Fig 1: The South African National Jodo Team of 2024. L-R: Jason EASON, Heinz WEILERT, Warren HO.
Jodo, the art of the short staff, uses a 138cm oak staff to effectively defend against the deadly Japanese sword. The origins of Jodo are somewhat "legendary"!
Around 17th century, a duel took place between Japan’s legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, and a Shinto Priest, Muso Gonosuke Katsuyoshi (who was trained in the art of the bo staff or "bojutsu").
A heated confrontation ensued, but it was Mushshi who eventually emerged victorious. However, Musashi felt no other opponent had possessed so great a skill such as Gonosuke, and out of respect for this, he spared his life.
Wounded but determined, Gonosuke retired to the mountains to meditate on a new strategy to defeat this seemly undefeatable opponent. In the midst of his contemplations, a mountain spirit revealed to him in a vision that a shorter version of the common bo staff, called a jo, was the solution!
Gonosuke cut his bo staff to the precise dimensions given him in the dream, and from his bojutsu training, he modified and improved the existing techniques, allowing him a far greater range of control over the stick, and consequently, over the weapons of any adversary, especially the swordsman.
He named his new ryu, or style, Shindo Muso Ryu, the Divine Way of Dream. With this new weapon, he re-challenged the great Musashi. It would prove to be Musashi’s only defeat recorded in history.
Fig 2: Muso Gonnosuke challenges Miyamoto Musashi to a duel (1887)
To this day, most people will know of the famed Japanese swords, but not many know of the non-lethal defence against the sword, which is Jodo. Even in its country of origin, Japan, it is relatively unknown.
However, there is a small but growing group of dedicated practitioners around the world, including that of a group in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In South Africa, the Ryu Ken Chi (RKC) Dojo had been practising Jodo since 2020. Initially, it was intended to kickstart the South African Jodo training by sending some of the RKC Dojo leaders to overseas seminars so that they could train with high-level Jodo sensei's. However, this initiative was hampered by the global pandemic that lasted from late-2019 to early 2021. Despite this challenge, the group was determined to initiate their Jodo training, which led to the global search for senseis who would be willing to teach Jodo online. 2 such sensei's were found in the USA and Europe and much credit must be given to them for graciously sharing their knowledge and time to help develop the South African Jodo community.
Fast-forward three years and now many of the original RKC dojo members who started jodo, had been able to resume attending overseas seminars and grade examinations, resulting in a solid foundation of capable Dan grades (or black belt students)! Online training with the international senseis continues too!
To take it a step further, in October 2023, South African Jodo, will for the first time in history, be represented at the 21st European Jodo Championships in Magglingen, Switzerland. A delegation of 3 team members will take part in both the individual competitions, as well as the team competition.
When asked what it felt like to be part of the first National Jodo team to represent South Africa at an international event, team member, Jason EASON had this to say, " I feel really honoured to be part of the Jodo national team to participate at European Jodo championships in Switzerland. It a dream come true to represent South Africa at this international competition after years of hard work and training paying off. Furthermore, Jodo has become an important part of my exercise regime, and helps keep me mentally sharp and physically fit. The partner work in kata especially interest me since one has a sword and the other a staff, and the interaction between the two is really exciting. Switching between attack and defend in kata makes Jodo a very dynamic martial art."
Like most martial arts, Jodo too has a host of benefits that one can apply to one's life. Team member, Heinz WEILERT elaborated further on this: " I started Jodo as an extension to Kendo. It has since become a distinct, separate part with multiple avenues of improving myself through developing the technical aspects, control of my body and movement in tune with the partner I’m engaging with and, the ability to clear the mind from all outside clutter. I have benefited from trying to transport the learnings to others in Jodo and being a sponge in engaging, copying and observing training partners and others. Transporting some elements to Kendo and my day to day life has been rewarding and at the same time still provides significant room for improvement on my side.
The thought of competing internationally is quite daunting. Doing so for one’s country is a privilege, doing it with friends that have trained for several years to get here, is rewarding for all of us."
Finally, when asked about the future of Jodo in South Africa, Warren HO, team member as well as the team manager of thi2 2023 delegation, had this closing comment to share: "Jodo is a martial art that requires discipline of body, mind and spirit, more so that any other martial arts that I have encountered, as it uses real weapons against a partner with no protection (such as in the case with Kendo). Co-ordinated movements, mutual respect and understanding is required by the practitioners so as to avoid serious injuries. The key principle here is "co-operation". Because of this. Jodo requires a mature mindset to even begin. There can be no messing about during class, else one can risk injury to one's self and others. As much as I want Jodo to grow in South Africa, we as the senior members of the Jodo community, must be weary as to who we take on as students. The correct mind-set and attitude to training is vitally important. Our participation at the forthcoming EJC will give us further exposure into this elusive, yet deadly martial art, and hopefully, further our understanding and depths of this art. The cliché Spiderman phrase comes to mind : With great power come great responsibility."
For more information about Jodo or any of the other Japanese martial arts offered by the Ryu Ken Chi Dojo, please contact 082 389 9098, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reference website: https://www.windsongdojo.com/jodo-at-windsong-dojo/history-of-jodo/
The Ryū Ken Chi (RKC) Dojo train the traditional Japanese martial arts of Kendo and Iaido (sword-based martial arts), as well as Jodo (the art of the short staff), that encourages the cultivation of the human character.
Kendo Kid is also available for children aged 6-11 years old.
RKC DOJO has 2 training venues within Johannesburg - RIVONIA and OBSERVATORY. Online training is also available.
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