Nishioka Tsuneo Sensei (西岡常夫先生) - Jōdō Jikai.
selected excerpts from: Jōdō Self Reflection
Original copyright ©1989 Niskioka Tsuneo.
English Translation ©2006 Ishida Hiroaki & Kobudokai Australia.
Chapter - About the transmission of Jō : What Shintōmusōryu jō teaches
What I have learnt from Bujutsu “Jō” is that life is a battle against the aging of each person. Ultimately it is a battle against yourself. The serious style (shinkengata) is the seishin side of the life or death battle (Shinken Shōbu). In other words, we must be serious when doing Katageiko. The more serious you are, the clearer it becomes that there is only Katageiko in the form of Keiko.
It is something that can develop in the process of learning to prepare the mindset (kokorogamae) and techniques (waza), when the weak encounters the strong in an unavoidable circumstance. Ultimately the weaker learns to understand so that, he prepares himself to face a simultaneous strike/death (aiuchi), fights at his best, with such spirit that he can seek life in death. When one understands this, it becomes clear that the existing kata do not need to change at all, and all he needs to do is to train hard and study. Pray hard and hope you don’t make a mistake. By doing that, naturally one learns to have his own convictions.
There is no benefit in commenting on details of kata. The important thing is what we learn from kata, as well as learning by copying the kata. This important thing is something we learn from a type of kata, in other words, it is good enough for kata to exist, but what we acquire and learn from the kata depends on one’s intentions (kokorogake), eagerness to study, and the amount of practice (keiko) that one puts into it.
The next point is that kata should be accurately learnt and must be repeatedly practiced. Shall I say, ‘practice 100 times, then the meaning will come to you’. If we deeply understand this relationship, then we know that we should just practice repeatedly until we can use the tool correctly, without wasting the time looking at details.
When you get confused, listen to the ‘Jō’ and the ‘body’ – I recall the words of the master (shihan).
I am sure that different people get different feelings from what Jō can teach, but I believe that the ultimate thing that it teaches is ‘Shinkenshōbu’’. Then what is ‘Shinkenshōbu’’? It says that Bu is inevitable in order to actualise justice, and even if the reason one starts doing it was to compete against the bad, when facing the situation where the strong is being violent, one should show the existence of such justice by confronting the violence so one can die with dignity. Without this, one will not understand the meaning of justice.
What do you call ‘justice’? It is hard to explain, but the mind of justice does not allow inhumanity, denies the idea that the strong is right and better, denies the idea that larger or more things are better than smaller or less things, and denies the idea of violence. Overall the mind of justice works by denying the haughtiness of those things. Therefore we must learn to acquire courage to confront anything that call themselves power.
Oka sensei said that the basis (kihon) of the mind of justice is anger against merciless things. It looks to me that he was saying before we talk about what justice is, we must first learn and acquire the mind of justice, and let each one of us to go out and find what justice is.
Thus, as I have said time after time, Shintōmusōryu jō continues to question what Shinkenshōbu’ is. The only way to search and understand Shinkenshōbu’ is to pursue Katageiko. That kata does not teach the kata that guarantees Jō to win, but only teaches continuous hard work (sessatakuma) between Jō and sword.
Through keiko we both experience an opportunity that separates life and death in a split second, and that warns us not to relax ourselves even a second. It really teaches the intentions (kokorogake) and minds (kokorogamae) of the juniors who confront their seniors, by placing the seniors as tachi.
In the extreme sense, it teaches you to wait until you are cut, to carefully watch your opponent’s movements, to train yourself to throw your body (sutemi), to acquire spirit and vigour (kihaku) to sustain fear, to wait, and in the end, it teaches to throw your body (sutemi) and go and do ‘aiuchi’.
In other words, it teaches us to be prepared to die and confront if necessary, and it is a challenge and training for those who always confront the opponents whom they don’t have a chance to beat. If I use another word, it is ‘to die with dignity’, and I feel that it might be teaching how we should die. What I am certain of is that it is not teaching to win. This is the idea of what bu is that we can learn and acquire through keiko.
