Jodo - The art of the stick

Jo and Bokuto

Jodo is the art of the short staff or stick. In comparison to the traditional staff (the 6-foot staff or bo), the jo's length (128 cm) allowed the warriors trained in its use to reach both ends and make swift grip changes. This provided a greater amount of versatility and speed in its usage.

The original school which mainstreams Jodo training today is Shinto Muso Ryu. Its founder, Muso Gonnosuke, adapted techniques from the staff, spear, naginata and sword to develop the style which he taught exclusively to the Kuroda clan in Kyushu.

Because the style was developed in response to an episode of combat with legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, the jo is used in training against either a tachi (a full length wooden sword), a kodachi (a shorter sidearm wooden sword) or both simultaneously (nito or two swords).

Like iaido, at the heart of the school and its training is the learning and improvement of kata. Unlike iaido the majority of the training is performed in pairs using wooden weapons and making controlled strikes. In the 20th century, jodo acquired two additional forms of basic training:

  • Tandokudosa - solo basic movements
  • Sotaidosa - paired basic movements

Shinto Muso Ryu is in fact a "sogo bujutsu" (a comprehensive fighting system) as it now includes within its classical koryu training:

  • Uchida Ryu Tanjojutsu - a style of using the short stick
  • Kasumi Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu - a system of sword vs sword forms
  • Ikkaku Ryu Juttejutsu - a system of using the truncheon
  • Isshin Ryu Kusarigamajutsu - a system of using a weapons consisting of a sickle and chain

Furthermore a system of grappling with the jo exists as documented by Shimizu Takaji Sensei.

Nowadays, students beginning training in Jodo start with All Japan Kendo Federation Seitei Jodo, a set of twelve basic forms developed from the Tokyo-influenced style of the classical koryu. This enables a consistent approach to examinations and competitions.