Thursday, March 12, 2009

The correct length for a jo stave

Photos courtesy of Paazio
The story goes that Muso Gonnosuke, founder of jojutsu, received a vision from god during a prolonged fast at a temple.  God apparently told Muso that he would be able to beat Musashi if he would use a stick of certain dimensions.  The magical dimensions translate into metric as about 128cm long or into English as about 51 inches long.  Serious, fanatical jojutsu guys are typically sticklers for this 128cm standard.  There is no flexibility in the standard for smaller or larger participants.
I am not a koryu snob.  I am more of the ideal of making jodo my own thing - taking ownership of the art - and I say that the standard is not magic.  It seems to me that you need a jo to be...
  • ...short enough that you can palm both ends and move your shoulders through a wide range
  • ...6-8 inches longer than a normal 40-42 inch bokken
That seems to put the natural length of the jo between about 46" and 52".  Within those confines, make the jo fit your body.  If your shoulders are tight or you have a child practitioner, use a little shorter jo if you want to.  I typically practice with a 51" jo, and the way it fits me is like this:
  • I can palm both ends of my jo and it lies at my beltline
  • My jo is almost exactly 2x my arm length
  • My jo is about a fist-breadth shorter than my armpit height
  • My jo is about 6 inches too long for me to palm both ends, raise it above my head, and hold it pointing forward (as in honteuchi).  I have to slide the back hand forward about 6 inches to get the jo on this plane.
I also occasionally practice with a very heavy 48" jo.  I like the variation.  It draws out different kinds of posture and motion problems for me to work on.  Interestingly, my son has used my 51" jo, which is about his height and was able to rapidly modify the jodo kihon to be functional with a quarterstave grip (over-under grip on COM and 1/4 point), which has made me want to get a 6' bo to play with the same way.
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  1. > you have a child practitioner,
    In Jodo you should NOT have a child practitioner

  2. I'm still waiting for the first production run of Parker brand Mokuren Jos. I wonder if there really has been an explored science for custom fit jos to the detailed extent things like bowling balls are fitted with?

  3. Kushida Sensei had us measure the fist size gap under our arm pit to cut down the standard issue jo.


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