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Jodo is often called ‘The way of the stick.’ This martial art uses a short wooden staff, called a ‘jo’, 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.

Jodo is derived from Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu which, according to legend, was formed almost 400 years ago, as a result of a duel between the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and the founder of Shindo Muso Ryu 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 fortunately 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 that combines the striking motions of the sword, the stabbing motions of the spear, and the sweeping motions of the naginata.

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. Thus, it was developed as a means of defeating the attacking swordsman without killing him, a humane goal. This required a very high level of skill, and contributes to the vitality of this martial art even today.

As a consequence of this history, Jodo is primarily a defensive martial art. Jodo training is almost completely based on paired kata. The swordsman is the aggressor and the jo responds by effectively defending him/herself. The kata serves as a repository of combat strategy. Constant training in these kata allows the student 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 Jodo’s core teaching of self-defense, Gonnosuke spared Musashi’s life.



LUIS, Steve (Jodo 6th Dan)