Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Jodo

Last night, we had a very small group at Jodo class, for whatever reason. It was a really, really good practice, because Sensei had a lot of time to wander around giving us individual attention.
I spoke last time about "quick fixes" and about how they're pretty rare. Well, I was working on using the right hand properly when doing hikiotoshi and, sure enough, Sensei came by and said my movements were too small and I wasn't using the left hand enough! I should have known better; focus on one thing hard enough, and everything else falls apart.
Something really struck me last night - something that I know rationally, but hit me full force anyway. I always knew that Jodo is all about technique, and "strength" has nothing to do with "power". But seeing and feeling Sensei blast my sword out of the way, over and over and over as he was explaining a point to someone else - "Not like this, like this. Not like this, like this..." - and there was no strain in his voice, no sweat on his brow; in fact, he wasn't even really paying attention to me, he was mostly looking at the other guy he was talking to. He was hitting my sword with all the apparent strain that I would use to flip the pages of a magazine, but almost wrenching the sword out of my hands every time.

The other kind of funny thing was that everybody was commenting (again) about how tall I am. Masui Sensei had been watching me practice, and I guess he got to thinking how short and silly the jo looks when I am holding it. He said that, in reality, I should be using a jo that's 20 cm longer than the standard one. Of course the jo length is standardized so that we can trade weapons when we shi-uchi kotai, and also so that we know how far to step back to avoid strikes. But he said that, by rights, I should use a longer, thicker jo; one that comes up to about halfway between nipple-height and collarbone height. I should also use a longer sword. Since I use a 2.7 shaku iaito, a 2.7 shaku bokuto seems reasonable. I'd like to try it someday.
Talk of big people and heavy weapons led to a discussion of how Muso Gonnosuke was large, and so was Miyamoto Musashi. This led to some other interesting speculation between everyone, which I'm recreating here, in this group conversation:
"They say Musashi carved that long bokuto out of what ... an oar, right?"
"But the thing is, a seasoned fighter like Musashi would never have tried out a weapon for the first time in a duel to the death. Maybe he was actually carving an oar on his way over to the island, to relax his mind, but he must have prepared a long bokuto in advance and practiced with it."
"Yeah, that makes sense, he wouldn't leave anything to chance..."
"Because a long sword is heavy, but a long bokuto, being made out of wood, would be a bit lighter, and so you could swing it faster."
"Well, I don't know if you could say that for all kinds of wood. Good, hard wood is pretty heavy."
"Hmm, maybe he carved the bokuto to be thin, and fast."
"No way! If you carve it too thin, it's going to break!"
And so on. Sensei mentioned that Gonnosuke's jo was more like a bo, as it was almost 6-shaku (6 feet) long. I'm not sure where that information comes from, but most Japanese wouldn't be able to wield a 6-foot stick in the way they do a jo, so it makes me wonder ...


Blogger KoP said...

Hello, I've found your blog just recently and I think it's amazing.
I myslef study iaijutsu in Poland under 21st grandmaster of MJER Komei Juku, Sekiguchi Komei sensei. It seems that he also has similar opinion about tall (and mostly foreign) people using short weapons. Of course Hayashizaki sensei himself decided to use longer sword and tsuka, but as Sekiguchi sensei encountered 180cm and higher pupils, he decided that the best katana length for us would be around 3shaku, with bokkens blade being close to even 100cm.
Luckily we don't have standardized weapon lengths, thus everyone can have whatever suits them best.
Nevertheless it's nice to see that other Sensei's also try to address the issue.
I wonder if you'll decide to try and train with longer jo ;) .
Take care and keep up the great work!

4:37 PM  

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