Shindo Muso Ryu Koryu Jodo – A Lateral View

Authors note:

This article emphasises a “lateral” view in that I am by no means a master or even seasoned teacher of Jodo. I believe that insincere humility is as bad as arrogance and so I would not go so far to say that I am a rank beginner in Koryu Jodo either. I do consider myself to be an avid student of the art and suffice to say I have been fortunate to have been taught by some excellent teachers.

My personal lineage follows up the Tokyo-ha route of SMR Jodo starting with my own teacher Chris Mansfield Sensei 7th dan Renshi; Ishido Shizufumi Sensei 8th dan Kyoshi; Hiroi Tsunetsugu Sensei 8th dan Hanshi; Shimizu Takaji Sensei 8th dan Hanshi etc. I have also been very grateful to have had the chance to meet and receive instruction from Namitome Shigenori Sensei 8th dan Hanshi and Yano Shoichiro Sensei 8th dan Hanshi (both Fukuoka-ha) as well as many of their personal students.

However with all this in mind, the following article is based on my understanding and all mistakes or misinterpretations are my own.

I would furthermore like to thank all the people who over the years have inundated me with photos. I have lost track of who I have actually gained permission from to use their photos. Should you find one that belongs to you and would rather I did not use it please let me know.


Outside of Japan and within the countries operating within the IKF, Shindo (or Shinto) Muso Ryu Koryu Jodo is generally practiced quite rarely in comparison with ZNKR Seitei Jodo. In fact it would be fair to say that some groups prefer to only practice Seitei in their thinking that the twelve kata contain all that is needed for a satisfactory growth and understanding of Jodo. I have experienced this training preference both in and outside of Japan. Given that many people who make no such particular decision to not practice koryu rarely make it past Chudan (the middle level), to say that Seitei contains all that is required is not such a restrictive policy in my opinion.

However personally I feel that the Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo (or Jojutsu) syllabus offers such a comprehensive, interesting and cohesive approach to Jodo technical training, it is a great shame to not explore it, research it and become proficient in the various “flavours” of Shindo Muso Ryu Jo.

The syllabus comprises of two main areas: the teachings sets of the Jo as the central weapon and the teaching sets of auxiliary weapons. There are also Jo grappling techniques and a person who researches all of these areas has absorbed a sogo bujutsu or comprehensive martial system.

I will briefly mention the auxiliary weapon systems as they are worthy of note and there are strong connections between the auxiliary systems and the central Jo teachings.

(Kasumi) Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu

A set of twelve paired sword kata, eight using tachi vs tachi and four using tachi vs kodachi.

Ikkaku Ryu Juttejutsu

Two sets of twelve kata using the jutte (iron truncheon) and sometimes the tessen (war fan) against an opponent armed with a tachi.

Ittatsu Ryu Hojojutsu

A comprehensive set of rope-tying techniques. Three levels of training exist comprising of Ge (lower), Chu (middle) and Jo (upper).

Isshin Ryu Kusarigamajutsu

Two sets of forms Omote (surface) and Kage (shadow) of twelve techniques each and Oku (inner) set using the Kusarigama (sickle and chain).

Uchida Ryu Tanjojutsu

Twelve kata using the short stick or walking stick.

For most, the koryu kata with the jo as the main weapon is the central focus of Koryu Jodo practice. The teaching of SMR Jodo comprises of the following teaching sets:

  • Omote (Surface)
  • Chudan (Middle Level)
  • Ran Ai (Disorder to Harmony)
  • Kage (Shadow)
  • Samidare (Early Summer Rain)
  • Gohon no Midare (Five Forms of Chaos)
  • Okuden (Inner Teaching)

For those who qualify for Menkyo Kaiden status there is a set of forms which according to history are meant to reflect the original forms devised by the founder, Muso Gonnosuke, himself. These five forms, Hiden Gokui, are thereby supposed to contain all the elements of Jodo from which all other kata have been devised. Whether this is true or not, the fact that the Menkyo Kaiden candidate has to master some 65 jo forms and countless auxiliary forms means their grasp of the elements of SMR Jodo should be fairly good by that point.

