Jodo is a Japanese martial art devoted to the mastery of the Jo. The Jo is a wooden staff 128 cm long and 2.4 cm in diameter. It is a versatile weapon, with both ends and all sides capable of being used offensively and defensively.
Although sticks have been used all over the world as a defensive weapon for thousands of years, the Japanese have developed the stick into a true art form. Jodo is one of the pillars of classical Bu-jutsu and Bu-do. Jodo originated in feudal Japan (400 years ago) as a means of self-defence against an attacker (with or without a sword). Jodo is practiced with a partner who is armed with a bokken (wooden sword). Subsequently, practitioners of Jodo also gain technical knowledge in Japanese swordsmanship.
Tradition has it, around 400 years ago, a renowned swordsman by the name Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi created the Shinto Muso Ryu Jo-jutsu system. Gonnosuke challenged the most famous swordsman of the day, Miyamoto Musashi, to a duel. Gonnosuke’s weapon of choice was a Bo, or long staff, which he was also well versed in. It is claimed that Musashi won the duel and decided to spare Gonnosuke’s life as he was impressed by his skill and use of the staff.
As a result of his defeat, Gonnosuke went into a period of deep practice. during this time he modified the Bo, reducing the length from around 185 cm to 128 cm, so the staff was more versatile and it could be brought into action quicker whilst maintaining a length and reach that exceeded the average swordlength. After reducing the length of the staff, Gonnosuke found that he was able to use the same weapon to employ a variety of spear, long staff, and sword techniques. Gonnosuke could adapt techniques to suit any opponent he faced and developed many different options to attack and defend. Once again, he challenged Musashi and won as Musashi wasn’t able to compensate for the adaptability and offensive capabilities of the Jo. As a show of mutual respect Gonnosuke spared Musashi’s life.
The method of Jodopractice at Kenseikan dojo is called Seitei Jodo, which is the main system of Jodo routinely taught throughout the world. Seitei Jodo contains 12 fundamental pre-arranged forms, known as Kata, that are adapted from Shinto Muso-ryu Jojutsu. In addition to these 12 Kata, senior students may be invited to study Koryu, classical forms of Jo-jutsu which contains about 64 kata with short staff techniques and some other related weapons.
As with Kendo and Iaido, the All Japan Kendo Renmei oversees Jodo’s development and associated grading systems and it is the parent organisation of both the Russian Kendo Federation and the European Kendo Federation.
A sincere desire to learn and the ability to persevere is all it takes to become skilled in the use of the Jo. There are many physical and mental benefits associated with Jodo training including, fitness, improved posture, greater coordination, focus, awareness, muscular conditioning, and general personal development. Jodo is a martial art you can practice for the rest of your life and mastery presents continual and rewarding challenges. If you seek a greater depth to your martial arts study, and a desire to learn how to use a stick, the most readily available defensive device, then Jodo may be the art for you. As with all weapon arts, maturity is the only pre-requisite to enrolment and beginners are always welcome at Kenseikan dojo.