The Bo of Gima Shinjo
By Jikishin Kobudo, Jan 9 2014 12:00PM
The year 1609 saw great change in the history of Okinawa. The newly established Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan approved the Shimazu Clan's wish (of Satsuma - Southern Japan) to invade the Okinawan Islands, then known as the Kingdom of Ryu-Kyu.The King of Ryu-Kyu, Sho Nei could put up little resistance against the 3000 strong army of Satsuma invaders, though attempts were made to prevent the attacking ships from landing and hundreds of Okinawan's were killed during the initial conflict. Sho Nei surrendered within a week and was taken back as prisoner to Japan along with 100 of his officials. One of his officials was a Samurai guard named Gima Shinjo. In 1611, following the signing of peace treaties accepting the subordination of Ryu-Kyu, Shinjo Gima eventually returned to Okinawa and became famous for introducing the widespread cultivation of sweet potato, the growing and weaving of cotton and the production of sugar cane on the island.
Yashushi Matayoshi is a descendant of Gima Shinjo and still has in his possession a 400 year old bo (staff) that belonged to his great ancestor. The bo is tapered and measures eight feet in length. It is described as 'not heavy' by Yashushi Soke.
Though longer than the widely used rokushakubo (6 foot staff), this length was very popular amongst kobudo-ka of the past. Bo would generally come in all lengths and there is no fixed measurement. The correct length for a bo is simply determined by the environment in which it is to be used. Warriors often used bo that were longer in length and therefore more suitable for battlefield practicalities.
On the bo of Shinjo Gima, two holes can be seen approximately 6 inches from the end. Bo such as these could be adapted to carry the metal heads on Nunti (Sai-like end) or Yari (Spear point) and in doing so could drastically alter the nature of the weapon, including for use on horseback