Jōjutsu is an ancient art of
self-defense using only a slender 4-foot stick to defend against attacks
with a samurai sword. Not only was the art of
jōjutsu created to
defend against one of the most formidable weapons ever devised, but it
was specifically created to defeat the most formidable samurai
who ever lived -- Miyamoto Musashi.
Musō Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi (born Hirano Gonbei) was a kenshi (sword master) who flourished in the early 17th century. He was born into a distinguished samurai family and received menkyō kaiden (license of complete transmission) from at least two major schools of kenjutsu, Katori Shintō-Ryū and Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-Ryū before embarking on his musha shugyō (warrior's training journey). He traveled throughout Japan, testing his skills in numerous duels in which he went undefeated.
Until around 1610.
Sometime between 1608 and 1614 he encountered the rōnin who would later be recognized as Japan's greatest swordsman and revered as the kensei ("sword saint"): Miyamoto Musashi. The many accounts of the first duel between Musashi and Gonnosuke all differ in every aspect except one: Gonnosuke was handily defeated by Musashi. Humiliated, Gonnosuke retired to a Shintō shrine atop Mt. Hōman where he engaged in repeated ritual purifications and trained to exhaustion in an effort to discover and correct the flaws in his technique. One night, after falling asleep exhausted, an angel taking the form of a young boy appeared to him in a dream and told him, "maruki o motte, suigetsu o shire" (with a round stick, know the moon's reflection in the water). The boy also instructed Gonnosuke to make the jō exactly yon shaku ni sun ichi bu (50.2253 inches) in length and hachi bu (.9544 inches) in diameter.
Gonnosuke adapted techniques from the katana, bō (6-foot staff), yari (spear), and naginata (pole-sword) to the jō to create an art that employed every part and the full length of this newly created weapon, then sought out Miyamoto Musashi once again to test its effectiveness. There are two prevailing accounts of the outcome of this second duel: one that Gonnosuke defeated Musashi with the jō; the other that the two fought to a draw. Either outcome was sufficient to make the jō a formidable weapon and one that any samurai should master.
To honor the vision that inspired its creation, Gonnosuke named his new art Shindō Musō-Ryū -- the "Divine Dream Style". Today the style consists of some 64 individual techniques employed against the daitō (samurai sword), shōtō (short sword or wakizashi), and nitō (long- and short-swords). In addition, a set of 12 Seitei Jōdō kata were developed in 1968 for the Zen Nippon Kendō Renmei by the unofficial 25th sōke, Takaji Shimizu.
The IWU Budōkai provides its members with the opportunity to train in traditional Shindō Musō-Ryū Jōjutsu. In order to ensure portability of the students' Jōjutsu training, the curriculum begins with the 12 Seitei Jōdō kata before students begin learning the complete Shindō Musō-Ryū system. Testing requirements for promotion to all ranks up to shodan are now available for the Shindō Musō-Ryū program.