I got the golden opportunity to do some jodo with Jack Bieler this weekend! Jodo in general is one of those things that is mind-altering because you have to do it just right or it becomes dangerous and ultra-scary. Sorta like the feeling that you get standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Sure, you're safe. You're 3 feet from the edge with good footing and no wind and nobody around you to push you in... but what if you were one step closer?
Playing something this scary with someone this much more advanced than you are is quite an experience.
Which reminds me of a tangent! A few years ago, I attended a Henry seminar in which the theme was Sankata weapons - particularly the sword-on-sword stuff. As always, he blew us away with his awesome skill and charming manner, but after about an hour of having people swing swords at my head, I was a nervous wreck! Having green- and brown-belts practicing this stuff was like stepping right up to the edge of the canyon 300 times (with wind and jostling people and a blindfold). Quite an experience!
But anyway, Jack gave me a handful of hints about improving my jodo. I'm going to list them here, but mind you, any mistakes are my misunderstanding - not his mis-instruction.
Most of my errors were kihon errors - small stuff that compounded to make my jodo really suck...
- #1 - arm/stick makes its motion in the same time as one direct step forward. "Weaponize" the stick early, so that you don't spend half your step lifting the stick. Then you can put that step on uke.
- #2 - let the wrist break to keep all the fingers on the stick. On this and #1, don't over-wring the stick, but line all your knuckles up on bottom and wrist bone on top to form an "edge" to the stick.
- #3 - the chest hand is open and at the sternum. Dont let it drift off to the rear. on this and #1 and #2, keep the rear hand little finger on the stick instead of letting it hang off - this keeps the stick live instead of rotationally dead. aim to project 3-ft sideward and 6-ft back. Watch for wobble caused by working the stick with the hands.
- #4 - arms more vertical, and in the same time as a hipswitch. Not 'set then stab' but 'hipswitch&step-stab'
- #6-9 - bring lead hand (fulcrum) toward head so that it is closer to the power structure of the body. Use more of the tip of the jo instead of the middle. make sure youre keeping your hands in the safety margin of the stick.
- #7 - rear hand in hip joint, turn feet to face uke. Turn front hand over to honte just before the stab.
- #9 - punch face and solar plexus
- #11 - stick starts slightly forward of head
And with regard to the kata...besides the kihon errors above...
- #1 - bigger, more vertical arc, like a circular saw, to threaten eyes to stop uke's rush.
- #2 - stab lower - not in the xiphoid process and not in sternum.
- #3 - present right at ma-ai. Disrupt uke's sense of ma-ai and set your own.
- #4 - Jack was not doing this as vertical as Usher - more "upside the head"
- #8 - hikiotoshi to protect the hand instead of honteuchi
...and beyond that my mind was fried. I'm sure he told me all the ninja secrets of the universe, but I failed to catch them. Anyway, this is enough for a year or two of work. Heck, a fifth of this advice would have been a goldmine.
Then I got to chat with Nick about jodo. His (more concise) advice...
- Really hit really real stuff more often. Get used to transmitting force for real into real objects.
- Go back to the Big-Strong-Fast-Light model and proceed from there (see the video below)