I started out with the premise that making uke into a better attacker would make tori's aikijo better. Sounds simple, right? Well, it turns out that this involves getting uke several skillsets...
- Uke has to be better at handling and attacking with the jo
- Uke has to be competent with a bokken, because some of our practice is bokken vs. jo.
- Uke has to get some skill at jodori because jodori is basically what uke is doing when tori is practicing jonage.
- Uke should also be familiar with jonage because if tori is leaving huge gaping holes in his jodori practice then we want uke to be able to point those out (by reversing the technique.
Basically, Uke and tori have to both be familiar-to-competent with jo handling, bokken handling, jodori, jonage, and tachidori, because all of these skillsets feed upon each other and reinforce each other. This brings up another perpetual problem at our dojo - time and partners. None of us have the time to spend becoming proficient in kenjutsu AND jodo (each one is a lifetime of study) in order to create sufficient familiarity with jo and bokken to begin to have a good aikijo practice.
So, I began looking for some minimal subset that would systematically deliver some jo and sword-handling skills. And having exlpored Saito's aikijo, films of Nishio's material, SMR jodo, kendo, kenjutsu, arnis, and european traditions, what I finally came upon was Saito's Roku-no-jo - the 6-step jo exercise.
Roku-no-jo is interesting because it is so short and simple that you can learn the thing in about 5 minutes, but it is cyclic (ends where it starts - with a straight thrust) so you can cycle it over and over, getting millions of reps. It also provides the student with three common jo attacks and three common jo defenses from two common grips - as well as footwork and transitions between these six common positions. Each of these positions are also very similar to common sword positions and motions.
But perhaps what makes Roku-no-jo most interesting with respect to my aikijo problems is that it serves as the basis for a modular weapons system. That is, you can plug techniques from various Tomiki sets directly into this cycle. For instance, most of the Tomiki jodori and jonage plug into Roku-no-jo at the first move (a thrust), while most of the tachidori and tachi-tai-tachi fit into Roku-no-jo at the third movement (a kesa, men, or yokomen). Even the SMR jodo material and the kenjutsu material appears to fit directly into roku-no-jo, making this simple exercise the core of an ever-expanding domain of study.
We have gotten a good bit of mileage out of using Roku-no-jo to organize and provide context for Tomiki's weapons material from Sankata and Rokukata.