Why study jodo? Jodo is a powerful art that teaches the student focus, respect of the sword as well as the opponent, distance as well as timing.
The jo because of its length, could be used to strike like a sword, sweep like a naginata, or thrust like a spear. Its two ends could be used, unlike the single point of a sword, and its ma-ai (fighting distance) could be varied according to the hand grip you take. Because of its speed and changeable ma-ai, it is a versatile weapon.
Alan Wu – 4th Dan
Alan Wu Sensei has been training jodo under Kimeda Sensei (Godan, Jodo CKF) for the last 10 years and Aikido for over 20 years. Alan has been helping teach jodo with Kimeda sensei for the last 5 years and currently holds a 4th dan grade.
There are 12 kihon, which form the basis of the modern Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Seitei:
There are as well various koryu katas that we explore to expand our understanding and breadth of jodo.
Students can expect to start with the basic kihon and move to paired practice focusing on the seitei katas. A big focus for our club is the riai or the meaning of the techniques. We constantly strive to not only perfect our technique but also further our understanding of the art itself.
There is a poem from oral tradition that teaches the students to “Concentrate on being a person who causes no injury to others. In the heart of the jo is an arrow.”
Jodo is not taught as a combative art but we must at the same time always respect its origins and founding principles.
The History of Jodo
There has been many accounts written about the origins of jo-jutsu or modern day jodo. There are different accounts and different versions but it is generally accepted that the founder of jodo, Muso Gonnosuke had crossed paths with master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (1584—1645) between 1596-1614.
Details of the first duel are varied but widely accepted that it occurred.
Muso having traveled to the same area (quite by chance) as Musashi heard that the famous sword master was living near-by. Feeling confident and very cocky, Muso obtained an address and prepared to pay Musashi a visit. He took with him his Rukosahaku Bo (six foot staff). Musashi apparently was in his garden pruning his trees when Muso arrived.
Introducing himself in a loud voice, he told Musashi that he had seen his (Musashi’s) father’s technique and was quite impressed. Now, he would like a demonstration of Musashi’s technique.
Musashi having been in this position many times and still being undefeated, simply replied: “If you have seen my father’s technique then you have seen mine.” And carried on trimming his trees. Muso infuriated by Musashi’s lack of acknowledgement, stepped up to the swordsman and breathing furiously into his face said: “I wish to see it first hand.”
Musashi who had just cut a small sharp stick off the tree, turned and thrust it Muso’s throat and at the same time held the small knife pointed directly at Muso’s heart. Muso was in too close to be able to combat the non-telegraphic technique and knew instantly he had been defeated. “Lesson number one,” Musashi said “Maiai (combative engagement distance)”. Muso said nothing, he simply stepped back, out of range, bowed and left. Musashi apparently, went back to pruning his trees. Another version has Musashi used the jujidome technique (crossing the swords together in an X shape) to trap Gonnosuke’s bo to the ground in such a way that he could not counter-attack.
In all events, Gonnosuke was defeated with relative ease. Gonnosuke became disillusioned at this sudden defeat together with the fact that Musashi had let him live even though he had been at his mercy. He would withdraw to a Shinto monastery to contemplate his defeat.
Muso travelled down to Kyu Shu and finally settled in Fukuoka. It is believed he trained extensively with the Yama Bushi – the Warrior Monks – in the mountains for many years, before decided to meditate at Mt. Homan.
After meditating there for just over a month, he had a dream, a vision, of a young boy who said to Gonnosuke: “know the solar plexus [of your opponent] with a round stick”. It was said this lead him to develop the jo deliberately longer than the average katana of the day, 128cm as opposed to the sword’s total length of 100cm. This meant that the stick was long enough to be able to control the Maiai of a swordsman, but was much more maneuverable than the six foot Bo.
Muso over a short period of time put together a system based on the cutting action of a sword, the sweeping action of a halberd and the thrusting action of a spear. This new art he named Jo-Jutsu or stick art. Arguably he also developed techniques to specifically hinder Musashi’s trade-mark x-block.
Armed with his new weapon, Muso again made it known that he wished to engage Musashi in a duel.
Accounts of the 2nd duel are sparse but as legends have it, Gonnosuke, now armed with the jo, would again face Musashi and defeat him through the use of the superior length of the jo to keep Musashi’s swords out of range of Gonnosuke and thus hinder him from using the X-shaped technique effectively. Gonnosuke had Musashi at his mercy but let him live as a way of returning the favour granted in the first duel. Musashi had experienced his one and only defeat during his lifetime (in duels/challenges/fights) at the hands and stick of Muso Gonnusuke.
The story continues right after the second duel. Gonnosuke, spending several more years on the road, part of the time with his new friend Musashi as his second, eventually took up residence in Fukuoka after being asked by the Kuroda clan to teach his jo-techniques to a selected few of their warriors. As the years progressed the original set of jo-techniques, by now expanded with new techniques since the days of Gonnosuke’s duel with Musashi, became known as Shintō Musō-ryū (sometimes transliterated as Shindō Musō-ryū).