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Thread: Why so few?

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    Dear Mr. & Mrs. Skoss, et. alia,
    Someone here recently submitted the suggestion there were only a couple of schools employing the use of the jo. Mr. Skoss noted a few other schools which included the jo in their teachings.

    The question remains, though: are there any other classical ryu entirely devoted, as is SMR, to the jo? If there are, there can't be many; one never hears of them, and so, why are there so few? We know of several schools that featured the longer bo. Why didn't the jo become more popular as a central, exclusive weapon for training?

    Cordially,
    Dave Lowry

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    One possible reason is that given to me here by the Japanese sensei in the CKF Kendo section. Jo was a lower class weapon, one rather beneath the dignity of a "real swordsman".

    Of course they're smiling when they say that, but...

    Kim Taylor

  3. #3
    Meik Skoss Guest

    Default why so few?

    I think the only other ryu that are strictly jo-related are Muhi Muteki-ryu, in Ibaragi, and Chikubujima-ryu, a very interesting system that also does bo and appears to be divided into two lines. One of them (the senior line, if I am not mistaken), is down in Nagasaki; the other is out in Fukushima. Another jojutsu/jujutsu ryu (*that* is a great combination, huh?!) that I recently learned a little about is called Ta(no)ura Muso-ryu. It is originally from Kagoshima, but I think the headmaster now lives in Hokkaido. My contact was a guy in Finland.

    As for why there are so few schools that *specialize* in the jo, I think that's because jo were always considered an ancillary weapon, certainly not for battlefield use. As I recall, Tendo-ryu jojutsu (as is Buko-ryu bojutsu) has a basis in battlefield combat: one's weapon is broken and you're in the position of making do with what's left. The bojutsu in schools that are dominated by kenjutsu, such as Katori Shinto-ryu or Tatsumi-ryu, is also more in the nature of ancillary training. One trains with a bo since one might only have that weapon at hand, or to able to meet/defeat the weapon with a sword, if/when it's used against one.

    Muhi Muteki-ryu and Chikubujima-ryu both started off as systems where the staff was a make-do weapon, used in extremis on the battlefield. Since the founders lived to tell of their deeds, they began to think, "hmmMMM..." and went on to create their own systems from there. It seems to me that's where battlefield-derived bojutsu or jojutsu would probably come from. I also think there'd be a great commonality of technique/principle. Buko-ryu bojutsu is derived, by the looks of it, from the nagamaki, and one can shift very easily from one to the other. It is a really nice facet of training in a composite system with a very coherent theoretical basis.

    Thus endeth the lesson (hope it helped)...

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    Question

    Dear Mr. Skoss,

    Did any bushi of the ryu specializing in the jo actually go out onto the battlefield intending to use the jo as their primary weapon? If the jo was used as a backup weapon was it only if the shaft of a longer weapon broke? Or did they carry a jo along with their primary weapon(s)?

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin T. Tanemura

  5. #5
    Meik Skoss Guest

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    K. Tanemura wrote: "Did any bushi of ryu specializing in the jo actually go out onto the battlefield intending to use the jo as their primary weapon? If the jo was used as a backup weapon was it only if the shaft of a longer weapon broke? Or did they carry a jo along with their primary weapon(s)?"

    Re: whether bushi who studied jojutsu took one to the battlefield, I think it's highly unlikely. Muso Gonnosuke, the founder of Shinto Muso-ryu (the oldest jojutsu ryu I know of), created his system in the early 17th century, well after the Tokugawa family had gained control of the country/established its shogunate, and imposed its Pax Tokugawa. While there were occasional flare-ups, such as the Shimabara Rebellion (1645?) and farmers revolts (ikki), that required organized use of force, the jo would not have played any part in these incidents. Those were times for killing and subjugating, not controlling violence or subduing criminals. My understanding is that jojutsu was used by low-ranking warriors of the Kuroda domain (in what is now Fukuoka Prefecture) as a police weapon and as a means of physical and mental training.

    Re: the jo being used as a backup weapon, that's most likely a pretty safe assumption. The haft of these longer weapons is called an "e" in Japanese, and the general term for weapons such as yari, naginata, nagamaki and so on is "e-mono." Whether or not a haft remnant was a "bo" or a "jo" would, I suppose, depend on the guy, or perhaps the martial tradition, using it. As I mentioned in a previous post, in Toda-ha Buko-ryu it's called a bo and in Tendo-ryu it's a jo. Cum si, cum sa. There'd be a lot of difference in techniques, depending on the length, of course.

    I rather doubt a bushi'd carry a jo along for a back-up weapon as it would be sort of like carrying a Bowie to a gunfight at the OK Corral. The main weapons during the Sengoku Jidai were matchlock muskets, spears, glaives, swords, and daggers. Bows, too, I suppose, given that they can fire much more rapidly.

    Hope this helps.