The meaning of being strong is that you become strong so that you can sustain fear, and it does not mean the strength required for you to win over your opponents. You must always have self-awareness that your opponents are stronger than you. I think it teaches that. Apart from that, you must acquire the technical strength, which is needed when doing aiuchi, through day-to-day training. We do keiko for that purpose. Because of that, we don’t necessary need many numbers of kata. Ultimately we only need one. I feel that no matter what weapon one has, everyone is the same. I can’t help but thinking that Musōryu Jō is teaching such.
Chapter - About the transmission of Jō : What to Acquire?
What must we acquire through Katageiko? Perhaps it has no answer but what we have acquired while practicing in Katageiko is an important question. Probably everybody will have his or her own answer. To merely remember the order and then perform the movements well and without mistake is really to have achieved nothing. Approaching Katageiko in this way you have done no more than remember a pattern. And this is much like falling into the pitfall of deluding yourself that one who knows 13 Kata is better than one who knows 12 Kata.
Even though, through the process of becoming able to use the waza and weapons freely by practicing in keiko, one might presume they know what they've acquired but by questioning what was in fact acquired one might realise that they have not understood. More than anything, whether one has given thought to it or not in a serious manner needs to be reflected upon.
There are things that I have come to understand: the existence of waza that is included but is not presented in the outward form; the existence of variations that one becomes aware of while experimenting from fast to slow, to late in the current forms; starting to realise that in areas not manifested in the current forms there are very important “formless kata”. Something that one begins to understand would differ from person to person according to the depth and weight of their keiko. But this is what I'm beginning to feel at this moment.
My teacher said, “Shinto Muso Ryu is one form of 64 forms”. And not only Shinto Muso Ryu, I think all Kata in Budo are like this. We arrive at one form. Within one form exist forms of tens of thousands of variations. Perhaps Keiko is where you discover that one form.
Chapter - About the transmission of Jō : Learning the objects without shapes (mukei)
In order to learn a thing which has no shape, people have no choice but to learn it through something with an actual shape. By doing that, we will understand that what we pursue, in the end, is the Seishin which does not have any shape. …
… That Seishin is what I really want to transmit by teaching the Kata. However, one must be fully aware that there is absolutely no other way but to learn and acquire this by oneself. Comprehension is the only way, and nothing else. One must also then realise that there is an infinite deepness in comprehension and will finally understand, after reaching comprehension, the importance of the cultivation of kokoro.
Loyalty and thought both appear in the form (kata) of sincerity (magokoro), but if you try to adhere to the actual form itself, you will then fail to grasp the essence of it. One must know that what he or she should ultimately achieve out of all the kata that are learnt is only one thing. How one understands that one thing is up to his or her intentions and it can not be taught. No matter how hard I try to teach this, I feel that I simply can’t. Once this is understood, one will know that the kata can change in thousand different ways and can continue to change infinitely.
When it comes to the concept of rei, the same thing can be said. If you learn the form (kata) of rei but don’t understand the seishin of it, then you fail to understand the true meaning of rei. That is because the true rei has no shape. …
When one starts off doing physical katageiko, at some point in time he or she realises that what is pursued is seishin and that it is the Japanese Seishin. Then one becomes capable of looking at the katageiko from that new perspective, and eventually starts understanding how one can interpret the kata and can make the kata his or her own.
I have realised that the person who truly made me understand the Seishin of Bu was, after all, Shimizu-sensei, and I also realised that Otofuji-sensei understood that. Because of this, I became confident in saying that Shimizu-sensei’s Jō and that of Otofuji-sensei are not different at all. …
Chapter - About the waza of Jō : The things you should note while practicing Jōdō
Let’s re-visit the words that Shimizu sensei told us a long time ago. The words were “You should not learn Otofuji sensei’s jō”. Not only were these words so easily misunderstood, but also I have come to realise acutely just how often people end up not fully understanding the real meaning of these words.