The main focus of this article is to look at the main jo koryu sets and understand the focus or taste of the set. This concept may seem foreign to those who are first learning the various sets; the moves in themselves seem complicated and some kata hopelessly long. It is typical of classical budo however that the various layers of a koryu system provide not only an outward technical development but an inner reflection of a subtle change of taste, of feeling and mental state. Practitioners of most Iai systems will recognise that each teaching set reflects the students’ penetration into the system and thus their understanding of the art is deepened as one delves further in. To merely view another teaching set as another cluster of technical moves and exercises is utterly missing the point – there is a firm reason why these forms have been collected and styled into a discrete set.

Commonly many koryu budo systems comprise of roughly three main levels of teaching:

It also seems fairly common that each set follows a typical training objective:

  • Lower – focus on technique and some distance and timing emphasis
  • Middle – focus primarily on distance, timing, flow and speed
  • Upper – focus on feeling and zanshin

This rationale of levels appears also within the teaching sets of SMR Koryu Jodo. The following sections contain both translations of the set descriptions from Shimizu Takaji Sensei’s Jodo Kyohon (shown in italics) as well as other aspects I have had taught to me by my teachers during my short duration of training in Jodo.

Omote (Surface)


“These twelve forms incorporate effective use of the body and frequent change in the manipulation and operation of technique. It is required that these are performed using correct, basic technique in the appropriate manner.”

Shimizu Takaji

The word Omote means surface or front face. It is commonly used as an antonym of Ura (inside, rear face) in various binary techniques of kobudo. In this context it is used to suggest that this set makes up the outward technical appearance of SMR Jodo. Six of the forms are used to make up the twelve seiteigata series and the more recently synthesized forms of Suigetsu and Shamen are sometimes taught as an addendum to the Omote set (as well as a relatively unpractised form known as Uchiotoshi).

Omote as I have learned it is performed in a fairly regular, well-squared-off shape with a steady tempo. The techniques are performed to their full extent with large movements. Even in this first set however, the Shijo occasionally is called upon to slightly pre-empt the Uchidachi’s attack and this relationship of timed response varies form to form. Therefore while the relationship of movement varies throughout the set, students are encouraged to ensure that techniques are full and correct.

The names of the forms within this set and their approximate translation are:

  1. Tachiotoshi (falling sword)
  2. Tsubawari (break a sword guard)
  3. Tsukizue (reach the target)
  4. Hissage (to make drop)
  5. Sakan (entry from the left)
  6. Ukan (entry from the right)
  7. Kasumi (mist)
  8. Monomi (to envisage)
  9. Kasanoshita (under a wide hat)
  10. Ichirei (single bow)
  11. Neyanouchi (inside a room)
  12. Hosomichi (narrow path)

(interpretation of kata names by Chris Mansfield)

From this set the following tandoku dosa basic techniques can be found:

  • Honte uchi
  • Gyakute uchi
  • Hikiotoshi uchi
  • Kaeshi zuki
  • Kuri tsuke
  • Tai atari
  • Tsuki hazushi uchi
  • Tai hazushi uchi

Learning this set therefore delivers to the student the majority of basic techniques as well as the larger share of forms for Seitei. It has often been argued by senior Jodo members in our association that it makes no sense to hold off learning koryu until all of the Seiteigata are learned. I personally support this statement, the more complex of the Seiteigata being far more complex and challenging that the Omote set.

Chudan (Middle Level)


“The Chudan techniques comprise of 12 forms. On the whole there are many movements which are to be performed vehemently and vigorously and therefore require adequate feeling and practise to understand the contents of Chudan. The way of using the jo remains the same as Omote.”

Shimizu Takaji

Chudan simply means middle level. In the context of SMR Jodo it assumes the student has absorbed and reached relative proficiency of the techniques during their Omote practice. During a Jodo seminar, Otake Toshiyuki Sensei 8th dan Kyoshi from Kanagawa told the group that Chudan “was for embedding Jodo into the exponent through repeated practice and should be performed with some vehemence. This was in contrast to the Omote which are for the learning of technique and understanding of distance and timing.”

