Why the super-smart Donatello from TMNT has the simplest weapon


Donatello is known to wield the bo staff in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and there’s probably a reason Splinter trained him in this weapon. Teenage mutant ninja turtles consider themselves the most formidable four in the world, skillfully and effectively fighting their enemies. Splinter gave each Turtle its own weapon, correctly understanding that it is very difficult for the enemy to resist an inappropriate combination.

Donatello has a bo staff, the simplest turtle weapon. The bo staff is an ancient Japanese weapon originating from Okinawa, where it was used as an alternative to other weapons. Emperor Xie Shin banned all weapons in 1477, but this proved impractical when the Shimanzu clan invaded in the 17th century. Farmers used agricultural tools as weapons to defend themselves, and so the bo staff was born. In the hands of the master, the bo staff is a destructively effective weapon.

There can be no doubt that the creative Donatello is such a master, using his bo staff both as an offensive and defensive tool. He can use the staff to block most attacks— even sometimes “catch” shurikens with it — and at the same time he knows how to knock his enemies down or incapacitate them with one blow. However, the real genius of this choice of weapon is that bo’s staff serves to balance Donatello’s natural character. Being a constant Turtle genius and a technological prodigy, it’s easy for Donatello to focus on more complex tools, failing to implement the basic ones can be just as effective. So it’s fitting that Splinter gave him a simple piece of wood as a weapon.

The staff can be seen as an ideal challenge to Donatello’s worldview, pushing him to master a simple tool, rather than depending on thousands of complex devices that may not work as expected. Although Donatello’s genius helped the turtles countless times, he was always forced to return to the same simple weapon when it mattered, grounding him in something more durable than his inventor’s instincts could have chosen. This reading is particularly interesting because it may not have been completely successful, as Donatello modified his staff in a way that most experts would not have advised.

Donatello tends to wrap his staff with sticky tape, which most experts consider unnecessary — and which may indicate self-doubt. The grip tape is useless for palm rotation or for switching between a punch and a swing at speed. Ironically, perhaps Donatello reinterpreted bo’s staff by setting it up with a grappling tape during training, and never realizing that it creates resistance when he slides his hands over the staff.

Alternatively, this could be interpreted as Donatello cleverly modified the weapon for his own use, finding that some movements could not be performed with his three fingers. Like all teenage mutant ninja turtles, he had to adapt traditional shapes to his unusual grip—not least because his fingers are thicker. The grappling tape may well be used to compensate for his three fingers, and he may just use the bo staff differently than any other fighter. Whatever the explanation, Donatello’s weapon can be interpreted as conveying his character in some exciting ways, just like all of his brothers in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.