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    One thing I've thought about is the relation between carrying one or two swords and the use of a stick or a staff. Is it likely that individuals, like Gonnosuke for instance, developed such techniques because of their own interest in experimenting and training? Wouldn't a swordcarrying warrior throw the stick and draw his blade if confronted, rather than fighting with the sword/s in the belt? Wouldn't the jo be used only for dueling, having put the sword to the side? Otherwise, wouldn't the sword/s limit the freedom of movement?

    Is it safe to assume that the low-ranking warriors of Kuroda han were not carrying daisho if using the jo as a police weapon? How well would the jo techniques of SMR work if wearing swords?

    I don't really have a clue about this but I've sure thought about it...any ideas?

    Regards
    Ulf Undmark

  7. #7
    Meik Skoss Guest

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    U. Undmark writes: "One thing I've thought about is the relation between carrying one or two swords and the use of a stick or a staff. Is it likely that individuals, like Gonnosuke, developed such techniques because of their own interest in experimenting and training? Wouldn't a sword-carrying warrior throw the stick and draw his blade if confronted, rather than fighting with the sword/s in the belt? Wouldn't the jo be used only for dueling, having put the sword to the side? Otherwise, wouldn't the sword/s limit the freedom of movement?

    Is it safe to assume that the low-ranking warriors of Kuroda han were not carrying daisho if using the jo as a police weapon? How well would the jo techniques of SMR work if wearing swords?"

    GOOOOOD questions! I think the last two questions are really important ones. As Ulf says, "...the sword/s limit the freedom of movement." From my experience using *both* bokuto and iaito while training with jo, Muso-ryu techniques are not too easy to do if wearing daisho. It was actually easier with bokuto (they don't slip out from one's sash, for one thing), I think it's likely the warriors charged with law enforcement duties either carried only a shoto, or perhaps a jutte (which was studied as part of the "dangyo" curriculum [lit., "men's stuff"] along with jojutsu, hojojutsu and kenjutsu), as part of their "duty rig." Matsui Kenji would probably be the best person to ask for information about this.

    I doubt very much that a jo would be used for "dueling" a man with a sword (why bring a knife to a gunfight?), but it c/would be effective when needs must. He'd more than likely do what Ulf suggests: throw down the stick and pick up his sword. (I mean, duuuhhh!...) One thing to keep in mind is that the kata in Shinto Muso-ryu are set up to *enable* the jo man to win, but they don't, in any way, *ensure* he'll do so. At best, he's got a slight edge. At worst, he's yakimochi (E: toast).

    Hope this helps.

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    Mr. Skoss,

    Thanx, it sure helped!

    Regards
    Ulf Undmark
    Last edited by Undmark, Ulf; 9th April 2001 at 12:34.

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    "Jo was a lower class weapon, one rather beneath the dignity of a "real swordsman".
    Of course they're smiling when they say that, but..."
    Kim Taylor

    To shift from the feudal "class" issue to the modern pov, my contacts in various martial arts and wooden weapons groups usually bring out the following prejudices:

    Jo work (Japanese style walking stick length) is not practical as it is too stylized.
    It is based on defending against a sword and so is out of touch except for historical purposes...if I wanted to engage in an out dated historical martial art, I'd go to the main weapon, the sword.

    As a member of the Butoku Kai I have learned 3 jo kata. I think they teach skills that are very useful to today's cane and walking stick crowd but I'd get nowhere teaching them as a separate ryu...I just add them into my technique repetoire and teach the skills as Cane skills based on the jo.
    "Fear, not compassion, restrains the wicked."

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    Default Tomayto, Tomahto...

    Hi Jim,

    I reckon you meant ShimIzu Takaji Sensei? Shimazu is an entirely different name/person.

    That's one of the interesting things about the Japanese language; although there really aren't that many sounds and they are fairly easy to learn, they are used with precision. Here in the U.S. there are a range of acceptable "A" sounds, "AH" sounds, "E" sounds, etc. If you say "tomahto" I still know what you mean. Not so in Japanese; mispronounce the vowel even slightly and you will confuse the dickens out of your listener.

    Cheers!
    Diane Skoss

    P.S. It ain't necessarily the techniques of the stick that are valuable (though they are, since almost anything can be grabbed and used like a stick); it is the principles taught that are relevant to modern situations. It just takes a long time and a fair amount of committment to internalize them to the point where they will materialize when needed. As a quick and easy self-defense fix, the tanjo techniques are enough.