I have further been informed that Chudan is performed in a similar fashion to how haya nuki is performed in Iaido i.e. with focus on flow and continuity. My own teacher instilled in us a greater sense of pre-emptive movement and efficient use of the movement of the Jo such that techniques such as hikiotoshi against the tachi are commenced before the Uchidachi has fully completed their Seigan-no-kamae. Once delivered, the follow-up seme is incorporated much more smoothly with the sweeping away of the sword.

It sometimes looks like Chudan kata are being performed in a rush although in my experience this is a perception based on being used to seeing small pauses between individual techniques. Chudan aims to eliminate the stop times between techniques and encourages the exponents to focus on acceleration rather than just speed.

The names of the forms within this set and their approximate translation are:

  1. Ichi Riki (single force)
  2. Oshi Zume (drive back)
  3. Midaredome (stopping disorder)
  4. Ushiro Zue (Zen) (rear stick pt.1)
  5. Ushiro Zue (Go) (rear stick pt.2)
  6. Taisha (turning wheel)
  7. Kengome (entering a gap)
  8. Kirikake (failed cut)
  9. Shinshin (true advance)
  10. Rai Uchi (thunder strike)
  11. Yoko Giri Dome (stopping lateral cut)
  12. Harai Dome (stopping sweep)
  13. Seigan (aiming at the eyes)

Some teachers include Ran Ai into the Chudan set (Shimizu Sensei didn’t although his descendants did) and it is believed Ran Ai is a much newer form compared to the other Chudan kata.

From the Chudan set three Seitei forms were extracted although Seigan has a slight technical variation to its end. Furthermore the kata introduce more basic techniques including:

  • Gyakute zuki
  • Maki otoshi

Ran Ai (From Disorder to Harmony)


“Ran Ai presents a comprehensive variety of SMR techniques to be performed in a continuous fashion as one kata. This kata is not recorded in the original catalogue of kata and from which era it was devised from is not clear however; historically it has been transmitted for some time. This kata requires the critical taking of initiative, taking advantage of weaknesses, creating the tension of two equally shrewd opponents; it is the longest of the kata and therefore is a highly combat practical and should be expressed elegantly and beautifully. This kata is incorporated into the ZNKR Seitei Kata at no.12.

Shimizu Takaji

Kim Taylor’s research suggests that Ran Ai was probably developed in the Bakumatsu period when Japan was reverting power back to the emperor. During this era when chaos was being brought under control it may have been marked by the creation of Ran Ai to mirror what the country was going through at the time.

As mentioned above, Ran Ai comprises the last of the Seitei Jodo Kata and introduces the last of the basic techniques of:

  • Kuri hanashi
  • Do barai uchi

This kata seems to be the longest and most complex of the Koryu kata although I have yet to try to compare the number of individual techniques to say, one of the Gohon no Midare forms.

The nature of Shimizu Sensei’s writing is reflected in the performance of the form. The timing ebbs and flows with some parts going through blindingly fast and at others there appears to seem to be a hiatus in visible movement as one exponent battles another through tension and feeling rather than through dynamic movement.

The Ran Ai section actually comprises of two kata, one performed with the odachi and one with the kodachi. The kata remains similar throughout until the end conclusion is reached.

Kage (Shadow)


“The Kage techniques comprise of 12 forms. Each of the forms share the same name as those found in Omote. However the level of Kage presents changes to the content of the forms. There is no special speed attributed to the techniques and body movements of Kage but the contrast of calmness to movement, slow to fast as well as a contrast in breath control provides the special features of this set.”

Shimizu Takaji

The emphasis of Kage, as I have been taught, is to make a clear contrast between the slow and implicit techniques and the fast and explicit techniques within the form. Comparing Kage with Omote, the former contains much more inner fighting. The forms tend to be shorter and simpler but there are often moments when the outside observer is unsure what is happening between the two combatants as they struggle to win a moment.

The reason for appending the name Kage is not clear. A simple but fanciful explanation is that an opponent expecting an Omote-type response to an attack would be caught by surprise as the Jodoka went from a known stance into an unknown attack. More likely however is that Kage begins to introduce the inner face of SMR Jodo, the unseen side where fighting takes place silently and without movement.

As mentioned above, the names of the forms are the same although two of the kata have alternative versions thus bringing the total number actually to fourteen.

