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:: Announcements :: English translation of the late Hamaji Kouichi sensei's Jo no Hinkaku (Dignity of the jo) transcript is now available for FREE download. Visit http://www.jojutsu.com/article3.php for more information and the download link.


 


西岡常夫師範の杖を語る - Speaking on the jo of Nishioka Tsuneo shihan

by
Ishida Hiroaki



Nishioka Tsuneo Yasunori shihan passed away on 8th February 2014. He was 90 years old. I express my deepest gratitude for the great favour bestowed upon me during his lifetime and I sincerely pray for his soul to rest in peace.

(Entered on 25th February 2014 - Ishida Hiroaki)

 

1) "Foreword", "Sections 2(i,ii,iv,v,vi), 3, 4 & 5"
- Translation by Arun Roberts & Maiko Tominaga.
Edited by Greg Clarke, representative
of Australia Branch

2) "Regarding Te no Uchi"
 - Translation by Hiroshi Matsuoka, Aichi, Japan.

Before Shimizu Takaji senshi passed away, Nishioka Tsuneo shihan was told these words: “Left as things are, I will have produced mere stick-swingers”; “The jo is living”; and “I want you to do all you can to pass on the living jo.” With this, Nishioka shihan went on to form Seiryukai, and even now, in his 80th year, he is still working to guide the next generation.

In this article, I would like to be allowed to express a few of my impressions regarding Nishioka sensei, his character, and his jo.

 

1. First of all:

On the 9th May 1985 Hamaji Kouichi shihan passed away. During his lifetime, he said to me many times, “Should anything happen to me, go to Nishioka”, in answer to which I would reply, “Sensei you are still only 70. Tenshou, your father, lived until the age of 90 so you have a good 20 years left!” However, this was a terrible mistake as he died early. I deeply regret that there were so many more things I could have learned from him and questions I wish I had asked him, if only had I known that he would pass away so soon.

After his death, I considered Hamaji senshi’s words. I decided to seek out the advice of his son, Hamaji Mitsuo shihan, the person to whom my teacher would see fit to entrust his affairs, and therefore, by definition, a worthy person of fine character. After talking with him and seeking his advice and approval, I set out to make Nishioka Tsuneo shihan my teacher from that point on. This was in keeping with Hamaji Kouichi senshi's last wishes and it is my firm belief that there was no other way.

But it did not take long before I began hearing many things about Nishioka Tsuneo shihan in the jodo community. One very large problem was the misunderstanding surrounding Nishioka shihan’s training and certification, and a great amount of unwarranted slander directed at him, such as: “Nishioka does not hold a Menkyo”; “Shimizu sensei did not give out a Menkyo to Nishioka”; “Nishioka has not learnt the Gomuso, therefore he is not a Menkyo Kaiden”; “There is a blank in Nishioka’s jo history”; and “You wouldn’t pass for an 8th dan if you’re learning from Nishioka!”.

Despite this, I have remained silent and have simply gone day by day doing nothing other than to continue to learn and master the jo and philosophy. I refuse to believe that the one spoken of so highly and chosen by Hamaji shihan could be such a person.

Fortunately, in 1996, I received a Menkyo from Hamaji Mitsuo shihan and received another Menkyo and initiation into the Gomuso from Nishioka shihan, taking on the responsibilities as the most junior Menkyo Kaiden.
 
Recently I spoke frankly to Nishioka shihan regarding the above-mentioned problems, and received clear answers to many questions on a wide variety of topics. First of all, I would like to dispel the misunderstanding and slander that have spread throughout the jo community about Nishioka shihan and reveal them as absurd, and then confirm the truth.

 

“Nishioka Tsuneo shihan has not received a Menkyo from Shimizu Takaji sensei.”

Regarding this statement, I have actually seen and held Nishioka shihan's Menkyo certificate given to him by Shimizu shihan. There is no mistake, it is authentic, and was issued to Nishioka Tsuneo shihan by Shimizu Takaji shihan in April of 1972.

Nishioka shihan's Menkyo certificate

 

 

“Nishioka Tsuneo shihan is not a Menkyo Kaiden. He has not learned the Gomuso.”

Nishioka shihan is an official Menkyo Kaiden, his history reading, “In May of 1975 Nishioka shihan was initiated in the Hiden, the five techniques of the Gomuso, and was acknowledged as Menkyo Kaiden by Shimizu Takaji Katsuyasu sensei and Otofuji Ichizou Katsunori sensei.” Apparently, there are those who make claims like, “Nishioka was just there. He didn't receive any initiation.” Generally though, in the martial arts world, and especially in respect to a school's ultimate techniques, it is commonly held that “To show is to teach.” Thus, I think that “just being there” becomes “being taught”.

