In Japanese, the word “Han” can mean half. So a Hanbo is half of a Bo. As a result, it is typically 36” or roughly one meter in length. This provides it with many of the characteristics, feel, and performance of weapons like the Bokken, Jo, Bo, Katana, Yantok and a fighting stick.
A Hanbo should normally have a uniform diameter of one inch or 25 mm. It should follow the same guidelines as the Jo Staff when it comes to the wood selection and inspection requirements.
Fundamental Hanbo Use
A standard practice exercise involves the octagon, but this time you think of the octagon as being oriented vertically before you, with angle 1 at the top and angle 2 at the bottom. Angles 3 and 4 are toward the left and right, respectively.
Grasping the Hanbo near one end you perform the following sequence of movements delivering the end of the weapon to the following locations:
- Downward from 1
- Upward from 2
- Inward from 3
- Inward from 4
- Down and inward from 5
- Up and inward from 6
- Down and inward from 7
- Up and inward from 8
- Directly forward along your center line at Chudan Level with the far end of the weapon
- Directly forward along your center line at Jodan Level with the near end of the weapon
- Directly backward at the Jodan level with the far end of the weapon
- Directly backward on the opposite side at Chudan level with the near end of the weapon
You should strive to develop a continuity of movement so that one action flows quickly into the next. You should also become very proficient at these movements using either hand. You will notice that the flow is subtly different between the right and left-hand sequences. You will want to consider what areas of the body are likely targets if movements are used as strikes. You will also want to consider how each movement might be utilized as a block or as part of a Nage sequence.
Hanbo Uke Waza
Blocking with the Hanbo can be quite different than blocking with the Jo or the Bo. All of the same blocks can usually be applied, but in some cases, they are less effective or put you at increased risk. The primary difference here, of course, is the length of the weapon. The Hanbo simply doesn’t afford as much protection area as the Jo or Bo. As a result, more accurate positioning of the weapon is required to ensure adequate protection.
Hand positions also become more critical. If you are performing a Morote Age Uke you will quickly notice your hands are not spaced very far apart. This increases the chances that a Shomen Uchi might impact one of your hands. You will naturally want to do some last-minute fine-tuning of your weapon’s location as you attempt to block a Shomen Uchi. You might also conclude that it is more important to practice moving out of the way of a strike (perhaps by using Escaping Patterns) to better facilitate your block.
You may find that moving while blocking is much more common when using the Hanbo than other longer wooden weapons, particularly if you are working with someone is who is using a Bo or Jo against your Hanbo. The longer weapons can generate a tremendous amount of force and you will soon find it is better to redirect this force than to simply intercept it.
You may also find that at times you will utilize blocks in a manner similar to a Bokken or Katana. With both hands near one end of the weapon, nearly the entire length of the Monouchi can be used to block and redirect an opponent’s strike.
Hanbo Atemi Waza
One tremendous advantage afforded by the Hanbo is the speed of movement. If someone using a Bo strikes at you with Shomen Uchi you might react by moving to the side while redirecting the incoming strike down and to the side. You can then continue moving the Hanbo around your head and then strike at your opponent as the weapon emerges from behind you. This can be an effective strategy, but you may find you need to close distance on your opponent in order to put them in range of your shorter weapon. This works very well since the Hanbo is a much faster-moving weapon than its longer cousins.
Because the weapon is much shorter you can strike with either butt end with relative ease (as seen in steps 9 through 12 of the practice exercise described above. It is much easier and quicker to strike with the Monouchi one moment and the Kontei the next when using the Hanbo. Such rapid transitions are a bit more awkward and take longer when using a Bo.
Since the Hanbo is very similar in length to the Katana you will find that many striking movements and strategies are similar to what you will eventually practice with the Katana. It will help you to consider that some movements are closely related to the use of the Jo weapon, and others are closely related to the use of the Katana. If a strike feels very unlike what you might do with a Jo, then it is likely to be very close to what you might do with the Katana. You want to work so that you have a balanced arsenal of movements. Do not rely too heavily on the Jo-like or Katana-like movements of the Hanbo. Find a way to use them in a balanced manner.
Later you will discover that the Hanbo has some characteristics similar to a Yantok or Tambo. These are smaller weapons than a Hanbo but are very quick and agile when in use. These weapons also have some of the characteristics of a club, something shared by the Hanbo.
Hanbo Nage Waza
Since the Hanbo is shorter and affords you more dexterity it can be used in new and interesting ways for Nage. It is very easy, for example, to check an opponent’s nearest arm downward as you feed the Hanbo over the arm and in front of the opponent’s throat. Then you can move your checking hand behind the opponent’s head to grasp the opposite end of the Hanbo and pull the opponent down backward using both hands.
Then Hanbo is also quite useful for maneuvers such as inserting the end of the weapon between an opponent’s arm and chest wall, then pressing the weapon against both the opponent’s arm and ribs such that the opponent is forced face down toward the ground.
The shorter length also facilitates throws that are based on joint locks. One such throw is to let the weapon slip over the opponent’s extended arm the then twist the weapon upward so it makes contact with the back of the opponent’s elbow. This forms a joint lock (Kansetsu Waza) to which you can add pressure to force the opponent to the ground. Shoulder locks, leg locks, hip locks, and a variety of combination head and arm locks can be easily accommodated using this shorter weapon. Practice to see what you can discover; there are a lot of possibilities.
For the first time in Tensoku Ryu, you will practice utilizing two weapons concurrently. The Hanbo Nidan Kata is performed using two Hanbo weapons at the same time. This can be a challenge when you first are confronted with moving two weapons at the same time in often completely different manners. With time you will become quite accustomed to thinking about each weapon independently.
This is not the last time you will have this challenge. Future weapons training with the Tonfa, Sai, and Yantok will also employ multiple weapons concurrently. As a result, you will benefit from repetitive practice using two Hanbo concurrently. A little extra practice now will make it easier to work with more complex multiple weapons in the future.