  1. Tachiotoshi (falling sword)
  2. Tsubawari (break a sword guard)
  3. Tsukizue (reach the target)
  4. Hissage (to make drop)
  5. Sakan (entry from the left)
  6. Ukan (entry from the right)
  7. Kasumi (mist)
  8. Monomi (to envisage)
  9. Kasanoshita (under a wide hat)
  10. Ichirei (single bow)
    1. Version 1
    2. Version 2
  11. Neyanouchi I (inside a room)
    1. Version 1
    2. Version 2
  12. Hosomichi (narrow path)

It should be emphasised that these “alternative versions” are not kaewaza in their truest form. They are additional forms, both versions have to be learned and practiced for one to claim that they are studying Kage properly.

Samidare (Early spring rain)

(No explanation given in Shimizu Sensei’s manual)

I have heard Pascal Kreiger Sensei saying that the meaning of Samidare was hikiotoshi and it certainly seems that the first three forms emphasise the hikiotoshi concept to an extreme.

From experience the Samidare katas embody two main concepts:

  • The emphasis on pre-emptive strikes at the beginning of the kata.
  • Full fighting intensity throughout the entire form

The nuance of the word Samidare (or Satsukiame – both literally meaning “May rain” or “early summer rain”) means torrential rain or monsoon. This feeling may well be reflected in the kata as both sides providing an onslaught of attacking techniques on one another until the victor is shortly decided. I have also felt through training that the earliness suggested in the group name is reflected in the pre-emptiveness of the Shijo’s initial strike that is to say that all first attacks in the kata are either by the Shijo or an immediate defence-cum-counterstrike in response to the Uchidachi’s cut. There are no awase taken in any of the forms, every single kata immediately commences into a literal and physcial fight with both sides mutually approaching into fighting distance.

The set comprises of six kata:

  1. Ichi monji (straight line)
  2. Jumonji (cross)
  3. Kodachi Otoshi (drop the short sword)
  4. Mijin (zen) (fragments – front)
  5. Mijin (go) (fragments – behind)
  6. Gan tsubushi (crush the eye)

The second kata features an unusually long continuous kiai through the second half of the form, perhaps emphasising the continuation of fighting pressure throughout the form.

To be continued

Published by

Andy Watson

Andy teaches Jodo and Iaido in the U.K.

20 thoughts on “Shindo Muso Ryu Koryu Jodo – A Lateral View”

  1. Andy, thanks for your contribution! I am looking forward to seeing more jodo (and iai…) articles from you in the future.

    I think good jodo is very powerful, and there is a lot of value a kendo/iaido person can get from the study of it. I especially enjoy watching the jodo demonstrations at the kyoto-taikai every year, and will probably start the study of it at sometime in the future (near or far I have no idea).

    Again, cheers!

  2. It is my understanding that Kage kata are to be completed with one breath. This accounts for Shimizu’s last comment regarding breath control.

    I was unware of the prolonged kiai to Jumonji, I will need to ask about that in the future.

    All in all a great article, your observations are inline with my own with the exception of those above. I look forward to the next installment.

    I must say I really visit this site for cross over between the kendo and the koryu content as I have nevered tried kendo myself.

  3. Tim, I am very glad that non-kendo people are looking at this site. I realise that some people might be under the assumption that this is a kendo-only site but its actually (at least its meant to be) more than that. Thats why its called kenshi247 and not kendo247!

  4. Hi Tim

    That’s very interesting about breathing in Kage, I will give it a go but perhaps get a paramedic prepared before I do Kasanoshita!

    Thank you very much for the feedback, I am always interested to hear about different teachings from different lineages. Can I ask which lineage you belong to?

    Best regards

    Andy

  5. Andy,

    Sorry for the late reply.

    I have most recently been studying with Arai Sensei who received his Menkyo Kaiden from Nishioka Sensei. Nishioka Sensei is the technical advisor for the International Jodo Federation (IJF) which includes the groups of Pascal Krieger Sensei and Phil Relnick Sensei. Nishioka Sensei received his Menkyo Kaiden from Shimizu Sensei so we would fall under the Tokyo-ha.

