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Weapons
 
 

The Jo

The Jo is made of hardwood and averages about 50 inches in length and 7/8 of an inch in diameter. It's round or octagonal in cross section.

The Jo is sometimes called the four-foot staff to distinguish it from the long staff or rokushaku bo (six-foot stick) and the three-foot stick or hanbo (half stick).

In the early 1600's, a Samurai named Muso Gonnosuke meditated in the mountains after his first and only defeat, at the hands of Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi. Muso's favorite weapon was the bo (the long six-foot staff). Miyamoto, using both a long and short sword, had blocked the staff in such a way that Muso could not withdraw his weapons safely. Miyamoto spared Muso's life, however, and left him to meditate on his defeat.

The result of Muso's meditation was a "divine insight" that led him to develop a shorter staff and a style of fighting with it. He called his style Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu, and with it, he defeated Miyamoto in a second duel. He, too, spared his opponent's life and became the only man ever to beat the master swordsman.

Muso's impressive success with the Jo is in part the result of the nature of the weapon. It is from six to eleven inches longer than the sword, and while the Jo can break a highly tempered blade, a sword cannot cut through a one-inch diameter oak Jo. The length of the Jo also permits numerous hand changes and turnovers that involve both ends in the actions of thrusting, striking, sweeping, receiving and entwining. Thus, Jojutsu is a dynamic, versatile, and effective fighting art, although it never achieved the importance of the sword arts.

Because it was developed to use against swordsmen, Jojutsu is heavily influenced by the sword techniques, particularly in striking, fencing postures, and receiving actions. The Jo is a pole arm, however incorporates the thrusts, sweeps, entering motions, and receiving action of the spear (yari) and halberd (naginata).

Eventually, the martial arts of the battlefield became the martial ways of the training hall, and combat-effective "external" disciplines became character building "internal” ones. Just as Jojutsu (grappling) became Judo, and Ken Jutsu (sword fighting) became Kendo, Jojutsu became Jodo, although Jodo still retains most of its combat orientation.

Jodo deals expressly with disarming and subduing and opponent armed with one or two swords or a Jo. Entwining and atemi waza (striking vulnerable points of the body) are integral parts of the training.

Uyeshiba Morihei, the founder of Aikido, to teach the principles of Aikido, also adapted the Jo. His use of the weapon is called Aikijo.

The Jo is a humble weapon with a noble history: a simple weapon capable of great complexity. The fundamentals of its use have been preserved in - sometimes hidden in - numerous forms.

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