For the past few months, I have been drilling my Aiki Jo. Surely, mine is a tired jo! I have reached some personal conclusions, nothing profound or mind blowing, but I thought I would type this out so that my brain has room for more stuff.
As I understand it, the jo of Aikido is a tool for self perfection. It has many lessons to teach, and many attributes to develop.
- Flexibility. The jo doesn’t have a set handle. It can be gripped with one or two hands. It can be held in the center or on either end. It can thrust, sweep, strike, whip, parry, hack, pin and throw. Any of those moves can flow to any other movement. There is probably no end to the ways that a jo can be used to practice.
- Awase. Learning to move along the length of the jo while working with a partner builds blending skills like no other. Sometimes you are close, sometimes you are far. Sometimes you hide the jo, sometimes you impose your will with its length. Sometimes you wield it with a powerful two-handed strike, other times you let one hand off of the jo for a sweep or parry. All of things happen while you try to fit in with your partner’s movements.
- Understanding. I have realized that the jo fosters understanding. By that I mean, as you increase your practice with it, you increase your understanding of what the jo is meant to do. That will probably be something personal for each person, what that purpose of the jo is. First and foremost to me, I use the jo to understand my taijutsu. Things like hanmi, maai, kime, zanshin, kiai – they all get focused when I pick up the jo. The jo informs my overall approach to Aikido.
- Application. The jo is a severe tool with the proper understanding. My Kali and Military Combatives instructor once asked me to make some movie footage. The subject was tactical weapon retention. I was able to casually demonstrate principles and techniques involving the use of the short stick, knife, and handgun in situations where an attacker would seek to disarm you, and my instructor was more than satisfied. Every idea I used came directly from practice with the jo. The jo itself, in my opinion, is a practical item to learn because of its length. Anything longer than a jo is not really commonly found in my daily routine. I am always seeing brooms and pool cues anywhere that I go. Anything longer than that, I don’t usually see. Anything shorter than a jo, and that’s where the Kali kicks in. The advantage of the jo, in my opinion, is not the length, but the versatility of it. I can use the jo with one hand or two, as long range or short range tool, in conjunction with punches, kicks, locks, and throws. There are some that argue that Aiki Jo has little to do with actual fighting. I respectfully disagree.