History of Jodo

The beginnings of Jodo can be traced back to the first duel between Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi and Miyamoto Musashi (1584—1645) in the early 17th century. Gonnosuke was an accomplished warrior, having received a Menkyo Kaiden (certificate of complete mastery and transmission) from the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu and Kashima Shin Ryu schools of martial arts, and specialised in the use of the bo or six-foot staff. Musashi was a young fighter well on his way to carving out a reputation for himself as an unbeatable swordsman. Musashi is to this day most closely associated with the joint use of both the long and short sword and it is thought that he used the jujidome technique (crossing the swords together in an X shape) to trap Gonnosuke’s bo to the ground in such a way that he could not counter-attack. Unusually for that time, Musashi chose to spare Gonnosuke’s life.

Gonnosuke withdrew toKamadoshrineon Mt Homan in Chikuzen Province (part of modern-day Fukuoka Prefecture)in northern Kyushu and, after long periods of meditation and training, claimed to have received a divine revelation: "holding a round stick, know the solar plexus" ("maruki o motte, suigetsu o shire"). Bearing this epiphany in mind, he shortened the length of the bo down to 128cm, allowing for greater versatility of technique and better manoeuvrability, and adapted his knowledge of sword, spear and naginata (glaive) techniques to fit this new weapon. Legend has it that, using this new weapon and upgraded techniques, Gonnosuke sought out Musashi and defeated him in a second bout. Regardless of whether the story of this second duel is true, Gonnosuke became a vassal of the Kuroda clanand taught Jojutsu to their footsoldiers and samurai.

Over the first 300 years of its existence, Shinto Muso Ryu Jojutsu was taught exclusively within the Kuroda domain and other arts were added to its curriculum: Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu (the art of the sword); Ikkaku Ryu Juttejutsu (the art of the Jutte or metal truncheon); Ittatsu Ryu Hojojutsu (the art of restraining a person using rope or cord); Uchida Ryu Tanjojutsu (the art of the Tanjo or short stick); Isshin Ryu Kusarigamajutsu (the art of the Kusarigama or sickle and chain). It was only in the early 1900s that outsiders were permitted to learn the techniques of the school but it was Shimizu Takaji (1894—1978), widely considered to be the unofficial 25th headmaster of Shinto Muso Ryu, who was responsible for its modernisation and popularisation under the name "Jodo". Through his efforts and friendship with many top Kendo teachers, Jodo was adopted into the post-war Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation) and the Jo was added to the equipment of a special unit of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Since his death, his work has been continued by his students, those of other members of the school and their students both in Japan and abroad.