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Aikido Training With Jo Staffs

Updated on January 10, 2017
vineliner57 profile image

Hello everyone, my name is Hal. A life long sports fan, the spiritual aspects of martial arts have always intrigued me.

Jo Staff Training
Jo Staff Training | Source

Divine Insight Leads to the Jo Staff

The history of the Jo staff is one of both noble heritage and divine inspiration.

Use of the Jo began sometime between 1608 and 1611 when Samurai Muso Gonnosuke suffered his first and only defeat at the hands of Japan's greatest swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

Muso used his favorite weapon: the six-foot Bo staff. Musashi, using both a long and a short sword, blocked and parried the staff in such a way that Muso could not use the Bo effectively.

Miyamoto spared Muso's life and Muso retreated to the mountains to meditate on his defeat.

As we will soon see, this drama was not yet entirely played out.

Moment of Zen
Moment of Zen | Source

Samurai Gonnosuke Gets a Rematch With Miyamoto Musashi

During Muso's search for a new weapon to use in a possible rematch, he was Inspired by a dream. As a result of this inspiration, he designed a staff that was shorter and thinner than any others being used at the time.

The new weapon, the Jo staff, was designed to be much faster and would allow Gonnosuke to get a lot closer to his opponent.

The shorter Jo was the edge Gonnosuke needed when the two fought again.

Having defeated the master swordsman, Gonnosuke returned the favor and spared Miyamoto Musashi's life, becoming the only man ever to best the most honored of all Japanese swordsmen.

Morihei Ueshiba Demonstrates Use of a Jo Staff

The Jo Staff's Ties to Aikido

Both use circular motions to be most effective.

In Aikido, the Jo staff is used for spearing, hitting, or deflecting a strike from an opponent.

Morihei Ueshiba (1883 - 1969), the founder of Aikido, adapted the Jo with the intent to teach the principles of Aikido. His use of the Jo is called aikijo.

Aikijo is similar to jodo in that they both involve fencing techniques to a degree, but they differ in the overall nature and strategies that are used.

Jodo techniques are faster and sharper, using angular attacks and defensive moves. Aikijo techniques tend to be slower and softer by using circular movements to blend attacks and defensive moves in order to reduce or negate an attack.

Even though Ueshiba believed in unarmed battle, he still understood the importance of becoming competent in weaponry. He believed and taught that Aikido is a process that features circular motions and techniques that are more defensive than offensive. The Jo staff is a weapon of choice when harming or killing your opponent is not the desired result.

Jo Staff Basics

The Jo is also known as "The Wooden Staff of Japan".

The Jo staff is usually created from hardwood that is cylindrical or octagonal in shape. Lengths range from 50" to 56" and a diameter of about 1".

The Jo is also called the four-foot staff or short staff, distinguishing it from the long or Bo staff (six-foot stick), and the Hanbo or half (three-foot) stick.

The Jo staff can be used alone in kata or paired with other staves in practice sessions, and it has historical links with the Japanese katana. Staves are preferred by many martial artists above all other weapons due to their elegance, simplicity. and speed.

Proper Jo Staff Length

Selecting the correct length is important.

The Jo staff of Muso Gonnosuke's design and the one used in his school, Shinto Muso Ryu, is 50 1/4" in length with a diameter of 15/16".

Most martial artists use a Jo tailored to their own height, and some dojos and organizations adopt their own size guidelines.

In choosing a wooden weapon for use in the classroom, the first step for a newbie is to find out what is used or required in their dojo. For instance, a custom made Jo that is extra thick or excessively long may or may not be welcome in some dojos.

While picking your Jo length, remember that everyone is different, but generally speaking customizations in size should be on the conservative side. A taller person may need a Jo 54" or more, and a shorter person might want to stay with the original length of just over 50" rather than ordering a very short Jo.

A general rule for proper Jo length is floor to armpit while standing barefoot. The measurement is with the arm in a normal relaxed position.

Proper Jo Staff Thickness

The role of diameter and balance in Jo staff design.

A feeling of thickness and weight can be affected by the smallest of differences in diameter. A mere 1/16" added to the circumference of a 52" Jo will feel noticeably thicker and may affect the overall feel and balance of the staff.

Some students feel they need to custom order a thicker Jo of 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 " without realizing the effect of small changes in diameter.

The volume of a cylinder is proportional to the square of its radius. If you increase the radius/diameter by a small amount, the feeling of thickness goes up exponentially.

2 standard thicknesses are used: 15/16 and 1". You should base the thickness of your Jo on its length and other characteristics that affect how the weapon feels in your hands.

A taller person may want a staff diameter that matches the overall length, but ultimately, it should feel natural and balanced when using.

Staffs are Also Referred to as Staves, Sticks, or Spears

Various Martial Arts Weapons With Jo Staff in Front
Various Martial Arts Weapons With Jo Staff in Front | Source

Advantages of the Jo Staff

Simplicity is the key.

