New book on Jo

The jo (four foot staff) is a weapon that I have enjoyed the study of for many years, but have always lamented that the published material available about it centres around either the Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu style, or the Aikijo practices in many Aikido schools.

The school of karate I practice is based on an Okinawan/Japanese style which has always practiced the bo (6 foot staff) and sai (iron truncheon).

While living in Japan and training at the hombu dojo between 1991 and 1993 I was fascinated to discover that the jo was one the third wepon originally emphasised by the founder, Kaiso Kori Hisataka (1907–88). Unfortunately the practice of the jo lay dormant in the mainline school and the descendent schools.

In the intervening years I made it my mission to research the jo, a process that ultimately led to the introduction of the kata Ufuchiku no jo to our organisation. Subsequently Kaicho Shunji Watanabe of the Shorinjiryu Kenyukai Watanabe-Ha school (with which we were affiliated for several years) also reintroduced the practice of another kata (alternatively called Shishiryu no Jo or Kudaka no Jo).

In my research I began to realise that the practice of the jo was important among the bushi of the Shuri Court, and can be found in several styles of Udundi (palace hand) and Ti extant today.

With this background I am pleased to see that others have also seen the importance of the jo for karate practitioners, as it is a versatile weapon that has real relevance today. Poles and rods in the 3—4 foot range are common and can be used as makeshift weapons of defence.

The first book that I am aware of to take an indepth look at the Jo from a non-Aikijo persective has been written by Dan Djurdjevic.

Essential Jo promises to be “the most comprehensive text on the subject to date”, and is said to be well-illustrated with over 900 photographs.

I have ordered a copy, and look forward to providing a review soon.

Redoing Sai Handle Grips

One of the Okinawan weapons we use at the Kengokan Dojo in our buki-ho (aka kobudo, kobujutsu or bukijutsu) practice is the sai (iron truncheon). Whilst traditional sai came were wrapped with rope or occasionally leather, or simply had a bare handle, most modern sai are wrapped with the same material often used on cheaper tennis racquets.

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For a long time, I’ve wanted to get a pair of sai with a rope grip, but these are (to my knowledge) only available from Shureido in Okinawa, and a quite expensive to import to Australia. Plan B was to re-wrap my existing pairs of sai, and as the old grips got worse and worse, the time finally came to do just that.

Not being a handy-man sort of guy, I stumbled across a wonderful Youtube video on re-wrapping sai by Ernie of Ernie’s Budo Lab. So I set aside a weekend afternoon, and got on with the job of stripping the remaining tennis grip handle off 2 pairs of sai, and replacing with a rope grip handle.

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It was pretty straight forward. I got some rope, superglue and some of that non-slip stuff you put at the bottom of kitchen draws and tool boxes. After a couple of hours, I had two pairs of sai that have wonderful new wraps. Apart from feeling more “authentic”, these rope handles are great to work with. They feel better in the hands, and are a much firmer grip.

Until I can next get to Okinawa to buy some Shureido sai, any new sai I get will immediately have the grip removed and replaced by rope. Its better all round.