Friday, September 16, 2011

How to make jodo practical and useful

One of the things that many modern students and potential students of jodo want to know pretty quickly is, how come we are forever practicing Jo vs. sword, when nobody uses swords anymore?  Why don't we learn something more practical and useful?
Well, it turns out that there are good pedigogical reasons for spending most of our time in that practice mode, but that koryu "wait and see" sort of answer is completely unsatisfactory for many students.  Following is a list of seven hints for making your jodo more robust and practical and useful - and more fun and rewarding...

  • Really hit real stuff every so often - hang a tire from a tree, plant a post in the ground, get a heavy bag, whatever ... and beat it with an axe handle or a cheap suburito.
  • Find a way to do at least a little of some kind of sparring or randori with another person, whether you have to armor up and use lighter sticks, or padded PVC, or just move at micro-speed.  You have to practice at least some against an opponent instead of a partner.
  • Do the kata properly, the way Sensei wants, but also play with every conceivable variation of each kata - change every grip, and see how the things work. Look for the places that look like you could easily slip from one kata into another. What if you struck this way instead of that way at this point in the kata?
  • Different kinds of attacks - not just sword.  Work your jodo on unarmed ukes, on knife-wielding, stick-wielding, etc... work on defending against the Jo guy, taking Jo and sword away from an attacker, and keeping your Jo from being disarmed.
  • Work with different size sticks - not just the official 7/8 inch diameter, 128 cm long, white oak stick... use pencils, canes, and six and eight foot staves.
  • Look up info from different traditions, including western european, Filipino, Chinese, and Korean.  Pay particular attention to the commonalities and the differences between the SMR jodo guys and the aikijo guys. 
  • Ask the hard questions.  Is this true, or BS? Why is it like this - why not like this?  Is this custom or tradition or best practice or the only way that it can be?
photo courtesy of Fred Hall

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