    Tim

  6. Interesting take on it, especially the bit about Samidare meaning hikiotoshi (but otoshi=落し means drop; fall is ochi=落ち). Chūdan after all means seigan. Omote likely has to do with kasumi, and Kage with hissage. The kata go in threes. Look at the third of each kata of Chūdan and minus the first preemptive strike they go hikiotoshi, hissage, kasumi, and seigan. Hikiotoshi and kasumi form the character for 8=八 and seem to represent yin and yang, one pointing to earth the other to heaven. Yin and yang originally meant the dark north (windward=rainy?) and hot south (leeward=evaporative?) sides of a mountain. Hissage and seigan would be the watery depths and fire? It must have to do with Onmyōdō (i.e. the Japanese early, occult Taoism that tagged along with Buddhism) . . .

  7. Hi all, Andy here.

    I will get to work on the next part of this article soon, it’s been a busy 3 years!

    Sean – what you wrote was very interesting, I get some of what you are saying but a lot of it went over my head. Could you explain further please.

    …and many thanks for the comments, all.

    Andy

  8. Sean

    I have tried to look a bit further into what you mean and I have to say I am stumped.

    Firstly I don’t know what you mean by Chudan meaning Seigan. If you’re referring to the kamae of the Uchidachi then Seigan/Chudan exists in nearly every kata except when the Uchidachi assumes taito or wakigamae. Yes, the kata Seigan exists in the set Chudan but there is no other connection that I can identify.

    Your next point, mentioning the katas going in threes: I am still utterly lost by what you mean by “Look at the third of each kata of Chūdan and minus the first preemptive strike they go hikiotoshi, hissage, kasumi, and seigan”. Can you explain further please as I don’t see that “order” of opening and interstitial postures. The Shijo never takes a “seigan no kamae” except as an initial attack to the eyes.

    Your next point concerning Hikiotoshi and Kasumi, I would consider it to be a rather tentative connection with the character for hachi or representing Yin and Yang. Tomoe no kamae from Yokogiridome is actually closer to representing Yin and Yang. It seems rather post hoc to append to them a meaning which is fairly insubstantial and doesn’t explain anything.

    Next I still don’t know what you mean by pairing up Hissage and Seigan; as kata they exist in two different (and non-opposing if you consider Omote and Kage to be dark and light sides) teaching sets; as kamae, one is sometimes performed by the Shijo, one is nearly always performed by the Uchidachi. There doesn’t seem to be any opposing or contrasting element between them.

    Lastly to conclude that because of some inconsistent (or non-existent) patterns that you seem to have identified this therefore means that it has to do with Onmyodo is again without any substantial evidence or deductive reasoning.

    Just to return to your opening sentence, I don’t know why you clarified with “(but otoshi=落し means drop; fall is ochi=落ち)” – I don’t think I mentioned the word “drop” once in the Samidare section. I would go back and edit the translation of Hissage to “carry in the hands” but that’s got nothing to do with otosu/ochiru.

    I apologise if I have missed anything which contributes to your points and I will gladly acknowledge them if you can substantiate them yourself. If however your response serves only to confuse the issue and those that read this article I think it’s only fair that this made explicitly clear.

    Andy

  9. Yes, chudan probably doesn’t really mean seigan in this context. Should I leave it at that then? It is a clearly written article and also very interesting. I’ll refrain from adding my gibberish I guess . . .

  10. I don’t study jodo, but in many classical arts chudan and seigan are used interchangeably. Chudan can sometimes refer to the spatial position though, and not the kamae itself.

  11. Hey George.

    I suspect that in the context of the teaching set “Chudan” it refers to the fact that the main glutch of kata in SMR are in the first three sets: Omote, Chudan and Kage. Omote and Kage of course refer to the extrinsic/intrinsic face of the technical content and Chudan is merely sandwiched in the middle between them.

    There’s nothing particularly different about the distance in Chudan other than the fact that compared to Omote there are more kata where both the Shijo and Uchidachi begin the form with a mutual approach rather than the Uchidachi approaching a static Shijo.

    Chudan/Seigan kamae exists as normal in all three teaching sets (I should emphasise that it was the ZNKR who standardized this posture into Chudan whereas in koryu there is more of a focus to demonstrate Seigan).

    Jeez, I ought to get another article underway….

  12. With the description above, it just sounds like chudan just means ‘mid-level’ and nothing more.

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