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The origins of
a most unique art ...

 

 

 

Musha shugyo: a journey of personal perfection

 

 

 

 

Jojutsu: an art born of defeat coupled with vision

 

 

 

 

 ... an art that ultimately produces victory!

 
History of Jojutsu


The history of jojutsu is essentially the same as the history of the jo -- the four-foot staff itself -- because it is the history of a unique weapon, around which was built a unique art by a unique man under unique circumstances.

Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi was a samurai born at the close of the tumultuous Sengoku Jidai, the "Warring States" period of Japanese history in which feudal lords were continually battling with one another over territory, forming and reforming alliances, and battling again for almost 100 straight years. It was the period of Japanese history that produced some of the most famous of all samurai. At the end of this period, Tokugawa Ieyasu succeeded in unifying all of Japan under his sole rule as Sei-i Tai-Shogun -- supreme military commander.

With no more wars and battles to fight, samurai shifted their attention to seeking perfection of their skills and personal character during the Tokugawa Era. They did so by diligently mastering several martial arts, then wandering the realm testing themselves in duels against each other -- a process called musha shugyo. So it was that sometime during the Kan-ei Era (1624 to 1629), Muso Gonnosuke travelled to Edo (now Tokyo) to test his skills. He was already the 7th generation headmaster of Tenshin Katori Shindo-Ryu kenjutsu, one of the best-known styles of swordsmanship of his day, as well as a master of Kashima Shin-Ryu. Having defeated many of the finest swordsmen of his day, Gonnosuke found himself pitted in a duel against the man who would one day be the most famous and revered samurai of all time, Miyamoto Musashi.

Despite being a master of at least two schools of swordsmanship and having proven himself in several duels, Gonnosuke was handily defeated by Musashi. Following this defeat, Gonnosuke continued travelling for a time, matching skills with other great swordsmen in a quest to hone his skills for a rematch with Musashi. His wanderings eventually took him to the area near modern Fukuoka and a particularly rugged mountain top, called Mt. Homan. Atop Mt. Homan stood a monastery, where for centuries both Buddhist and Shinto acolytes had sought sanctuary and solace. There Gonnosuke hoped a period of meditation and reflection might restore his fallen spirits, and provide him some insight to defeating the incomparable Musashi. After 37 days of meditation and contemplation, an angel in the form of a boy appeared to Gonnosuke while he slept. In this dream, the angel explained that even the fearsome Musashi could be defeated through the use of a slender wooden shaft exactly yon shaku ni sun ichi bu in length (50.25 inches) and hachi bu in diameter (13/16 inch). In this dream, the boy angel also described to Gonnosuke the secret techniques unique to the jo by which Musashi could be defeated. The angel even gave Gonnosuke the name jo ("stick") to call this slender new weapon.

The following day, Gonnosuke fashioned the very first jo and began practicing the techniques the angel had revealed to him in the dream. To these secret techniques, blocks and strikes common to the bo (6-foot staff), yari (spear), and katana (samurai sword) were eventually added to complete the art of jojutsu. Once Gonnosuke had developed proficiency with the jo, he again sought out Miyamoto Musashi for a rematch. This time, Musashi was handed his only defeat in more than 60 duels, and the jo became literally "the stick that beat Musashi."

Gonnosuke named his newly founded art, Shindo Muso-Ryu Jojutsu -- a name that can equally-well be translated as "Heavenly-Dream Style Art of the Jo" or "Divinely-Inspired Style Art of the Jo." Not only is the jo a unique weapon, but the art itself is unique. To this day, nearly 400 years later, there is still only one style of jojutsu. Shindo Muso-Ryu has been passed down generation after generation without any of its masters breaking away to form his own style. Nearly every other martial art has eventually splintered into several different styles -- in some cases, dozens of them -- but not jojutsu!

Furthermore, there is still only one correct size of jo: yon shaku ni sun ichi bu long and hachi bu in diameter.

The exact future of jojutsu is currently uncertain. The 25th generation headmaster of Shindo Muso-Ryu, Shimizu Takatsugu (sometimes read as "Takaji"), died without officially designating one of his senior disciples to succeed him in the role of 26th generation headmaster. With typical Japanese humility, none of those disciples has stepped forward to claim the headmaster's role, either. However, there are numerous highly qualified masters of jojutsu who continue to teach the art, so we can be assured that it will be preserved. One of those is Miura Takeyuki Hidefusa Soshi, the founder of the Nippon Kobudo Jikishin-Kai. Another, only slightly junior to Miura Hanshi, is Shimabukuro Masayuki Hanshi of the JKI International.

In part due to this uncertainty over the future leadership and direction of Shindo Muso-Ryu, Shimabukuro Hanshi, along with one of his senior students, Leonard Pellman Sensei, prepared a set of videos that detail the complete basics of jojutsu, along with the 12 Seitei Katachi -- standardized practice patterns that represent the full 64 techniques of Shindo Muso-Ryu. In addition, Shimabukuro Shihan works ceaselessly to promote continued interest in jojutsu in all of his instruction and travels. And, of course, it is the reason that Pellman Sensei created this web site.

 

Shindo Muso-Ryu is carefully preserved

 

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2003   Leonard J. Pellman



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