In the Japanese countryside of old, many farming tools were used as weapons.

Several martial arts weapons like the Bo, Sai, Nunchaku and Tonfa were crafted from such tools.

The Jo staff could be crafted pretty quickly from a tree branch. This is one advantage that past stick fighters had over swordsmen of the time. When it came time to fight, a Jo staff could easily be made from materials at hand.

The cane or walking stick has been used as a defensive weapon for as long as people have used them as walking aids. A walking stick can be used to hook and trip an attacker, as well as being useful as a club to strike an opponent.

Nowadays, broomsticks, garden rakes, shovel handles and the like can easily be turned into a Jo staff.

The Jo is a humble weapon with an interesting and noble history - a simple yet complex weapon.

Recommended Books About Jo Staffs

Jo: The Japanese Short Staff (Unique Literary Books of the World)
Jo: The Japanese Short Staff (Unique Literary Books of the World)

112 pages of clear concise pictures and discussions of the techniques behind this simple yet effective martial arts weapon.


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© 2010 Hal Gall

Visitor Comments - What's on your mind?

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    • vineliner57 profile image

      Hal Gall 3 years ago from Bloomington, IN

      @williamslaw: Aikido doesn't get as much attention as some of the other martial arts, probably because it is not as aggressive as the more popular ones.

    • williamslaw profile image

      williamslaw 3 years ago

      Japanese martial arts are very interesting. I like Aikido.

    • vineliner57 profile image

      Hal Gall 4 years ago from Bloomington, IN

      @Redneck Lady Luck: Canes are pretty good for protection as well, and they have the "hook" at the handle that can be used to pull someone down if need be. As for walking sticks, I would like one like Gandalf has in the Hobbit movies!

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Fascinating. The history behind the Jo stick is so exciting and you have written it out so well as to hold me captive with the tale from start to end. I really liked the farm tool section as it relates to weaponry. I think I would like a Jo walking stick with a rubber end on the tip that can be quickly removed should the need for a weapon come into play.

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image

      KamalaEmbroidery 4 years ago

      I have always been interested in Aikido and Japanese martial arts in general although I don't know much about them -- part of my interest in Zen I guess. Anyway, thanks for increasing my knowledge of staffs.

    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 4 years ago

      I think Mrs K would hit me over the head with one of these :)

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 4 years ago from Ljubljana

      There is something mystic about aikido. I like that:)

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 4 years ago from Johanesburg

      Fascinating history , Thanks for sharing

    • happymonkeyz profile image

      happymonkeyz 4 years ago

      wow interesting japanese history.

    • robertzimmerman2 profile image

      Robert Zimmerman 4 years ago from SE Florida, USA

      I always have been curious about Aikido, thanks!

    • Tonto Murray profile image

      Tonto Murray 4 years ago

      Interesting history. Thanks for sharing. Blessed

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      I am familiar with Aikido jo stuffs, get these easily from our local market!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      This is excellent. I just learned something very interesting and new. Thanks!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 4 years ago

      Very well done article on the Aikido Jo Staff

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      I'm intrigued.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Aikido is also good for relaxation

    • Projectlazy profile image

      Projectlazy 4 years ago

      @vineliner57: Maybe the promise of another challenge was to enticing

    • Projectlazy profile image

      Projectlazy 4 years ago

      I like how you mention walking sticks as weapons. Sherlock Holmes was a master of using his walking stick as a weapon too.

    • cjbmeb14 lm profile image

      cjbmeb14 lm 4 years ago

      Amazing lens, I wonder why each of them spared each others lives.

    • profile image

      halloweenprops 4 years ago

      I want one of these Aikido Jo Staffs!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I enjoyed reading about the Aikido Jo Staffs. Blessed.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      This is all new to me Blessings! for a unique subject!

    • dotpattern profile image

      Pat Moire 5 years ago from West Village, New York City

      Very comprehensive information. Domo arigato

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you for an elegant introduction to the Aikido Jo staff. Someday I would love to take some classes. Blessings!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Noble Art one of my Sons used to practice Bushidokan as well.

    • LaurenIM profile image

      LaurenIM 5 years ago

      I love Aikido - period lol!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      This is the first I've heard of Aikido Jo Staffs. Thanks for the great introduction.

    • vineliner57 profile image

      Hal Gall 6 years ago from Bloomington, IN

      @Chris-H LM: Thanks for the heads up on the video. Yeah, Jo staffs are pretty cool in that they look more like a cane or walking stick and don't draw as much attention, but can still be used as a defensive or offensive weapon....Thanks for stopping by.

    • Chris-H LM profile image

      Chris-H LM 6 years ago

      Nice! I have a Bo Staff. The Jo Staff is new to me. May have to get one...


      Oh!, btw your first video no longer works. Just thought you'd like to know.