Furthremore, it goes without saying that if Shihans allow those who received a Menkyo to be present while performing the Hiden, those Shihans have initiated them. I have been allowed to see the complete correspondence between Otofuji Ichizou shihan and Nishioka Tsuneo shihan and Otofuji sensei does indeed acknowledge Nishioka shihan's achievement and initiation.

Photograph taken to commemorate Nishioka shihan's initiation in the Gomuso by Shimizu Takaji shihan and Otofuji Ichizou shihan.

In the back row from the left are Hiroi Tsunetsugu shihan, Yoneno Koutarou shihan, and Nishioka Tsuneo shihan.

Although it is presumptuous of me to say so, I was initiated in the Gomuso by Nishioka shihan and feel that it is the genuine article. I think that one must understand this particular handling of the jo and tachi in this Gomuso to became capable of illustrating the correct uchidachi and shijo of Shinto Muso-ryu jo. 


“There is a blank of a little over a decade in Nishioka's training record.”

Nishioka shihan was made a pupil by Shimizu Takaji shihan in 1938, and from the very beginning of his training he only trained under Shimizu shihan. It is believed that this a rumour started because he was not directly involved in the establishment of ZNKR jodo (then called Zenkenren Seiteigata). But concerning Shinto Muso-ryu jo training there are most definitely no “blank areas”.

In other words, those claiming there is a blank of more than a decade are referring to his involvement with the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) jodo. As far as I'm concerned the ZNKR jodo claims are not applicable to the Koryu Bujutsu school of Shinto Muso-ryu jo.

Conversely, this “blank” from the ZNKR jodo actually becomes proof that Nishioka shihan was not influenced by ZNKR, but instead is a pure Shinto Muso-ryu Denshousha.

Moreover, while he has been conferred the rank of Hanshi Hachidan in ZNKR jodo, he made the choice to leave the ZNKR jodo due to his concerns about the changes that the ZNKR has made to the school, as they see fit, and his strong desire to pass on the teachings Shimizu shihan's jo.

Furthermore, more important than alleged “blanks” and so forth in regards to Nishioka sensei’s training history, there is the problem regarding unfounded opinions and conjectures about the proficiency of Nishioka shihan's skill with the jo and ken. These problems are, I think, cases of “confused prejudice”. Surely before one criticises what they think they are seeing, it is necessary to humbly study Nishioka shihan's techniques. I strongly believe that in doing so, one “removes the veil from over one's eyes” and meets with the true essence of jodo.

Next, I will convey some of my thoughts on Nishioka shihan's Shinto Muso-ryu jodo.

 


2. Regarding Nishioka Tsuneo shihan's jo


(i) Regarding Hikiotoshi-uchi

Nishioka shihan often says, “I am constantly asking myself, how was Shimizu sensei's jo? I desire only to communicate and teach how he used the jo.” And yet, in today's jodo community, the jo as Nishioka shihan demonstrates and employs it is seen as being unique and even unorthodox. However, I believe its existence can be said to be an extremely important treasure not only for the jodo community but also for the whole Budo community.

I believe this because I see that the uchisuji of his jo and the tachisuji of his Tachi communicate superbly the tachisuji of Shinto-ryu Kenjutsu. It is possible to think that perhaps the tachisuji has been completely forgotten by the present-day Budo community, yet in Nishioka shihan’s waza it is embodied and enlivened in the form of Shinto-ryu Kenjutsu and through Shinto Muso-ryu jo.

A prime example is Hikiotoshi-uchi.

In Shinto Muso-ryu jo, there are numerous kata ending with the swordsman (uchidachi) levelling his sword in front of the jo-wielder (shidachi/shijo), who then hits the sword. After doing this or seeing this, one then contemplates the true meaning behind this technique and asks “why?”.

In my early days of training I thought that it was simply hitting the sword with all your might to make it fly out of the way; or to bend the sword, making it useless. While it may be possible to hit the sword like this if the swordsman is inexperienced, it only takes a short amount of time for the swordsman to realize that the jo is easily avoided through simply moving the sword a little.

In my 20's I too experienced missing the sword with the jo, and I was evaded countless times by one Kendo teacher, who all the while told me “any strike directed at the sword should be evaded, like this!” After this, I asked Hamaji senshi about the problem I was having, and I received the following reply: “It is because you hit the tachi that your strike is evaded.”

At that time, I was still extremely young and my jo practice had not matured, so I could not comprehend the true meaning of his answer. I continued with my training, although still holding some doubts in my mind as to being able to strike the sword, all the while thinking “It'll be alright if I can just hit the tachi at the moment it stops dead centre in front of me.”

