Shindō Musō-Ryū Jōjutsu

Muso Gon-no-suke Katsuyoshi

Shindō Muso-Ryū is the only authentic system of jōjutsu (丈術) in existence.  Jōjutsu is the art of defence against a samurai sword using only a four-foot long stick.  It was created by a renowned samurai named Musō Gon-no-suke Katsuyoshi (ca. 1580—ca. 1640) in the early 17th century.

Shindō Musō-Ryū is often mispronounced and incorrectly written as Shintō Musō-Ryū (神道夢想流), which would mean "Divine Way Inspired Dream Style" or "Shintō [the religion] Inspired Vision Style."  This error has been proven by the discovery of handwritten menkyō (diplomas) issued in the mid-17th century by the third successor to the style, Matsuzaki Kinzaemon Tsunekatsu, who recorded the name as 真道夢想流 (Shin Musō-Ryū), the "True Way Inspired Vision Style."

Jōutsu is also unique among Japanese budō for being the only art that has only one style.  Following the death of its founder, Musō Gon-no-suke, Shindō Musō-Ryū was passed down to the 20th century through 25 shihan appointed to teach the art.  These shihan were often contemporaries of one another, who simply taught jojutsu in different locations, so it was not a direct line of succession, but rather a winding path that led to the acknowledged 25th headmaster, Shimizu Takatsugu (1896-1978).  Since Shimizu's death, several of his senior students have continued teaching the art in different locations, in much the same way the art was transmitted previously.  None of these shihan have claimed the right to be considered his sole successor, yet unlike other budō arts in which a leader died without an official successor, this has not resulted in controversy, opposing claims of successorship, or the formation of competing branches (ha) or the style.  Instead all have publicly stated they are simply continuing to teach the original art as it was taught to them by Shimizu Shihan.

The Origins of Shindō Musō-Ryū

Posted by Pellman Sensei on 01 September 2010

Miyamoto MusashiIn many respects the art of jōjutsu owes its existence to Japan's most famous and formidable samuraiMiyamoto Musashi (ca. 1584—1645), the kensei ("sword saint").  Had it not been for his indomitable spirit, the art would likely never have been created.  Another highly renowned swordsman of Musashi's era was Gon-no-suke Katsuyoshi (ca. 1580—ca. 1640).  Gon-no-suke was a descendant of a famed samurai and a master of two major styles of kenjutsu:  Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-Ryū and Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-Ryū.  Around 1595 he embarked on a musha shūgyō, traveling throughout Japan seeking duels with the finest swordsmen of his era in order to test and perfect his skills.  Musashi, on the other hand, was a rōnin (masterless samurai) of modest origins, with no credentials from any recognised school of swordsmanship.  He, too, was on a musha shūgyō, and both men were undefeated after many duels and had growing reputations.  Gon-no-suke even had his lapels imprinted with the words, "Nihon kaizan musō Gon-no-suke" (Gon-no-suke:  unequalled in Japan from the seas to the mountains") and "Heihō tenka ichi (greatest warrior under heaven).

So it seems inevitable that two such men would meet in a duel that would be legendary!

The two did meet around 1607 and Musashi defeated Gon-no-Suke handily.   A dejected Gon-no-Suke retreated to nearby Mount Hōman to contemplate his humiliatingy defeat.  He spent 37 days fasting and training at Kamado Jinja, a Shintō shrine atop the mountain.  After a particularly rigorous day of training, Gon-no-suke fell asleep exhausted and had a dream in which an angel in the form of a young boy appeared and instructed him, "Maruki o motte, suigetsu o shire," which translates as, "Employing a round stick, understand the moon's reflection in water."  The angel then gave Gon-no-suke the precise dimensions to fashion the stick:  yon shaku ni sun ichi bu (50.23 inches) in length and hachi bu (.95 inches) in diameter.  Gon-no-suke fashioned a as the angel had instructed him, and adapted the techniques of the yari (spear), naginata (halberd), and (six-foot staff) to its use, applying the concept of the moon's reflection in water.  The man who walked down the slopes of Mount Hōman was no longer Musō Gon-no-suke (無双權之助), the "unequalled."  His divide dream, deep contemplation, and intense training on the mountain top had transformed him into Musō Gon-no-suke (now written 夢想權之助), the visionary!

It is not known how much time passed before Gon-no-suke and Musashi met for the second time.  The most likely opportunity would have been around 1612 to 1613, when Musashi was known to be in the vicinity of Mount Hōman, having just defeated Sasaki Kojirō nearby in another famous duel.  Otherwise, their second meeting would probably have been considerably later, around 1630 when Musashi passed through Fukuoka Han (domain), where Gon-no-suke was serving as a vassal to the Kuroda family, on his way to the neighbouring Kumamoto Han, where he remained for several years.  There are two accounts of their second duel: one in which Gon-no-suke defeated Musashi with the , and one that claims they battled to a draw.  In either case, it was a vindication for Gon-no-suke personally and indisputable proof of the effectiveness of his creation, the .

For nearly 300 years, jōjutsu was practiced exclusively by samurai of the Kuroda domain, so at the dawn of the 20th century, jōjutsu was still an obscure form of budō known only to a handful of people outside the city of Fukuoka, Japan.   But that was soon to change.

