WHAT IS JODO?
Jodo is often called ‘The way of the stick.’ This martial art uses a short wooden staff, called a ‘jo’ or ‘tsue’, to defend oneself against an attacker using a Japanese sword. The jo and the sword, called ‘tachi’, form a complimentary method of ‘keiko’ or training.
Legend tells us that Jojutsu was formed almost 400 years ago, as a result of a duel between the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and the founder of Jojutsu, Muso Gonnosuke. Gonnosuke was a swordsman of the Shinto ryu, and was participating in ‘musha shugyo.’ This involved traveling around Japan studying various martial arts and engaging in duels in an effort to improve his technique. His duel with Musashi ended in defeat, but luckily his life was spared. In an effort to understand his weaknesses, he retreated to a shrine to meditate and train for some time. Finally, he had a vision that laid before him the use of a short staff as a remarkably flexible weapon. Jojutsu combines the striking motions of the sword, the stabbing motions of the spear and the sweeping motion of the naginata.
The style Gonnosuke established is called ‘Shindo Muso ryu Jojutsu’. Eventually this style of jojutsu (and related arts – kenjutsu, kusari-gama, hojojutsu, jutte-jutsu) was studied by the military police of the Tokugawa period. The samurai who made up the military police were often prohibited by law from killing their assailants. This required a very high level of skill, and contributes to the vitality of this martial art even today. Shindo Muso ryu and seitei jodo are what we continue to study at the Kobukan dojo today.
Jojutsu is primarily a defensive martial art. It was developed as a means of defeating the attacking swordsman without killing him, a humane goal. Jojutsu training is almost completely based on paired kata. The swordsman is the aggressor and the jo responds by effectively defending him/herself. The kata of jojutsu serves as a repository of combat strategy. Constant training in these kata allow the exponent to internalize these strategies through repetition and experience.
Legend also tells of Gonnosuke’s eventual rematch with Musashi. In this encounter Gonnosuke, using his jo, defeated Musashi’s two sword style. And in demonstrating Jojutsu’s core teaching of self-defense, Gonnosuke spared Musashi’s life.