What is jodo?
Grading and competitions
What is jodo?
Jodo () is the third martial art that together with kendo and iaido forms the curriculum of the All-Japan Kendo Federation. Jodo is the art of using a relatively short walking stick against a sword.
Unlike iaido training, jodo traininng is conducted in the form of paired exercises; unlike kendo, it uses only kata, but no free sparring.
If practiced correctly, jodo can help to develop a better sense of distance and timing, to better understand the action or inaction of the partner, and to better adapt to a quickly changing situation.
Many classical styles of martial arts (koryu), especially if they were practicing in the use of naginata (halberd) or other polearms, included in their curriculum techniques for the use of a long bo or short (hanbo) staff. Partly it was due to the possibility of their weapon's haft breaking during the fight and the need to be able to ward off the attack, gaining time to draw the auxiliary weapon. Partly, there were rules of etiquette at play as if a low-ranking warrior was to attack a high-ranking one, the latter held it below his dignity to draw a sword, and the walking staff was always at hand.
The beginning of the 17-th century saw the birth of a martial style that now determines the popular image of jodo; it was the Shinto Muso-ryu, and it was created by Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi. According to the legend he challenged Miyamoto Musashi himself and lost. There are no reliable accounts of this duel, but it is assumed that Musashi was able to block the bo of Muso Gonnosuke and thus to paralize his weapon, after which he moved in to strike, showing to Gonnosuke his superiority. His ego wounded with this defeat, Muso retired to the Homanji temple on Kyushu and devoted himself to exhausting training and meditation. One night he had a vision which allowed him to not only understand all the secrets of using the staff, but also the advantages of a shorter stick. Cutting his weapon down to the length of the present-day jo (4 shaku 2 sun 1 bu, or about 128 cm) he challenged Musashi again and, getting stopped by the same kind of block, he was able to reverse his stick and strike Musashi with the other end.
This is nothing more than a legend as no historical document unrelated to the Shinto Muso-ryu mentions Miyamoto Musashi ever being defeated. But it is a fact that Muso Gonnosuke became famous and was hired to the position of a fencing instructor of the Kuroda domain; his style became part of its educational system. For a long time the Shinto Muso-ryu was unknown outside of this area but in the 20-th century Shimizu Takaji, one of the three masters of his generation, began to teach jo in Tokyo which was the beginning of the art's widespread popularity.
Shimizu Takaji did not only teach the classical Shinto Muso-ryu, but also put much effort into developing new systems of jo use. In particular, he created an instructional system for the Japanese police and, by request from the All-Japan Kendo Federation,-- a set of “standard” seitei techniques analogous to the seitei iaido. This set, officially referred to as Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo, is now the first technical set studied in all the organizations that are members of the International Kendo Federation.
The technical elements that form the basis of jodo are more varied than those of iaido. In addition, as all training is conducted in pairs, such elements as timing, distance, initiative etc. come immediately to the fore together with the purely technical skills. To give the beginner a possibility to put more focus on the kihon training, all the basic techniques are picked out and practiced in the form of separate exercises.
All jodo kata are performed against a partner armed with a sword. This custom has deep historical roots as the sword was the principal weapon which one was likely to face while wielding a stick. The Shinto Muso-ryu has kata which have the opponent (uchidachi) armed with a short sword (kodachi) or a daisho pair (long and short swords together), but in the seitei set he is always using just the long sword (odachi).
The uchidachi always has the initiative in the beginning of the kata. He either approaches within striking distance to the standing shidachi (jo wielding partner), or initiates the mutual approach. The shidachi, whose role it is to polish the technique within the kata, can avoid the attack, strike first or block the uchidachi's hands or sword, while controlling distance and timing all the time, without letting the partner to fully seize the initiative.
All the basic jodo techniques (kihon) can be practiced both solo (tandoku dosa) and with a partner (sotai dosa). There are twelve kihon:
|1||||Honte uchi (“straight-grip strike”)|
|2||||Gyakute uchi (“reverse-grip strike”)|
|3||||Hiki otoshi uchi (“pull down strike”)|
|4||||Kaeshi zuki (“returning thrust”)|
|5||||Gyakute zuki (“reverse-grip thrust”)|
|6||||Maki otoshi (“wrap and drop down”)|
|7||||Kuri tsuke (“wind and attach”)|
|8||||Kuri hanashi (“wind and release”)|
|9||||Tai atari (“body strike”)|
|10||||Tsuki hazushi uchi (“remove from the thrust and strike”)|
|11||||Do barai uchi (“sweep the cut to the body and strike”)|
|12||||Tai hazushi uchi (“remove the body and strike”)|
Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo kata:
|1||||Tsuki zue (“reaching stick”)|
|2||||Suigetsu (“solar plexus”)|
|3||||Hissage (“pull and take along”)|
|4||||Shamen (“diagonal strike”)|
|5||||Sakan (“penetration from the left”)|
|8||||Tachi otoshi (“sword drop”)|
|9||||Rai uchi (“thunder strike”)|
|10||||Seigan (“straight in the eye”)|
|11||||Midare dome (“stopping the confusion”)|
|12||||Ran ai (“harmony in chaos”)|
One begins learning jodo with kihon. Such basic techniques as honte uchi, gyakute uchi, hiki otoshi and kuri tsuke appear in several kata and they are studied first of all. Simple at first glance they contain many intricacies and require a very precise execution as well as full control of jo. Depending on previous experience basics of sword handling may be studied, however, working with a sword always forms part of the warm-up.
To learn kata solo practice is used first. It is, of course, impossible to study distancing and timing in a kata without a partner, but it is a good way to learn gross movements in a group. Traditionally in paired practice it is the teacher or a senior student who takes the role of the uchidachi, and one begins to learn this side of the kata quite late. However, in groups of beginners one has to study both roles from the beginning.
Grading and competitions
Grading in jodo is conducted in the same way as grading in iaido with the exception of time limit. 5 kata are performed in pairs but each candidate is judged independently. For kyu grades the shidachi's role only is often judged, but for dan grades understanding both roles is required.
As in iaido, one has to take the first kyu grading before being allowed to test for shodan. The time in grade before testing for the next rank (as well as certain other general requirements) is specified by the country's federation. The highest dan'i (kyu and dan) and shogo (instructor's licences) rank that can be achieved is hanshi 8-th dan.
Jodo competitions are conducted in the form of engi between pairs of competitors. Each match has two pairs competing and three judges deciding which pair performed better. At the 1-st European Jodo Championships that took place in November 2002 only the shidachi's performance was judged, however, the uchidachi's role is still very important in order for the shidachi to fully expose his (or her) potential.
Jodo is not as financially demanding as iaido: although a correct training outfit (keikogi and hakama) is required, jo and bokken (wooden sword) are significantly cheaper than a good iaito.
It is recommended to choose the equipment carefully. Quality hardwood bokken and jo will be more expensive but they will serve longer and will let one avoid small injuries caused by wood splinters.
If necessary, the club can help with selecting and purchasing the equipment as well as offer it to beginners for the first few practice sessions. A list of recommended sources and some advice on selecting equipment can be found on our Equipment page.