After recently finishing the topic of Kukishin Ryu Jojutsu in weapons class, I spent some time practicing one of the kata covered in class
with my son. Chasing each other around the driveway with Jo and bokken eventually drew out one of my retired neighbors, who politely
asked what we were doing. Lacking a real concise description for home, I have put together a few thoughts about jojutsu.
In our training, the Jo refers to the four foot staff that is derived from a commonplace walking stick, which is very unlike hanbo and bo,
that are derived from a broken fraction of the Yari. The Jo is remarkable in that it represents one of the longer reaching personal weapons
that could have been carried around by a Samurai or a Commoner as part of his/her daily kit. It is also noteworthy in that the Jo represents
a middle ground between the other staff weapons -- the jo can utilize both the striking techniques of bojutsu as well as the stick grappling
methods of hanbojutsu with minor adjustments made for footwork and range.
The jujutsu curriculum is split into three sections: kamae gata, kihon gata, and kata. Under the kamae section, we covered the basic
on-guard postures utilized for jojutsu. Most of these are very similar to bojutsu kamae, with some minor differences driven by the length
of the staff. In practice, we attempted to create deeper stances than normally utilized in order to acclimate ourselves to a lower hip position.
The assumption is that in a more combative situation, one's hips might raise up under stress, but proper technique and power could still
beapplied since one's hip's would still be in a relatively low and advantageous position. This seems pretty consistent to the Kukishin
techniques where low stances are driven by the practitioner needing to maintain balance while wearing armor. For my own progress, this
is really a pretty effective means to develop a feel for a lower hip position during movement.
The kihon section of the Kukishin Jojutsu curriculum includes a mix of techniques utilized in other staff arts. Most of the striking (men
uchi, yoko men uchi, kote uchi, gedan uchi, do uchi, gyaku do uchi, gedan hane age uchi) appears very similar to techniques utilized in
bojutsu. However, the shorter reach of the jo necessitates different footwork -- in general, on must utilize a deeper posture in order
to allow for one to strike outside the range of a sword-armed opponent. Also, due to the close proximity of the sword due to a nearly
similar reach, it is extremely important to move in and out of range quickly, maintaining a safe zone from the uchidachi's sword.
Many times, this appears as if the shidachi is approaching the uke and sliding along a bubble just outside of sword range, which is
immediately followed by breaking away to a safer distance. One advantage that the Jo seems to have over a longer weapon is that the
shorter length allows for much more subtle movements,
which can allow for more opportunities to trick or deceive one's opponent. A few other caveats associated with the Jo that I experienced is
that the ability to strike with power at maximum range is heavily influenced by hand position at the end of the strike, which means it is
crucial to properly slide the staff in one's hands during the strike. Stickiness on the surface of the staff can ruin a strike.
Maintaining a proper grip, with a sufficient amount of wrap-around of the fingers (with contact between the thumb and middle finger), is
also important as the staff can be easily hit out of one's hands with the normal receiving motions of the sword. All of this requires
practice. One other observation is that the jojutsu kihon seem to strongly encourage the use of a heavier staff, where the practitioner
moves his/her body weight through the staff to generate the proper speed and power.
The kata section of the Kukishin curriculum takes the kihon gata and kamae gata and provides applications to deceive the opponent through
sudden changes in distance and timing. Many times, this takes the form of creating variations off of the kihon gata. This reinforces the
need to have very strong basic techniques in order to create the desired responses. In general, without having consistent basics, one cannot
create those desired variations. Understanding the purpose of the attack, and the strategy behind the kata is also important in setting up
the proper finish to the kata. In some cases, a strike might be telegraphed on order drive the uchidachi into a certain position, setting up
the next attack. In one kata, Hiryu, the opponent may be overwhelmed by attacks from multiple angles, then later hit by a sudden change in
timing. In the Tsuke Iri kata, a sudden change in range between two similar strikes overcomes the uke's defense. In the Tachi Otoshi kata, a
sudden shift in footwork changes the initial target from a men uchi to a kote uchi, which is then followed up with a lifting strike.
In executing any of these movements, deception seems to be the theme. Although the kata for Jojutsu seems rather abbreviated, it should
be noted that one could easily adapt most of the hanbo or bo techniques to jo practice, which greatly expands on the number of available
One final observation on jojutsu is that it seems to represent the maximum length staff that many (average height) children who train
in martial arts can effectively manipulate. For my sons who train, this provides them an opportunity to train in a new area (weapons)
with new challenges while still allowing them a reasonable chance of success. This also allows them to work on many of the basics that
will be utilized later for rokushaku bojutsu. As far as practicing with a younger uke, jojutsu is a great area where you can reasonably
practice the techniques without making drastic changes due to height differences.