Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tanjojutsu for real

Photo courtesy of Pay no Mind
Here's an interesting thing regarding the history of tantojutso (a walking-cane adjunct to SMR jojutsu). Note: I'm no historian and I read this history with a skewed view. This is not gospel, and if I can post this without getting ridiculed by the Koryu snobs, I'll consider myself lucky. It's interesting nonetheless. Read with me between the lines of the following (adapted from the Wikipedia article on Tanjojutsu)...
After the Meiji Restoration in 1869 ... Japan [introduced] ... European clothes as a popular new choice of wardrobe. Among the things that were imported, the western style walking stick ... quickly became a very popular item in Japan, especially for former samurai who were not allowed to wear swords anymore as a sign of their high status ... In 1885, Uchida Ryogoro, who was a student of Shinto Muso-ryu (jodo), devised a new set of self-defence techniques for the tanjo [Western-style walking stick] drawn primarily from existing jodo techniques...and organized into a system which was named Uchida-ryū Tanjōjutsu.
This tells me that tanjojutsu was designed for people who were not crippled. The samurai (and other bigwigs) carried Western-style walking sticks as status symbols - sort of a combination of, "Look at how modern and stylish I am," and, "I might not have a sword but you'd still better not screw with me!"

If you were to attempt to pick up tanjojutsu as part of a real self-defense cane system for people who actually carry a cane because they really need it, then it seems to me the techniques would likely have to be modified from their original form. You would have to remove all of the elements that a strong man with healthy legs could do but that a man with a ruined leg or two might not be able to do. What might these modifications look like?
  • shorter, lighter, slower stepping - no lunging and certainly no lunging into a kneeling position
  • the above would necessitate a more acute practice and knowledge of ma-ai
  • hold the cane in the proper hand to support the bad leg - don't define the stick to always be in tori's right hand
  • push back off of uke after every technique instead of standing in zanshin assuming you've destroyed the threat
One of the interesting things about jo work in SMR that carried over into tanjojutsu is that the attacker is always armed with a sword. This was, perhaps, functional self-defense when jojutsu was invented, but swords were disallowed by the time of development of jodo and tanjojutsu. So, why have the bad guy attack with a sword?
  • It's sort of dishonorable-feeling to beat up an unarmed guy using a stick, although that might be reasonable and defensible for someone who actually needs a cane to walk.
  • The sword is a 3-foot long knife. If you let that guy within reach of you then you are in deep trouble. By arming the opponent with such an awesome weapon - a weapon with such fearsome potential, the tanjo-guy is forced to become sharper. He must do everything just right or he will be cut.
So, if I were to attempt to pick up tanjojutsu as a self-defense thing, I'd keep the swordsman as the attacker, but it would probably be wise to do some of the cane-vs-empty hand stuff from hanbojutsu or aikijo.

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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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