September 17, 2007

Post About Tubbies? Guest Post Must Follow

Last week I wrote about the Teletubbies.  Yes, the Teletubbies.  I hit an all time low (I still like them though, just shh, don’t tell anyone).  Anyway, I started thinking about asking someone to guest post.  I mean, surely if I’m writing about the teletubbies, I could use some R & R. 

So, today I bring you a guest post by a Sandan (3rd degree black belt) in Okinawan Kenpo Karate and Kobudo.  He’s also a student of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Kenjutsu (that’s Japanese weaponry for the non-Japanese-knowing folk).  He also happens to be a former instructor and training partner, and a very good writer (if I do say so myself).  So read, relax, and enjoy.  Also, make sure you give him some love in the comments section when you’re done (we just might be able to get him to start his own blog!!!).  I look forward to him joining us at our new school; but in the meantime, maybe he’ll be hanging out here, at the BBM lair occasionally.  Now without further delay. . .

Jo: Weapon of Self-Defense for in the Home or at College
Matthew Apsokardu

Simplicity.  That’s what effective self-defense is all about.  In order to prepare ourselves for self-defense situations, we engage in a myriad of activities like creating action plans, increasing physical fitness, and practicing various techniques.  But in the end, it is instinct that we rely on most.  When instinct kicks in we utilize those actions which are most engrained in our psyche.  Because of that visceral, adrenaline pumping reaction, I believe the Jo is the best weapon for self-defense in the home or dorm room.

Let’s start off with a basic definition.  Generally speaking, the Jo is a four foot long wooden staff with no taper, as seen below –


Why is the Jo a good weapon for in the home?

The Jo is perfect for indoor use because it is an optimal length.  Weapons like the Rokushakubo (six foot Bo) are far too long and would get caught on ceilings, surrounding furniture, etc.  Furthermore, if an assailant breaking into your house manages to catch hold of the weapon, it would be difficult to generate a release, and by the time you figure something out, it’s too late.  Let’s take a quick look at length comparisons –


As I mentioned, the Jo is significantly shorter than the Bo, but it is also longer than all the other weapons.  An assailant wielding a short knife, machete, or baseball bat would be at an immediate length disadvantage.  Until you can get your bearings and regain control of your emotions, staying out of the range of your attacker is of utmost importance. 

Why use the Jo and not conventional weapons, like a gun or a knife?

The Jo is a better choice for various reasons.  Let’s examine a knife first.  The knife benefits from immediate cutting power and the fear it can instill in an attacker.  However, in order to do damage with the knife, you must be very close.  This can cause problems, especially if the attacker is stronger, faster, or has a longer weapon than you.  If you are the least bit hesitant in striking your target, he will bash you with punishing physical blows and will gain control of your weapon, turning it on you.  That being said, I do like the knife as a self-defense weapon. When used viciously, it can shred an opponent to ribbons.  However, you have to gauge your own capacities – are you ready to cut and stab another human being?

Another problem with the knife arises in dorm rooms.  If you are a student and keep a knife next to your bed or under your pillow, it had better not get discovered.  Not only will your hall mates become afraid and anxious, they might also get authorities involved.  You could be facing counseling, police attention, or more serious repercussions.  The Jo, however, is a completely nondescript piece of wood – it could hypothetically be part of a desk you never finished assembling, or a closet rod that you didn’t need.  No one will look twice as it rests unassumingly next to your headboard, and if a question does arise, there are plenty of good answers.

Now let’s look at Jo compared to a gun.  The main reason I favor the Jo is simplicity.  Most responsible homeowners keep there guns hidden away, unloaded, and with the safety on (especially if they have kids).  Even if you have a gun nearby, you have to consider your emotional readiness to use it, just like a knife.  For some people that’s no problem, but for most, the actual use of a gun results in hesitation and self-doubt.

Let’s just run a quick scenario.  You’re sleeping quietly in your room with your significant other lying next to you.  The door is about 6 feet away.  You hear the doorknob rattling and it brings you out of sleep into a groggy state.  Suddenly a black clothed man charges into the room…

and now he is on you, striking you repeatedly. 

Did you have time to retrieve your gun, switch the safety off, cock it (if necessary), aim it, and then fire?  The same situation arises if the attacker is coming through the window.  Now what if you had a Jo resting by your head?  As the robber throws the door open you reach back and grab the Jo, and as he charges, you swing it, striking him in the head from four feet away.  He stumbles back and now you’re very awake.  You strike him in the hand so that he releases his weapon and then in the head again, knocking him out.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t own a gun or knife or anything like that, but the speed and distance of the Jo is ideal for situations that require quick reactions.  If you hear a noise a few rooms away and have a minute or two to prepare a firearm (and you’ve assessed your willingness to use it), then a gun is certainly useful; but it’s very risky to rely solely on that.

If we go back to dorm rooms, guns are completely unacceptable.  If you are found with a gun, the repercussions will be much worse than if you have a knife.  Consider another scenario – if you’re a woman in college, self-defense situations are very real.  One of your roommates might invite a couple of “friends” over for a party.  One of those male friends might decide he wants to take advantage of you. Being weaponless in this scenario is very undesirable.  Many women carry around small containers of mace, and that’s a good thing.  However, the problem of reaction time and adrenaline arises again.  If you are lucky enough to have the mace handy and not buried at the bottom of a book bag or purse, you have to point it in the right direction, make sure the safety mechanism is disengaged, and then fire into your attacker’s eyes (hoping it doesn’t get into your eyes as well).  That’s a lot of contingencies. 

An attack like this will likely occur on or near your bed.  If you have a Jo sitting by your headboard, your attacker will unexpectedly receive a quick strike to the face, followed by one to the groin, before he gets a chance to put his hands on you and overpower you.  Or if he is already on top of you, all you need is that one free hand to reach up, grab the Jo, and bash the butt-end of it into his face, leaving you with room to strike him further as he reels back.

Other Reasons to Like the Jo

Versatility.  Tack that onto simplicity.  The Jo can be used in a wide swinging motion, or a thrusting motion, or a throwing motion, and both ends can be utilized.  No matter how you grab the Jo, it’s ready for action.  Furthermore, it is more inherently useful than other martial art weapons.  The Sai, Tunfa, Kama, etc. all have a higher learning curve.  With just a little bit of training, the Jo can be nightmare for any attacker.  Finally, the Jo is not a risk to children in your household.  Far too often we hear about accidents where young ones cut or shoot themselves.

Get a Jo Today

You don’t have to go to Japan to get a Jo, just Home Depot.  They sell dowel rods for four dollars that are cut almost exactly to four feet.  Select a dowel that is at least one inch in diameter, and check the wood for any cracks or knots.  Buy some sandpaper too.  When you get it home, sand down the ends so that they are rounded, then sand the entire staff.  If you can find a competent instructor who is familiar with Jo, try to include it in your training.  At night, leave the Jo resting by your headboard, and if you are going to college or have kids that are, be sure to send them off with one.

Matthew Apsokardu can be contacted at

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