More Jo

You will be introduced to two additional Jo Kata in this belt. The Kata are more involved than earlier Jo Kata and stress the importance of movement sequences, throwing, and protection. The two new forms are also longer than the earlier forms you studied. The Yondan version, for example is over three and a half times longer than the earlier Kata you studied.

These two additional forms also introduce new concepts and skills. There is more to using and thinking about a Jo than simply blocking and striking skills. In this belt you will study two new ways to think about using this most useful weapon.

Jo Dori

The word “Dori” means to grab or grasp. In the context of the Jo weapon this refers to skills associated with controlling, taking or stripping away an opponent’s weapon. This is frequently done using one or more of the following strategies:

  • Using the attacker’s strike and weapon against them such that the weapon traps or otherwise impedes the movement of some part of the attacker’s structure.
  • Grasping the weapon and using it to initiate a throw.
  • Using the inertia of the strike to pull the opponent off-structure so that either the weapon can be easily removed or a subsequent throw can be initiated.
  • Trapping the weapon against the floor or a wall and then attacking the opponent’s wrist or arms to force a release.
  • Avoiding the strike and closing on the opponent. Typically the weapon is then grasped with one hand while the other hand is used to destabilize or throw the opponent.
  • Avoiding the strike and then directly attacking the opponent. Attacks could be to the extremities, the torso, or the face. This is intended to cause the opponent to think about their injury and to therefore lose focus on their grasp of the weapon, which can now more readily be removed.
  • Using your own weapon as leverage against the opponent’s grip on their weapon or using your weapon to accomplish any of the other strategies described above.

You will want to become very accomplished at taking a Jo weapon away from a Uke or opponent. If you take a weapon away you have several options including: using the weapon against the opponent (to strike, throw, or somehow impede their actions), discarding the weapon in a manner that precludes the opponent from using it further (an option if you already have a weapon), or damaging the weapon in a way that precludes it from being used effectively in the future (note that this is actually quite difficult to do during a conflict).

The Tensoku Ryu Jo Yondan Kata employs a Jo Dori. See if you can find it while you study this form.

Jo Nage

Jo Nage refers to using a Jo to throw an opponent. This can be accomplished by using your own weapon, or by grasping and using the weapon of an opponent. In some cases Jo Nage is no different than other Nage you already may have learned, but it involves grasping or trapping the opponent’s weapon (if any) to ensure it cannot be used to strike you. In this sense it employs Nage but with weapons awareness as an underlying conceptual element to the throw.

Other Jo Nage specifically involve using the weapon as an active element in the throwing process. This might involve trapping the hands or arms, sweeping or locking the legs, trapping the arms, using your weapon as leverage against an opponent’s weapon, using an opponent’s grasp on their weapon against them, using an opponent’s momentum against them, or encircling the head in some manner. These and many other options can be used to good benefit when attempting to throw another person using the Jo.

One key aspect of Jo Nage is use of the Yin-Yang concept. You might also think of this in terms of the related fire and water conceptual model. If an opponent grabs the end of your weapon with both hands they will exert a lot of strength against you. This is a Yang condition. Unless you are incredibly powerful you will have a very difficult time using Yang as a way to counter your opponent’s grasp. Instead, you must use Yin. So if your opponent tightly grabs one end of your weapon you should let the other end of your weapon relax and go slack as you move it slightly. This repositions your opponent’s structure and makes subsequent movements much easier.

You should practice Jo Nage as part of Jo Dori and as a standalone activity in which you use your weapon to directly initiate a throw. Practice a great variety of scenarios in which the opponent grabs you weapon with one hand, both hands, or has initiated a strike or kick without attempting the grab your weapon at all. Practicing with a great variety of scenarios will provide you with the best possible sense of how to optimize this skill.

You will want to keep two things in mind during Jo Nage. First, the conflict is not over simply because you have initiated a throw. You must consider a follow-up action of some kind, whether this involves an escape, a lock, or a strike. You cannot simply allow your opponent to regain their structure.

Secondly, if you are Uke then you must not let a throw be the end of your defense either. Find a way to attack during the throw, counter the throwing action, initiate an escape, attack upon landing, destabilize your opponent, or avoid a subsequent lock or strike from an opponent who has thrown you.

The final Jo Kata, Tensoku Ryu Jo Godan, is dedicated almost entirely to different methods of Nage using the Jo. This is perhaps the most technically challenging of all of the Tensoku Ryu Jo Kata. As a result is one of the most difficult to both learn and master.  The best way to learn this form is to focus on each individual throw until you understand and appreciate each subtle movement and how it affects your opponent’s structure. Once you grasp what is happening to your opponent the remainder of throwing sequence is usually fairly rudimentary.

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