Shimizu sensei had come to understand that his way of using jō and sword was different from that of Otofuji sensei. I suspect that the reason behind Shimizu sensei’s words was his fear and concerns on the possibility that some inexperienced students who learn the two different ways, become confused, and start doubting that one of the ways must be wrong. I also suspect that he had concerns on the very common mistakes that are made by students, who do not follow one teacher. This is a serious and unavoidable problem when a multiple number of transmitters (denshō-sha) or master teachers (shihan) exist.
I presume that the Sōke system, which attempts to limit number of their kata transmitters to one, and also the Isshi Sōden system, came about to prevent the serious problem mentioned above. However, this problem is something that we, the students, continue to encounter, and is not something that we can rely upon one particular system to resolve. The only way is to wait for our students’ intentions (kokorogake) and mindset/mental attitude (kokorogamae) to mature.
Students’ self-expressions and self-revelations that result from their enthusiasm towards their training become more apparent as their skills improve. Particularly those who establish their own dōjō at a young age, have their own students, and have become a ‘Sensei’, fall into this difficult issue without knowing that is happening to them. Especially the systems that allow anyone who are above dan level to become ‘teachers’ is a harmful influence on the budō world.
Those who do not understand the meaning of ‘shi (mentor)’ and who only have an understanding towards ‘sensei (teacher)’ tend to compare their skills with their teacher’s, and moreover, go to the extent of competing with their teacher. This way of teaching is not teaching the essence of budō and is merely a bad influence that relies on power.
As a result, the more people’s skills improve, the more apparent their self-overestimation and haughtiness become, and the less humble they become. Those are the type of Budōka that I dislike the most.
I feel that this phenomenon is the biggest trap that people fall into when they fail to make an effort in improving the spirit side whilst their technical skills improve.
Shimizu sensei always said to me that “You must practice with me”, and took the role of motodachi and became a practice board. He never relaxed his seriousness even with beginners, needless to say he was far from being haughty and overbearing. From this seriousness while practicing, I feel that I have learned the most crucial thing that the katabudō teaches. This is such a hard thing to accomplish and is rarely seen not only in the context of jōdō but also in other circumstances. I have only seen this in Shimizu sensei and also in Otofuji sensei. They are totally opposite from those who are in the senior or motodachi position, and treat their opponents without respect, or those who show off their skills to their juniors.
There are also many people, who are in the role of shidachi, misunderstand the act by their seniors or motodachi, and try to show off and prove the level of their skills by treating their motodachi as their own practice board. Such behaviour is out of their boundary. This is not merely a problem in the method of practice, but it is a single biggest obstacle that a human being can face. Not limited to Jōdō, the difference in people’s mindset/mental attitude and intentions when they practice with their seniors, and when they are in the senior position and practice with their junior students, is such an important concept and needs to be understood by all students.
However, I am not yet confident enough to fully explain this to others. It is not a matter of whether one can make people understand this concept, but it is a hard question that each one of us must ask and find an answer ourselves. The quality of senior students also matters in this concept. In terms of Katageiko, this is an issue when teaching mindset/mental attitude and intentions of senior and junior students. It is the single most important idea of kokoro which Katageiko can teach, however, I believe that it can not be taught in places where practice involves any concept of power, even a slightest amount of it.
The difference between those who have the mindset/mental attitude and intentions but have not yet achieved the greatness, and those who have no intentions whatsoever, becomes apparent in day-to-day practice and movements. It is a scary thought that people who have an ability to observe can immediately spot this difference.
I deeply regret, for the sake of succeeding students, the fact that it took me so many years to truly understand the difference of roles and positions between uchidachi and shidachi. I feel that this concept also leads to the mindset/mental attitude and intentions of motodachi and the one whom engages them in the context of Kendō.