Jōjutsu Goes Public

Posted by Pellman Sensei on 01 September 2010
Shiraishi Hanjiro (1842-1927)

In 1871, Emperor Meiji abolished the han system by which daimyō had ruled county-sized domains, called han, for centuries and ordered all daimyō and their retainers to leave their castles.   Shiraishi Hanjirō Shigeaki (1842—1927) was the last shihan directly appointed to teach jōjutsu by the Fukuoka Han daimyō, Kuroda Nagatomo (1838—1902).  Shiraishi, who is generally considered to be the 24th headmaster of Shindō Musō-Ryū, dedicated himself to preserving the art of jōjutsu for posterity, so he established a dojo in the town of Hakata, famous for its ceramic dolls, in 1876 and began teaching members of the general public.

In 1913, Shimizu Takatsugu Katsuyasu (1896—1978) who is better known today by his nickname, Shimizu Takaji, began training in Shindō Musō-Ryū under Shiraishi Shihan.  Shimizu was exceptionally gifted and obtained his menkyo kaiden (diploma of complete transmission) in only seven years.  In 1929 he became assistant instructor to Shiraishi's most senior student, Takayama Kiroku, in Fukuoka.  In 1930, a group of prominent budōka sponsored him to open his own dōjō in Tokyo, which he called the Mumon Dōjō (無門道場)—the "no-gate dōjō ," meaning it was open to all.

Shimizu Takatsugu Katsuyasu (1896-1978)Prior to Shimizu Shihan, jōjutsu was taught solely by the repetition of its waza.  One of Shimizu's many contributions to the art  was developing a set of twelve fundamental techniques, called the kihon uchi-tsuki waza, that were a cross-section of the techniques found in the majority of waza and could be practiced separately from those waza in order to develop skills more quickly.  In addition to creating a systematic approach to jōjutsu instruction, Shimizu Shihan also created the Seitei Jōdō curriculum, a set of twelve essential jōjutsu techniques, for use by the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (All-Japan Kendō Federation), which allows budoka of any background to train in the fundamentals of the art, without spending years to learn the entire system.  In 1955, he founded the Nippon Jōdō Renmei (Japan Jōdō Federation), now known as the Zen Nippon Jōdō Renmei (All-Japan Jōdō Federation). 

One of Shimizu's most senior student was Nakajima Asakichi (1912-1976), who assisted him in the creation and promulgation of the Seitei Jōdō curriculum.  Miura Takeyuki Hidefusa (1922-2012) studied jōjutsu under Nakajima Shihan from 1960 until the latter's death in 1976, and also made occasional trips to Tōkyō to train directly with Shimizu Shihan.  Miura Hanshi, in turn, trained his own successor, Shimabukuro Masayuki Hidenobu (1948-2012), in the art of jōjutsu from 1975 to 2012, and awared him the rank of nanadan (7th dan) in 1999.

Shimabukuro Hanshi began teaching jojutsu in the San Diego area around 1991.  Among his first pupils was Leonard Pellman Shihan.  In 1995, Shimabukuro Hanshi and Pellman Shihan created a two-volume set of videos for Panther Video providing detailed instruction on the fundamentals of jōjutsu and the twelve seitei katachi.  These videos, together with Shimabukuro Hanshi's global travels, greatly helped spread the popularity of jōjutsu around the world.

The Syllabus of Shindō Musō-Ryū

Posted by Pellman Sensei on 10 September 2010
Shinabukuro Hanshi Jason Mizuno

Before anyone can start learning jōjutsu, he or she must first learn the fundamentals of kenjutsu—the art of samurai sword combat, since jōjutsu is used primarily to defend against samurai sword attacks.  Shindō Musō-Ryū developed its own abridged style of kenjutsu for this purpose, called Shindō-Ryū.  However, even this simplified style takes months to learn, and since most Seishin-Kan jōjutsu participants also train in Eishin-Ryu or Itto-Ryu with us, we simply wait until they have gained a basic proficiency with the daitō from those activities before introducing the first waza of jōjutsu.

To facilitate learning, beginning students of Shindō Musō-Ryū jōjutsu are first taught the twelve kihon uchi-tsuki waza, which are the fundamental strikes and thrusts of jōjutsu.    They first engage in solo practice, called tandoku dōsa, and later with a partner in sotai dōsa.

Once a student has grasped the fundamentals of both the daitō and , we begin their instruction with the Seitei Katachi, which are the twelve standardised techniques developed by Shimizu Takatsugu Shihan for use by the Zen Nippon Kendō Renmei in 1968.  These twelve katachi are now practiced worldwide by budōka of many diverse backgrounds, so students gain transportable skills by learning them early in their training.  When students have learned all twelve of these katachi, plus the twelve techniques of Shindō-Ryū kenjutsu, we introduce the remainder of the Shindō Musō-Ryū curriculum, which is listed below:

  •  Omote Waza (12 techniques, required for shodan and nidan rank)
  •  Chūdan Waza (12 techniques, required for sandan rank)
  •  Kage Waza (12 techniques, required for yondan rank)
  •  Ranai Waza (2 techniques, also required for yondan rank)
  •  Samidare Waza (6 techniques, required for godan rank)
  •  Gohon no Midare Waza (5 techniques, also required for godan rank)
  •  Okuden Waza (12 techniques required for rokudan rank)

At some time after reaching rokudan (6th dan) rank, participants may also be taught the five Hiden Gokui Waza ("Secret Techniques") and be issued a menkyō kaiden (diploma of complete transmission) in Shindō Musō-Ryū jōjutsu.

Schedule a Seminar

Leonard J. Pellman <em>Shihan</em>

Pellman Shihan regularly conducts Nippon budō and Okinawa budō seminars throughout North America on behalf of the Seishin-Kan.

For information on how to arrange for Pellman Shihan to conduct a jōjutsu seminar in your area, please click here.

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