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    Assuming Ms. Skoss is finished with the language lesson here (jeez, you're the sort of stickler for pronunciation who gets all bent when someone professes a heartfelt desire for kon-yoku when they mean kon-yaku), back to my original inquiry:

    Okay, so we're presuming that SMR was an art used primarily as a tool of law enforcement, intended to control of subjugate in civil actions. In this sense, it is consonant with Isshin, Ikkaku, Uchida ryu, right?
    If so, what immediately comes to mind is this: the above ryu are, relatively speaking, not terribly sophisticated. Techniques are at a minimum, as are the number of kata in each ryu. This would seem consistent for the exigencies of law enforcement, the renowned KISS principle.
    SMR, however, is remarkably complex and sophisticated, again, relatively speaking. Its curriculum is extensive by koryu standards. And so we wonder: did it begin as a "simple" art, with its depths and profundities added later? This would be in contradistinction to at least some other koryu where, while more "techniques" were added, they generally were done so to serve as more diverse vectors for understanding the elemental principles. It would also suggest an evolutionary process that seems at odds with the original needs of the ryu.
    Swordsmanship sure as hell didn't get a lot better after 1600. Presumably, the technical needs of a jo-carrying police officer in, say, 1640 would have been greater than one a hundred years later. He'd have been more likely to be facing a swordsman with a lot of practical gori-teki stuff. So logically thinking, SMR should have gotten simpler over the years. Instead, it became more complex, more sophisticated. How come?
    Dave Lowry

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    Originally posted by Dave Lowry
    In this sense, it is consonant with Isshin, Ikkaku, Uchida ryu, right?
    If so, what immediately comes to mind is this: the above ryu are, relatively speaking, not terribly sophisticated. Techniques are at a minimum, as are the number of kata in each ryu
    I'm not sure, but I believe that the above mentioned ryuha *could* have been more sophisticated, including more kata etc had they been completely independent ryuha...not being the fuzoku budo of the SMR.

    I'm not sure, for instance, wether any sogo budo, including 5 or more different weapons, would contain more than 24 kata for, let's say, the jutte?

    Just a thought though.

    Ulf Undmark

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    I get the impression that jo was never intended to be taught as a stand-alone art. More that it was a subsystem within a koryu. Is this an incorrect assumption? Certain koryu included jo as part of the curriculum, and it existed within that koryu as a "complete" system of principles -- with the principles often overlapping with those of the other weapons and empty-hand method within the koryu. IOW, there is an interconnectedness and cogency among the different weapons and empty-hand elements, as though they were designed to meld from one to the other. There are tactical, strategic and logistical differences -- ma-ai being the greatest differing factor and cause for difference in tactics. Still, the systems were meant to co-exist. I envision a warrior being able to adjust from fighting with a spear, to fighting with a broken spear (bo) then a shorter broken spear (jo) and then, empty-handed without having to shift gears.

    While jo is taught as an independent art in a few instances, I believe its practitioners might be missing the deeper, richer and lifelong study of the interrelatedness and integratedness of a koryu's ancestral components, of which jo was "part of a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast."

    Regards,
    Last edited by Cady Goldfield; 9th April 2001 at 17:47.
    Cady Goldfield

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    Default Simple jo

    Dear Mr. Lowry,

    I found your post to be very interesting. However, I tend to think of the jo curriculum a bit differently. It seems to me that the "added complexities" are more likely the original "combat effective" forms. I've noticed that as I progress in jo (very slowly, admittedy ;-)) the forms become increasingly simple and effective. From what I've seen, the oku (which I haven't practised myelf) are very short and to the point. At the same time, the understanding of principles and dynamics at that level are very deep and complex. It would make more sense to think of the curriculum as being invented backwards, that is to say, with the first sets being added as a means to gain a progressive understanding of the later, more effective techniques. This makes further sense when one considers that a samurai taking up the study of jo in its earlier stages would likely have had more comprehension of basic priciples of combat than later practitioners in more peaceful times. Thus, I think that the early jo kata are learning tools which allow the practitioner to eventually use the "true" techniques effectively.
    The other weapons in the ryu all have a much shorter curriculum, but are not typically practised until one has reached a fairly high level of proficiency with the jo. This would make sense in the context of the expectation that the practitioner could learn the heart of a weapon without too many preliminaries if they already possessed the necessary skills of mai'ai, koshi, etc. Some might then ask, "well, why can't I, as an advanced student of such and such, skip right to the heart of jo?" I think that the answer might be that combat efficiency in the 17th century in Japan would probably have had very different implications than combat efficiency gained from studying a ryu in modern times.

    Nathan Sherrard

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    I believe that the origin of the Shinto muso ryu was said to have been the five (5) techniques invented by Gonnosuke. Five techniques, or methods, are not an awful amount, really. I wouldn't know about the "KISS principle" regarding those techniques, or how close the okuden of today are to those original techniques, but sufficient to say is that the ryu *has* grown to include much more than this.

    Could it be that the soldiers had better be kept in training...fostering physical health and mental discipline? Or perhaps it is an evidence of the great interest in the ryu shown by former masters? Anyhows, I guess the adding to the curriculum, such as ran-ai etc, was pretty much a sign of the times!

    Regards
    Ulf Undmark

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