There still remains some wonderfulness within the Jō. It is not just about skills or techniques (waza). However if it is taught in a wrong way, or is misunderstood or misinterpreted, it will be such a nuisance to students. Even worse some people have the wrong idea of ‘Shintōmusōryu Jōdō’, and still call it that, teaching nothing of the true Jōdō. This type of practice can be seen here and there amongst the students who have some experience. When this happens, the true path is not followed and in fact it creates a path that is totally opposite to what it is meant to be.
In the true path, the better one’s skills become, the more humble the person becomes, whereas in the wrong path, the better one’s skills become, the more haughty and arrogant the person becomes. This wrong path is nothing but a harmful influence on Bujutsu. When this happens, one must question himself as to what he did wrong in his teaching.
We must pay attention to the fact that haughtiness and arrogance can, without doubt, come across in people’s various behaviours and also in the words that people use. We have known that “correcting kokoro" (heart/mind/spirit and also a way of thinking) is the idea, which we must remember at all time. At some point in time, when people forget about this idea, the haughtiness and arrogance become apparent as a result, and this scares me.
The seishin of Jō does not expect nor allow people to have that type of mind and behaviour. While the mindset/mental attitude and intentions when following a mentor (shi) is such an important idea and is definitely required in today’s society, the task of keeping this idea alive and providing opportunities for people to be exposed to the idea is not as easy to do as it was in the old days.
I feel that it is my duty to re-visit the roles of uchidachi, shidachi and motodachi, and pass my thoughts on that to others.
Chapter - About the waza of Jō : Seishin and Technique
In Japan, we have the words ‘Katsujin-ken’ and ‘Satsujin-ken’. I believe that those words describe different results from the two different scenarios – when the techniques that centre around seishin are pursued and when only techniques are pursued without seishin. In my opinion, it emphasises the idea that, now that you decide to learn sword, you must become a ‘Katsujin-ken’ and not a ‘Satsujin-ken’.
Especially when it comes to budō, seishin must be the main thing rather than techniques. It is different from when only bujutsu is described. For budō, it means that we must not let natural development take its course and to prevent that we must continue to improve level of the seishin in which we exist, and never allow the level of the seishin to go below the level of our techniques even an inch.
In other words, we must break away from the world of winning and losing no matter what. It teaches us to show the belief with our own bodies even if we lose, are broken and die. Pursuing techniques should follow such seishin. I believe until one understands this logic himself, it will not be possible for him to explain it to others.
Even in the time when we had ‘jutsu’ and nothing was called ‘dō’, I firmly believe that our ancestors in Japan knew and understood this idea.
Until recently I had thought that seishin and techniques had some sort of relationship with each other, however, I have now come to understand that there is no relationship whatsoever between them and that they exist in different dimensions. In other words, I had thought that as techniques improve, seishin improves and vice versa, but now understand that there is no such relation between them and they must be looked at separately.
It means that the better the techniques become, even more effort is needed in order to improve seishin, however this is not an easy task and on many occasions the level of seishin stops improving and stays below the level of techniques. When it comes to science technology, they can co-exist and accumulate. However, when it comes to human beings, only those exceptional individuals who have polished their techniques and seishin to such a level, and the fact that an individual’s existence definitely needs to be succeeded, have the potential but seishin and techniques still can’t co-exist and accumulate.
Then one may ask what is seishin. It is “a way of thinking” and “intention". What is the Japanese seishin? It means “a way of thinking and intention as Japanese”, and it is something that can be trained and nurtured with an effort.
What I mean by intention is to try to utilise the techniques that you have acquired, and not to destroy or kill by using the techniques. Therefore we must try, not just to win, but to keep in mind the succession of seishin that can be utilised. In order to do that, we must make an effort to transmit this succession of seishin, from a parent to a child, and from a mentor (Shishō) to a student (Deshi).
