How to Make a Boffo Jo
by Benjamin Cole
Well, the year of the jo is upon us and Soke has been beating us senseless for about a month now. Several times over the last few weeks Soke has asked us all to bring padded jos to practice in order to insure safety. As most of the techniques entail knocking bones and thrusting pain points, had he not insisted upon such weapons most of the class would be in the hospital by now. Soke also requested that we get the word out that everyone attending the Tai Kais should come prepared with a padded jo. Since then, several people have asked about just how to make such a weapon. For those of you who have never done so, it is important that you don't make a weapon that you think is safe, but actually isn't. The following is one way to make a boffo jo.
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) electrical tape (black is most ninja-like, but any color will do)
- 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) electrical tape
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) diameter PVC pipe (usually found in the bathroom section of a local hardware store. The two smallest sizes are too thin and will "whip." It's best to purchase a pipe that does not wobble.)
- Pipe insulation (usually sold in 3 ft. lengths)
1. Saw the PVC pipe to a little below armpit height, or have them do it for you at the hardware store (Soke has stated there is no "correct" length or size for jos. Just find something that is comfortable for you and use it.).
2. Put the pipe insulation along the length of the pipe, making sure to leave at least 1 inch of empty space on either end.
3. With some scissors, cut 3/4 inch into the end of the insulation at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock, as well as halfway between each of those cuts (This will give you are total of eight cuts, and will make eight "tabs" like petals of a flower).
4. Cut a 1 inch wide ring from the excess insulation and then cut that in half to give you two crescents.
5. Take one of the crescents and tape the free ends together with some tape. Stuff it into one end of your "jo" to fill in the empty space, with the "fold" on the inside and the taped ends so you can see them (This is very important; if you don't add these pieces of insulation to the ends, thrusts will hurt your uke, and the pipe will eventually rip through the tape on the end).
6. Bring two opposite tabs (for example, 12:00 and 6:00) to the center, and tape them down with an 8 inch length of the 1/2 inch electrical tape. Tape the next two tabs down, perpendicular to the first two. The end of your jo should have an "X" of tape at the end, and four unfixed tabs. Tape the other tabs down, making sure to pair them with the tab opposite them. Continue to apply tape over the tip until all the insulation is covered. The end of your jo should now be rounded.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other end of the jo.
8. Using the 1 inch electrical tape, wrap around the end of the jo (perpendicular to the length of the weapon) to cover the ends of the 1 inch tape. Slowly change your angle so you can begin to wrap the length of the jo (like a barber shop pole) with the tape. Go slow to make sure you do not have any bubbles or wrinkles in the tape. Eventually you should be wrapping at a 30 degree angle along the length of the weapon. Make sure to cover the already applied tape (so you cannot see any of the insulation along the length of the weapon). When you near the end, gradually adjust your angle so you eventually are perpendicular to the length once again. Cut the tape!
9. Drink beer and try your new weapon out on someone close to you. ;-)
Hint: Trying to wrap the entire length of the jo by yourself takes a long time and is difficult to control. Two people working together can finish extremely quickly. My wife helped me make mine. For example, while I held down the opposite tabs, she cut the 1 inch tape and taped them down. Then, when we got to wrapping the entire length of the weapon, she held the jo in her hands and twisted it while I held the tape, making sure to keep a constant angle and regulating the overlap. We finished wrapping the entire weapon in less than ten minutes (Thanks, Hiroko)! Because a team can work quickly, you might want to think about having a "Jo Making Day" with some friends from your dojo. In just a few hours, everyone can be fitted with spanking new weapons with which to beat each other! Hey, what are friends for?