Within some Aikido circles, I have heard it be said that the jo-staff was representing a spear thus should be treated as if it had a blade at one end. This help explains uke's reactions to some of tori's attacks in the later sections of the goshin no kata. I am having a hard time reconciling a jo with a spear for obvious reasons.

So, my questions is what is the origin of the jo in Aikido? and as an aside what weapon, if any, is the jo meant to represent?.

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    re your aside: My opinion is that the jo staff is not meant to represent anything. It is studied for the direct purpose of improving one's Aikido. Aug 13, 2013 at 14:17
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    @CraigConstantine: That opens a can of worms as to why uke does the things that uke does. With a blade at the end, most moves/counters makes sense. If there is no blade, things become a little more muddied. Of course, we both agree that both Aikido jo and Aikido bokken are tools to learn Aikido first and learn some cool wooden weapons skillz second. Aug 13, 2013 at 14:39
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    It is likely that much of O-sensei's training and inspiration in came from his close personal relationship with Nakayama Hakudō (中山博道), who held menkyō in Shintō Musō-ryū (among others). It's important to remember that while Ueshiba Morihei introduced into the art, it was largely codified into a specific skill set by Saitō Morihiro, who first published the techniques in 1973. The is not representative of anything other than a staff; specifically of a common length of walking stick used by itinerant monks and common travelers.
    – stslavik
    Sep 23, 2013 at 20:16
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    @stslavik why don't you improve your comment with some sources and write it as an answer?
    – Endery
    Apr 29, 2016 at 16:03

4 Answers 4


It is borrowed/taken from various other arts (rifle/bayonet, spear(yari), and specific jo arts) with the founder of Aikido then blending/creating his "Aiki jo" art.

Stan Pranin of Aikido Journal (formerly AikiNews) has written:

The exact origins of the Aiki Jo remain somewhat of a mystery. Some have found traces of Morihei Ueshiba’s jo movements in the “juken” or rifle with bayonet he practiced as a young soldier. Others point to the influence in the Aiki Jo of the “yari” or spear that he studied with intensity during the Ayabe period. It might also be noted that the Founder was exposed to many classical systems due to his wide network of associations in martial arts circles

The quote is take from here. But you can find a few other apropos items on Aikido Journal.

From other things I've read from Stan, I think the above quote sums up what little concrete knowledge there is.


From my understanding, and this is an un-sourced comment from my instructor (Aikikai), the jo represents a rifle/bayonet combo. If you consider that O-Sensei developed Aikido during various wars (largely formalized pre-WW2), this makes a lot of sense.

However, I have no sources, so this is faith in my instructor on my part, and pure speculation for the rest of you!

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    I know that O'Sensei did teach bayonet during the second world war and I was thinking that it would be more likely than a spear (too short!). Aug 13, 2013 at 14:13

I think it's worth noting that is sometimes translated to English as "cane". While it doesn't match up in shape and size to a classic European cane, it does match in purpose.

Another interesting fact about the is that it's also the size of the haft of a farmer's spear: in the feudal period of Japan, a commoner couldn't keep a full-length yari, but was permitted to keep a shorter spear for purposes of self-defense against bandits and the like. Much like a yari, a short-spear would also commonly have a blade end and a spike end, so double-sided movements work for both spear and staff. There's still a few sensei's who will train Aikido-spear (Aikisō), but it's uncommon.

Ueshiba Ō-Sensei was captured on film on several occasions performing all or part of a short-spear kata called "Nuhoko" or "Nuboko" (meaning "jeweled spear"), however, in the vast majority of the film clips, he is using a .

While I suppose Ō-Sensei could have drawn some inspiration from Shintō Musō-ryū, Aikido's techniques, as taught by leading Shihans (notably: Saito, Saotome, and Chiba), look quite distinct from MSR.

  • I'm afraid I am going to have to ask for sources for these claims. Apr 29, 2016 at 7:54
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    @Sardathrion It would be a very good answer if he had provided sources, though.
    – Endery
    Apr 29, 2016 at 16:01
  • @Endery: Yes, it would be! Possibly enough to be accepted. Apr 29, 2016 at 16:07

I'm sorry I don't have any sources for this, but I have always heard it that O-sensei really liked the movements of the bo, however, the ceiling of the dojo was (usually?) too low, so he adapted the bo movements into use of the jo (with which you can do hassō indoors).

Except in France, there it is a spear, sometimes with a straight blade at one end and a curved blade at the other. I personally find this explanation much less likely.

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