Jodo (short for Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo) is a traditional Japanese martial art dating back to the 1600’s. It features the jo (the short staff or walking stick) in defense of the bokken (the traditional Japanese wooden sword). Jodo practice starts with the introduction of twelve basic jo skills and an equal number of practical bokken skills. Advanced practice then incorporates these basic skills into another dozen more complex and increasingly mentally demanding forms. (And yet, jodo practice is suitable for both men and women of all ages – to include mature teens.)
And so, for you, for us, for both current and prospective Zen students: Why study the bokken and why study the jo? Why a jodo practice at all?
And as you would suspect, the answer is both simple and complex. The simple fact is that the Zen path is ultimately a progression of fundamental understandings depending in part upon the individual choices we make along the way. And in this progression of understandings, we all inevitably reach a crossroads (the very same crossroads that all buddhas before us have likewise encountered) – where one option is to continue on the path of doing what we have always done and another is to begin anew – to change paths, to take the path of clarity, the path of ‘letting go’. (And, as is human nature, we can not ‘just let go’ without a serious fight – without help, without a practice.)
And in previous years, AZC students intent on pursuing this latter path had ample opportunities to attend dai sesshin – extended silent retreats with a roshi. (These retreats were held many times each year and at many locations throughout the country … and if a week with a roshi couldn’t convince you of the need to let go, you probably hadn’t yet reached the crossroads.) But now, as these opportunities are becoming increasingly less accessible. And, as a Zen center, we accept the challenge of providing meaningful practice options for those of our members currently at the crossroads (as well as the promise of future practice for those approaching). And jodo practice is one such option.
OK, so what’s ultimately going on in jodo practice (aside from the zazen)?
Quite simply, the successful defense of the lowly walking stick in the face of the Japanese sword truly requires that you simply let go (that you yield to the activity of zero). As you assume the role of the defending jo, the attacking bokken is your teacher. Whether cutting or thrusting, each attack is the equivalent of a roshi's challenge (as you are required to respond immediately, appropriately and naturally to the attack as delivered). Your attacking partner is your teacher. Will you cling to your notions of right and wrong, of what should be and what shouldn’t, of what has happened in the past or of what you have imagined for the future – will you cling to the myriad of responses that you have rehearsed … or will you stand essentially naked, clothed only in clarity? And will your roshi, your attacking partner, simply respond … “Well done.”
Jodo training is divided into two fundamental categories - kihon waza (basic skills) and kata (forms). Before starting forms, students must master the twelve basic skills and to get started you will be spending four weeks with each of the twelve skills. As a cohort of students completes the basics, advanced jodo training will be included.
Jodo training is meant both as advanced training for AZC members and as a perk for those who contribute to the smooth running of the dojo. To that end, there is three-tiered structure:
- Regular Members who have contributed to the center through samu and officer roles: FREE
- Regular Members: $35
- All Others: $75
There is a signup sheet in the meeting room. Be sure to get your name on that sheet. As class approaches, there will be an Early Jodo Registration meeting and we will go down that list to see who gets into the class, so get your name on the list and keep an eye out for the registration meeting. You can always stop by, call or drop us a note using the Contact page.