As a follow up to my question on the state of my neglected jo:

I've been thinking I don't like my wooden 'Jo's very much. I've broken a couple and neglected one. I was wondering if anyone has had success using something other than wood. I ordered an aluminum rod which is 51 inches long and 1 inch diameter. It is the correct size, but it is more than double the expected weight of a Jo. It comes to around 4 lbs, where as it would ideally be about 1.6lbs.

Someone suggested a carbon fiber rod to me, but that may be too light, and I'm worried about the thing shattering (I don't know much about carbon fiber).

Is there an alternative material other than wood that people have found works well for Jo?

  • Do you use it for anything but kata? Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 19:11
  • @DaveLiepmann Yes. The 10 kumi jo requires contact with other jo. As well as the 13 count Jo kata with partner. We do a lot of Jo partner practice, which is why it needs to be sturdy. Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 19:26
  • 1
    What do you consider to be 'wood'? Rattan is very light and very strong, and not very expensive. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 19:30
  • 2
    A tree made it. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 19:41
  • 3
    I'm not sure if Rattan is considered wood or a member of the grass family, like bamboo. But it makes a nice alternative to hardwoods. It makes nice staffs and even walking canes. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 20:49

8 Answers 8


Polypropylene works well for shorter stuff, but people complain about longer weapons because of an excess of flexibility (I tend to agree). For example, my Cold Steel Escrima Sticks are pretty great and have held up well, although they've been part-time, and they're short.

They make a number of training swords with the same material.

I'm not sure how fiberglass would hold up over time. I have some fiberglass canes and umbrellas that can hold my weight, and have taken some pretty serious smacks, but none of that has been long-term. With an outer protective layer I would think it could be pretty sturdy, depending on how they lay it up, and what the properties of the core material are.

I'm wary of many of the fiberglass bo staffs I've seen, though; they seem more like they've been designed for kata/competition rather than full contact, but I'd be interested in knowing if anyone has had any experience.

Just carbon fiber would likely be too light, but you could use a core.

I'd steer clear of aluminum, personally, if only because IMO it's more likely to cause a training injury should a strike go awry. Probably not enough to make a difference, but a heavy chunk of aluminum will carry a lot more energy, and likely deform less.

  • 1
    Carbon fibre would be incredibly light and it doesn't really handle strikes perpendicular to its surface. Carbon fibre racing bikes often shatter in accidents, and it also has the issue that it can be hard to spot cracks in it.
    – slugster
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 3:42
  • @slugster That's why I said it would be too light and you'd want to use a core. Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 3:49
  • not disputing your answer, just reinforcing part of it. I think carbon fibre even with a core would be no use.
    – slugster
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 8:23
  • @slugster Gotcha. Yeah, I'm not sure-I've seen CF take some crazy impact abuse, but it's so dependent on how it's laid up, the epoxy, etc. Even if it did work, way easier (and cheaper!) to use something like PP anyway. Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 13:14
  • Aren't police batons made of fibreglass?
    – user1489
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 19:46

Look to other sports where heavy contact is common. I play ice hockey and we have wooden, aluminium and "composite" sticks that handle the punishment of other similar implements slashing and crashing into them (not to mention the odd head or leg strike >=).

Of course what is actually available on market is another question entirely! Other then the odd warping issue (which you have with your Jo) I've not had an issue with wood myself (though I do love and prefer my aluminium ice hockey shaft, despite the fact that it's sooo 90's).


LARP weapons would do if you wanted something that could safely hit somebody else. Note that many of them cannot safely be used for stabbing although some can -- please check before buying.


Polyoxymethylene (aka Delrin, acetal, polyacetal, and polyformaldehyde) and other similarly dense thermoplastics can be used for many substitute training weapons including, but not limited to (in my personal experience), bokken, bo, jo, hanbo, training knives, jitte, kunai, and training shuriken (with thin plates). For staves, it's often best to order them pre-cut to size and use a buffing wheel on a rotary tool to round the edges (the friction heats the plastic and creates a melt removing the sharp edges. Alternately, scrap carpet may be used).

Aluminum could conceivably be used, though it's recommended that you use a tube rather than a rod to eliminate weight, welding a cap to the end to create the appearance of a rod. Aluminum is flexible and light, and will likely dent.

For body contact, we in the Bujinkan often use fukuro hanbo, which consist of a core – either a bamboo rod or pvc pipe – wrapped with leather and light padding. This tool is dense enough to withstand throws, and gentle enough to do little more damage than a good bruising.

Anyone who has ever spent any time around boats or surfboards knows to stay away from fiberglass. Exterior layers of the material crack when forced to flex.

Ultimately, wood is the standard way to go. There's a vast variety, and having a sturdier (more perpindicular-compression resistant) wood than your opponent means your weapon will outlast theirs.


I like Japanese white oak. It's strong and won't splinter.

I know you don't want to use wood, but how about incorporating care of your equipment into your training?


Should you want to do wood anyway, I recommend Crane Mountain. I love their weapons, and mine have never warped - although I don't leave them leaning for years, either.


I wouldn't use any of Cold Steels training weapons for their intended purpose. I use their bokken as a cutlass by cutting down the handle, and adding a better hilt. That's about it.

I highly recommend The Knight Shop and Purple Heart's trainers. While they both have mostly WMA stuff, I'm sure if enough EMA folks ask they'll start making katana and other stuff as well.

  • Purple Heart will do custom wasters and bokken out of some interesting materials. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 0:06
  • Purpleheart link is dead
    – Btuman
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 16:08
  • @Btuman The link is alive again - probably an intermittent or localised problem.
    – slugster
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 1:16

I've had numerous people recommend laminated bamboo. It's light, springy, and durable. I have a bo staff of this myself.

Anecdotally, the person I bought mine from (8th dan in shorin-ryu and one of the biggest equipment suppliers in my area, FWIW) said that he's never heard of anyone having problems with it. He also mentioned that he had a group of people come in every week or two for awhile because they kept breaking their wooden bo staffs. He recommended laminated bamboo instead, and never saw them again.

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