Hanbo Half Staff Stick Fighting Weapon

The Hanbo, also called the half staff, is one of the most popular stick fighting weapons used in many martial arts. It’s a staple in modern day self-defense and military tactics for striking, blocking, restraining, poking or throwing an opponent. Knowing how to use this self defense fighting weapon allows you to understand the potential of objects that are readily found anywhere. Sticks, canes and umbrellas are plentiful in metro or natural environments, too. Think about awareness and how to use sticks from trees, baseball bats, hockey sticks, walking canes and so forth.


Bujinkan Grandmaster, Hatsumi, shows some full staff Bo Training

This video below is from the discontinued Basics of Ninja Training black belt video course. It shows the basics stances studied to start half staff training. Students can get other available black belt courses from Bushindo University. (The Basics of Ninja Training black belt course is no longer available. For information about Mark Roemke, please contact his dojo.)

Hatsumi Soke has written several books focused just on stick fighting. Training with the hanbo half staff training weapons will help any martial artist with foundational stick manuevers. Browse for a good selection of training sticks made of wood or foam, and also stick fighting books by Hatsumi Soke and other staff weapon experts.

Hanbo Stick fighting and other hatsumi books

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Why is Hanbo an Effective Self-Defense Tool?

The leverage potential of the hanbo, or stick weapon, enables the user to quickly force an opponent into submission. It is also invaluable for reaching and affecting an attacker’s kyusho points (the “weakness” or “pain” points on the body.) Hatsumi’s writings about hanbo are invaluable. He writes extensively about “stick fighting” and notes that students who wish to master the katana should first master hanbo techniques. Those tools are similar shape and size, but the half staff is safer to learn with until you become a sword master.

When used effectively against sword attacks such as deflecting the edges of the blade, the hanbo can actually defeat an attacker using a katana.  In fact, it is said that many hanbo techniques were developed during a time in Japanese history when Samurai were forbidden to wear katana. They developed methods of applying their sword skills to the use of a hanbo against potential sword attacks. Such as in this video about muto dori (sword evasion) using hanbo and other tools:

It is not clear when the hanbo was first uses. But there are historical references to it first occurring during a battle when a warrior’s spear was cut in half during the fight. After that it came to be formally studied, particularly as part of the Kukishin-ryu koryu classical school of martial arts. It’s also a fundamental tool in the Kukishinden-ryu, one of the nine schools of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

Ideas for Training with a Hanbo

This ninjutsu lesson shows some posture training and awareness ideas. That configuration will help you get a feel for proper posture and spine/hip/arm control. Tying a belt around your body and arms to restrict your arm movement forces you to concentrate on using your hips and back. This changes your control of movement to avoid putting too much strength and motion into your arms. Securing a hanbo to your back will help you keep your spine straight which forces you to drop into deep kamae It should help you focus on proper hip/knee alignment. This gives you better balance and strength as well. Remember to keep your knee alignment over your feet, and do not point your knees to far in or out. Also, do not lean forward, just sink straight down.  More free videos are posted in the Ninja Training Video Blog on Youtube.