial arts. Details are as follows.
In the martial arts of China and Ryukyu, it refers to the art which is called "konjutsu", which uses a stick with the little thicker center known as a 'kon,' instead of 'bo' (staff), and was devised as a martial art that originated from kenpo (martial art by hands).
Martial techniques using a stick-shaped weapon existed or were introduced in various places across the world, which are called Bojutsu in Japanese because of the similarity to Bojutsu in Japanese martial arts.
Bojutsu in Japanese martial arts is characterized by a staff about 180 cm in length, which is circular in its cross section and smoothly polished. Most staff has a diameter of 2.4-3.3 centimeters. However, there are longer and shorter staffs, or staffs which are not circular in terms of their cross section; this depends on the styles and schools in which the staffs are used. Staffs with thick edges and a thin center are called kobo. Presently, the martial arts which use a staff of about 120 cm is called "Jojutsu" and those which use shorter sticks are called "hanbojutsu" (half-Bojutsu). Different schools use different names for the sticks based on their respective lengths, and both Jojutsu and hanbojutsu are considered a subset of Bojutsu.
There are various kinds of materials and forms of staffs in Japan; for example, the "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace) describes kashiwagibo (oak bar), kashinokibo (oak bar), iron club and tetsubo (iron bar), while in "Gikeiki" (a military epic about the life of Yoshitsune), unique sticks such as hakkakubo (octagonal bar) and chigiriki (a rather unique weapon consisting of a short staff and an attached weight) are described.
The origin of Bojutsu in Japan
From old times, Bojutsu has been related to religion, and a kind of Bojutsu has been performed in rites and festivals. While being one of the most ancient and simplest weapons, its origin is rather unclear due to fewer historical sources and literature than other martial arts such as swordplay.
However, many schools believe that they originated from warriors having their spear point or naginata (Japanese halbred) broken while on the battle field, who was required to immediately fight with the handle.
Since many schools of bojutsu have common names for techniques such as "goho" (literally, five methods, five directions, etc.), "sashiai" (literally, doing together, obstacle), "kasanoshita" (literally, under an umbrella), "gorinkudaki" (literally, crushing five wheels), and "mizuhiki" (decorative Japanese cord made from twisted paper), it seems that there has been some relationship among the schools.
The characters and techniques of Bojutsu
While Bojutsu in Japan also exist under the assumption that a given situation would involve two individuals carrying Bo, much like in Bojutsu found in other countries, forms also exist under the assumption that the opponent would be wielding a sword, as in other Japanese marital arts. As mentioned in the section concerning the origin of Bojutsu, many schools are said to have originated from spear and naginata, and often have the techniques in common with the art of spearmanship, swordsmanship, and naginata. For that reason, it is often considered the foundation for wielding polearms.
(e.g., Takenouchi school and Kiraku school)
In addition, many schools of jujutsu (classical Japanese martial art, usually referring to fighting without a weapon) have their own Bojutsu or use Bojutsu from other schools. From old times, it has been said that Bojutsu is an excellent method for building up the body. Jigoro KANO, the founder of the Kodokan Judo Institute, learned Bojutsu from the Yagyushingan school and other Bojutsu during his training period, and admitted its utility.
(Although he failed, he tried to introduce Jojutsu and Bojutsu at the Kodokan Judo Institute later)
Some schools of comprehensive martial arts including Bojutsu in Japan consider Bojutsu as 'a subject to learn timing and distancing' in its curriculum. It could be said that the above description has deep relations with the nature of the staff such that the staff can function as a handle and also an edge.
People other than samurai and Bojutsu
Bojutsu has been practiced widely without regard for status and class because of its character, and a lot of schools have appeared in various places of Japan. Even now, Bojutsu is often performed in rituals and festivals by the names of Bo no te (Japanese traditional dance), Bojutsu, bo-odori (bar dance) and shishimai (lion dance). Some of them have succeeded as a martial art, although they are sometimes performed in rituals and festivals.
In addition, Bojutsu of many schools have succeeded as Bo no te, shishimai, bo-odori and a herald of festival in various regions.