Bo Staff Seminar [Review]
By Mr Tom Baxter 2nd Degree, Instructor at Chepstow Taekwon-Do
When the information about an online Bo Staff Seminar and Grading on Zoom first came out, my first thought was that me using a Bo Staff would probably lead to the same fate as when I had a toy light sabre as a kid and managed to smash a glass lampshade all over my head. Nevertheless, I had always fancied having a go at Bo Staff beyond what we get to do at PUMA Day. Though I had never got around to taking the Seminar/Gradings, despite having a number of pupils do so over the last few years.
And so, with 3 other Chepstow students and around 25 other PUMA students, on Sunday 28th Feb, I signed on to Zoom, not knowing quite what to expect but happy to be greeted by the smiling face of my training partner, friend and colleague, Mr Ashmead, PUMA Jang Bong Co-ordinator.
We started off the seminar with an awesome Bo Staff warm up taken by Mr Ashmead who also gave us a brief overview of the origins of the Bo Staff as we loosened up our wrists, shoulders, arms, core and legs, all vitally important for Bo Staff. Mr Ashmead then started to teach us how to correctly spin the weapon in one hand, then two hands, a few blocks and thrusts and then some figures of 8.
Master Ogborne arrived on Zoom at this point and we were quickly sorted in to groups in order for us to begin our seminars and gradings as appropriate to experience. The beginners going with Master Ogborne and the more advanced going with Mr Ashmead and Mr Dowling.
Master O gave a brief speech about the seminar/grading, Bo Staff and why he enjoys it and thinks it is an added advantage of PUMA that we have the Jang Bong Syllabus in our organisation. Master Ogborne then taught us how to bow correctly with a Bo Staff. For someone who has practised Taekwon-do for going on 20 years, this took a bit of getting used too.
From bowing, we moved on to getting comfortable with spinning the Bo Staff, which progressed nicely into passing the Bo Staff from one side of our body to the other. We then practised passing the Bo Staff over our shoulders from one hand to the other and then from behind our back from one hand to the other.
We spent a bit of time of doing forward figures of 8 and backwards figures of 8. Master Ogborne’s analogy of doing a backhand then a forehand as though playing tennis really worked and helped me immensely.
To break up the session, we had a bit of time to do some free practice whilst Master O also taught us how to balance a Bo Staff on its end and also how to drop and catch a Bo Staff in one move. Cue the noise of Jang Bongs being dropped up and down the country, although it did make me smile.
When it came to the grading, Master O called the first 15 of us to run through each action on screen so he could assess us. We ran through all the techniques we had learnt in the seminar, with Master Ogborne periodically pausing to ask the group some individual theory questions on where the Bo Staff originated, its historic use and the use now as a weapon in martial arts.
At the end of the grading, Master Ogborne thanked us for taking part and talked a little about the next steps if we decided to carry on with the PUMA Jang Bong syllabus. We were then dismissed, remembering to bow correctly and that was that. My first foray into Jang Bong and my first grading, done.
I had a brilliant experience and I know I echo the views of my students who took part as well when I say that. I’ve been lucky enough to see Mr Ashmead with a Bo Staff quite a few times and it’s always inspiring to watch. I guess that rubbed off on me a little and was one of the reasons I decided to attend the seminar/grading in the first place.
Being taught by Master Ogborne was exactly the same, for me, as being taught by him face to face. His instructions were clear and he was kind and understanding, especially with the students to whom Bo Staff didn’t necessarily come easy. I felt at ease, able to ask questions and left the seminar feeling really pleased that I’d taken the chance to do it and looking forward to the next one already.
P.S. You’ll also be pleased to know that during the three hours of the seminar and grading, no lampshades were harmed.