When I walk through the forest and look at the trees I think...
Syrup (I live in the northeast and just finished boiling some sugar maple sap!) and...
Today let's talk about one of the oldest self defense tools, a big stick, otherwise known as a rokushaku bo, or full length staff. We have a couple training videos for you today that teach some of our favorite rokushaku bo skills.
My first encounter with this training tool occurred at 4000' elevation on the southwestern slopes of the volcano Mauna Loa in the wet forests of Hawaii. We were working on methods for catching one of the rarest birds on the planet, the Hawaiian Crow, or 'Alala. There were only about a dozen birds left in the wild at the time. But that’s another story.
We were hosting two guests from India, who were there to teach us some ancient bird catching techniques. Our visitors were an elder father and his son. The father was in his 80's and didn’t speak English. His son was our translator.
The father had been taught traditional ways to live-catch birds for food when he was a boy. At the time of their visit with us, they were employed by the government of India to live-catch endangered birds.
At the end of a day of teaching skills to our field crew, the son asked, "Would you like to see my father demonstrate some martial arts skills?"
I had been exploring local martial arts teachers on the island at the time and eagerly jumped up and said, "Yes!"
"Good. Go get my father a long piece of straight wood about this long," the son said holding his hand up to his head indicating full body length.
I ran off to a nearby patch of forest and cut a section of non-native bamboo and brought it back for his father.
Up to this point, the elder had moved slowly as we hiked about the forest. He spoke little, only occasionally talking to describe a technique. When I handed him the full length staff he suddenly became alive. He started spinning the staff at high speed to the front, sides, and back of his body. Then he spun it overhead. Then he started laughing while running up and down the meadow while spinning the wood. He looked like a human propeller.
Oh man. I really wanted to learn how to do that!
Only problem was that they left five minutes later, boarded a plane that day and flew home. I never saw them again.
Fast forward several years when I happened to meet a guy named Mark Roemke at a friend's house.
Before long I venture through the doors of Pathways Dojo.
On my first day training, Sensei Roemke pulled a rokushaku bo off the wall and began teaching us spins!
I'll let Sensei Roemke take it from here to say a few things about this ancient training tool...
"The rokushaku bo is one of my favorite weapons because when you start to spin it, no matter which direction you turn or go, you are in the center. The center of the rokushaku bo is one of the safest places to be. Once you understand the matrix of how to turn it, you will forever be in the middle.
The rokushaku bo has many other uses. You can use it to bound off a tree to reach the first lower branch in order to climb the tree. You can use it to carry pots of heavy drinking water or supplies. And you can use it to defend against wild animals such as an encounter with a mountain lion."
We've been gathering wood from the forests and making our own rokushaku bos for years with adults and youth in our Ninjas in Nature Program. We even use them to make survival debris shelters.
We noticed too that kids are magnetized by rokushaku bos. Have you ever noticed that kids are always wanting to carry a big "hiking stick" when walking through the forest? It usually takes less than five minutes for an empty handed kid to pick up a big stick on a hike through the forest.
Even Gandalf carries one.
The second video is an excerpt from our youth Ancient Ninja Training Tools Series