How Long is Your Staff?

Bujinkan Hombu Dojo Walls, Windows. July 2013 photo by Michael Glenn
We have three basic staff lengths in the Bujinkan: 六尺棒 Rokushakubo (six shaku staff), sometimes just called 棒 bo (stick or pole); 四尺棒 Yonshakubo (four shaku staff) or 杖 jo (staff or cane); and 三尺棒 sanshakubo (three shaku stick) or 半棒 hanbo (half bo).

Did you know that the Hombu dojo is built around these measures?

I was in one class recently where Someya Sensei held the bo and hanbo up against the walls and windows of the Hombu to show us this. The wall sections between supports was the length of six shaku, or the length of a bo. The sliding windows along the sides of the room are six shaku each, and the sliding portion is 3 shaku.

A doorway is six shaku high and 6 wide. But the sliding portion is just 3 shaku.

These lengths of shaku are not a measurement we have in the west. It is said to be derived from nature and is the length between nodes on a shaft of bamboo. But this measurement varies widely. I have also seen it described as the distance between the outstretched thumb and forefinger. The "official" measurement has varied over the centuries by country or by decree. Currently the Japanese government has defined it as approximately 30.3 cm, or 11.93 inches

From wiki about shaku:
While Japanese law required official use of these units be discontinued on March 31, 1966, the shaku is still used in some fields in Japan, such as the traditional carpentry. The ken and jō are multiples of a shaku: 6 shaku make up one ken; 10 shaku make up one jō. The ken is commonly the distance between pillars in traditional buildings such as Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Michael Glenn in the doorway of Lord Kira Yoshinaka's residence
I think these measurements have grown as the Japanese people have gotten taller. Some of the older structures I've walked through in Japan have the height of the door set at jo level or 4 shaku.

Of course you would never want your 六尺褌 rokushakufundoshi (traditional Japanese G-string for men) to be too small.


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