The Aikibudokan

Academy for Elite Samurai Arts




Q & A's



















Samurai Weapons - were the tools of their trade and by necessity included just about weapon, tool and implement you can think of.  Because the Samurai had to be prepared for any eventuality that could arise in either group (unit) or individual (one-on-one) combat, entire teaching systems or schools called "ryu" developed over time that taught a variety of skills such as riding horses, swimming while wearing armor, throwing knives and metal darts, archery, sword fighting, hand-to-hand and forms of grappling, and the use of sticks, spears, chains, etc., ..... the list goes on.

Some ryu were more extensive than others (covering everything imaginable) while other ryu specialized in only certain areas of expertise such as sword fencing or other type weapons.  Some included hand-to-hand while others did not.

We train in a koryu (old school or style) known as Shinto Muso Ryu Jojutsu that specialized in certain weapons that were most useful against an attacker wielding a sword.  Shinto Muso Ryu became the basis for the weapons systems studied by what became the Japanese Riot Police, who also serve as the personal body guards of the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

The development of Shinto Muso Ryu is an interesting one.  The ryu was created by Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi after suffering defeat in a duel against the famed swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.  Mushashi is famous in Japan for having killed over 65 opponents in one-on-one combat, with the first being at age 12.  According to legend the only person to beat Musashi in a duel was Gonnosuke who gave birth to a martial arts system that would elevate the simple wooden staff to being one The jo
can be used to stop a sword draw and force the opponent to yield.of the most prominent weapons of the Samurai.

Stopping a sword attack by using the jo to control timing and distance. According to some accounts Gonnosuke studied various schools of sword fencing and engaged in duels throughout Japan, never losing until he met Musashi.  The first duel with Musashi occurred in 1605.  There are different versions of the first duel from several sources but all consistently have it that Musashi defeated Gonnosuke.

Gonnosuke boasted to Musashi that no one was his equal.  In his travels, he had apparently encountered Musashi's father who was a master of the jutte (iron truncheon). and Gonnosuke challenged Mushashi by stating, "I have seen your father's techniques, but I haven't seen yours."  Musashi was in the middle of carving a willow branch and replied, "If you saw my father's techniques, I am no different."

Gonnosuke insisted on trying to force Musashi to fight and Musashi said, "My heiho (strategy) is not for display.  No matter how you attack me, I'll stop it.  That's all there is to my heiho.  Do what you will, with any technique."  Gonnosuke pulled out a wooden sword and attacked Musashi.  Musashi stood up and easily beat Gonnosuke across the room with the willow branch and pinned him against the wall.  The description of the duel is more or less the same in several different sources.  It is likely that Musashi beat Gonnosuke by using his special two-swords technique (nito), trapping Gonnosuke's weapon in an x-block, or juji dome, with his long and short swords.

Humiliated, Gonnosuke withdrew to a shrine to meditate.  For 37 days he meditated and did rites of austerity and on the last night, while praying in front of an altar he collapsed and claims to have had a vision.  The most common version states that a small child appeared and said, "holding a round log, know the suigetsu (an attack point in the center of the body)."  The cryptic vision compelled Gonnosuke to whittle a short staff about 50 inches long.  This was longer than the standard long sword of that time but shorter than the long bo (staff) that was commonly used.  By taking advantage of the short staff's ability to shift rapidly and spin end to end, Gonnosuke was able to beat Musashi in the second duel.

It is not clear how Gonnosuke did it but knowledge of the use of the jo in present-day practice gives us a hint.  If a jo is blocked by jujidome, it is easy to quickly flip the jo out of the block and in the same motion strike a kyusho (weak point) on the swordsman's body.  In addition, Gonnosuke also created a system of five secret methods (hiden gyo-i) that incorporated all the techniques of his new jo style.

Gonnosuke defeated Musashi but allowed him to live, as if by professional courtesy.  Gonnosuke, profoundly changed by his encounter with Musashi and by the divine vision, had created what became the premier staff art of Japan, Shinto Muso Ryu Jojutsu.

The ryu remained an exclusive and secret art for many generations.  The lineage passed through various masters, and around 1965 Shimizu opened the hombu dojo, concentrating on spreading knowledge of jo to civilians and other non-Samurai descendents.  Shimizu decided to change the term jojutsu to jodo, the "way" of the jo because he wanted the formerly combative art to also serve a higher philosophical and spiritual purpose. It is important to note, however, that when properly practiced jodo should reflect its ancient combative roots.

Today, the art form includes the following weapons which, when learned, give the student a broad range of abilities and a much broader and complete understanding of the Samurai than would otherwise be possible.  These weapons include:


Jodo - The use of the jo, a stick that is 50 inches long, to defend against sword attacks.  The jodo system has over 65 kata (forms) and is used against both a long and a short sword.  All of the kata are done as paired forms; that is, the person wielding the stick is always paired off against the person wielding the sword (a wooden practice sword for safety).  There is no competion in jodo due to the possibility of injury since some forms become very fast and dynamic when done by advanced students.


Kenjutsu - Coloquially called sword fencing, the student learns how to use a sword against another sword.  The sword or "katana" was THE weapon of the Samurai and all Samurai were expected to be expert in its use.


Tanjo - A gendai or "modern" martial art, in tanjo, the defender uses a walking cane to defend against against a sword attacker.  This art form was developed after Westerners entered Japan in the late 1800's and was added to the jodo curriculum.


Kusarigama - This is a chained sickle with a sharp cutting edge on the handle of the sickle and a heavy metal ball on the end of the chain.  Used to strike or restrain the sword wielder by using the chain to wrap around the arms, wrists, neck, legs or sword or to cut and stab the opponent with the blade attached to the handle.


Jutte & Tessen - A jutte (iron truncheon) and the tessen (fan) were commonly used by the Samurai and were commonly used to defend against a sword attack by both the normal Samurai and by police (in circumstances where they might be called upon to arrest another Samurai).

We teach Jodo as an adjunctive study to our Aikido program.  All Jodo students must first be Aikido players prior to training in Jodo.  In addition to teaching a combat effective and historically correct weapons system, the study of Jodo gives the student a deeper understanding of martial arts concepts and principles.  These include movement relative to an opponent, control of timing and combative distance, and the coordination of feet and hands when holding and moving with an object. 

There is no competitive form of Jodo.  The art is practiced as kata forms in tightly controlled training sessions at relatively slow to mid-speeds for safety reasons.  This is due to the power and destructive potential of the techniques.  As expertise is gained over years of experience the timing begins to naturally approach full speed, pushing both training partners to the edge.  At that point the training takes on a whole new meaning for the martial artist and a new understanding of the Samurai psyche is gained as the weapons literally hum through the air as they pass close to your head.  All-in-all a very exciting training experience for the serious student of martial arts.


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