Chapter - About the transmission of Jō : The things I have started to consider when issuing the shomokuroku
When it comes to Keiko, I believe that I have said nothing but “kokorogake" (intentions) ever since I was in my middle age until now. It has been the same thing for Waza. …
When a person dies, unfortunately many things tend to perish with that person. However, it is fortunate that Shintōmusōryū jō has clearly been transmitted from a real person to a real person until today, and even now continues to live and possesses something very special that impresses all of us.
This can never be transmitted if it is left unattended. People [Menkyo-sha] must have a very strong and specific intention and will to transmit it. … However, we should all know that it [a mokuroku] has the strong and passionate hopes of all the predecessors. … I have come to realise that issuing it has nothing to do with whether that person has achieved a certain level of qualification or not. Please do not misunderstand this important point.
It is an expression of the will of the predecessor to convey “their hopes for the future”, and it is still in the middle of the path and we all need to help each other and strengthen and deepen the notion along the way. As I noted previously, we are not issuing a type of qualification to the receiver, therefore, having it does not have any impact on anyone whatsoever. The receivers will not be distinguished from others because of it. It does not have any capacity to restrict the receivers either. This is how I have come to understand it.
I know well that when it comes to the mokuroku, there have always been some people who attempt to associate ability with it. However, I firmly believe that it [the mokuroku] is not originally a representation of ability. It is just easier for ordinary people to be convinced that it is a symbol of ability/power (力).
Chapter - About the transmission of Jō : What is Shintōmusōryū jō?
Pictured: Nishioka Sensei's Menkyo bequeathed to Ishida Hiroaki Sensei
I am not sure about the other Ryū, but when it comes to Shintōmusōryū jō, I have my own interpretation and the following idea of what it is – it is the Jō and Sword that are transmitted from a master teacher (Shihan) who is personally responsible for his student (Deshi), and it can’t exist without the Menkyo.
… It is my understanding that Shintōmusōryū jō has absolutely nothing to do with the level of dan or titles. Whether you are good at it or not so good at it does not matter. Even for those who have gomokuroku, it is my understanding that if they do not have a Menkyo as their opponent, then they are not allowed to do any Enbu in the name of Shintōmusōryū jō.
It is a little harsh to say it in this way, but I believe this is the way it is. In other words this is the view that the Shintōmusōryū jō can't exist without Menkyo.
This is the way it is for the things which are transmitted over time [from person to person]. That is why once it becomes extinct, there is no way to recover it. It does not matter how many people are training, as the number of people doing Keiko has nothing to do with the transmission [of the Ryū]. Therefore the duty of Menkyo comes down to one thing, that is no matter what happens Menkyo must transmit the Waza and Seishin that he learnt from his predecessor to the next generation [of Menkyo]. This idea has become my belief.
There are some Ryūha that use the system of Isshi Sōden, however, there are other systems that involve more than one Shihan. My opinion is that it all comes down to the idea of Menkyo transmitting and as long as that is done properly, it does not matter how it is done.
Therefore those who can't become Menkyo, can start their own Ryū and become the founder of his or her own Ryū. Though I do suggest to those to not use any existing name of a Ryū.
Looking at the current situation for Shintōmusōryū jō, apart from the successors of Otofuji-sensei, only the following schools exist: Shintōmusō Shimizuryū Kurodahajō, Shintōmusō Shimizuryū Yonenohajō, Shintōmusō Shimizuryū Hiroihajō, Shintōmusō Shimizuryū Kaminodahajō, Shintōmusō Shimizuryū Nishiokahajō and Shintōmusō Shimizuryū Hamajihajō.
Then in the future those will continue and the next generation [Menkyo-sha] will be called Shintōmusō Nishiokaryū ‘such and such’ jō. As far as I am concerned, those are the only ones that can be called Shintōmusōryū jō, and nothing else. This applies to the successors of Otofuji-sensei.
Recommended further reading
Uchidachi & Shidachi by Nishioka Tsuneo - Click Here
Speaking on the Jo of Nishioka Tsuneo-shihan by Ishida Hiroaki - Click Here
In remembrance of Hamaji Kouichi-shihan by Ishida Hiroaki - Click Here