Nishioka shihan's solution was superb.

“It is not a case of hitting the sword when it is in the centre position. Hikiotoshi-uchi illustrates winning by cutting down on uchidachi's tachi as it is cutting down,” he answered. “This is called kiriotoshi in Itto-ryu and gasshi-uchi in Shinkage-ryu.”

This was consistent with something I had heard about in the old Shinto Muso-ryu jo kata. At the end, uchidachi and shijo would finish in mid-cut at the upper level. When practicing kata using a shinken or a habiki specially designed for use in keiko, instead of a bokuto, coming together like this makes sense.

In present times, we strike the bokuto directed in seigan as a form of kiriotoshi practice, much akin to practicing tameshigiri with a shinken. Thus, in the kata when we practice using a bokuto we are training to cut down on the tachi that has come to cut us. I cannot resist in saying that Nishioka shihan's “solution” was very simple and convincing, and the question that I had held onto for many years and the perplexing answer Hamaji senshi had given me had finally been solved.

Certainly, this strike is the ultimate technique. For Itto-ryu, for Shinkage-ryu, for Shinto-ryu, and indeed for every ryugi, I expect that training in this principle has been made the most important of all. Accordingly, I suggest that this strike is something which all present-day jodo practitioners ought to learn thoroughly as, without it, I believe the “living jo” will never be, nor will it be possible to attain the jo of Shimizu Takaji shihan.

However, a terrible amount of practice is required before one masters this strike. I myself received the benefit of countless corrections from Nishioka shihan and after 20 years of revision, reassessment, and reconfirmation I am at last at a level where I get the feeling that I have finally acquired it.

But this strike is not just in Hikiotoshi-uchi. It’s also in both Honte-uchi and Gyakute-uchi as the same strike is employed.

The Kuden of Kashima Jingu, “Ikkon Juu Man En”, which is passed on at the same time as the “Ryuuko Nikan”, the Hiden contained within the records of the military family, also teaches this. Moreover, this can also be said to be the “Bujutsu extension” of the “secret key” to Japanese Shinto, the  “Futomani-no-mitama”.

It is said that a founder of Shinto-ryu, Iizasa Chouisai Ienao, would challenge the martial artists of Kurama-han travelling on their pilgrimage between Katori and Kashima shrines, waiting for the appearance amongst them of the return home of a master whom he could look up to as teacher, one in which he could acquire more knowledge. At the end of this most arduous training, he was enlightened and created a new ryu. It is believed that the origin of his technique was in fact the strategy of the Kurama Shinden as handed down by the master martial artists of the Kurama region.

It is said that Kiichi Hogan transmitted the military strategy of Kurama Shinden onto Minamoto Kuro Yoshitsune, who was at that time called Ushiwakamaru and that this strategy is the embodiment of the “Hiden” of Japanese Shinto teachings, which is called “Tenshinsho-den”, “Tenshin-den” and “Tenshin Hyoho”.

This is mentioned in the book I have written, “Honcho Budo Ron”, and I will explain the above in further detail later on.


Certificate scroll bestowed upon Minamoto Kuro Yoshitsune by Kiichi Hogan

(Author's personal collection).

Whatever the case, Nishioka shihan's technique faithfully transmits and aims to communicate the intentions of Shimizu Takaji senshi, more accurately it passes on the tachisuji of Shinto-ryu. Without this, I feel that Shinto Muso-ryu jo will die out. Regarding this, I wonder what others may think?

Next, let us consider the Uchi no Suji (cutting angle) of Nishioka shihan.



(ii) Regarding the uchi no suji.

“What kind of angle should the sword take (tachisuji) when cutting in Shinto-ryu?”

I think that one can answer this question by looking carefully at the tachisuji of the Shinto-ryu being taught today. Additonally, I have also made personal studies of Shinkage-ryu (Yagyu Gensho-den), Kukamishin-ryu, and Houten-ryu and have been exposed to the sword techniques of other Koryu such as Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto-ryu, Maniwa nen-ryu, and Jikishinkage-ryu.

I have come to understand that the answer exists in the concept of “always shield yourself behind the sword and perform the technique.” In coming to understand this concept, I have keenly felt that the techniques within a ryugi whose line has been interrupted, and then later revived, have lost this basic technique. I feel that many ryugi no longer teach this method.

This “always shield yourself behind the sword and perform the technique.” is, I think, absolutely vital to a real battle, in which one's life is at stake. It would be too dangerous to perform techniques without it.

Today, it goes without saying this principle directly applies to Shinto-ryu kenjutsu, even though it is subordinate to Shinto Muso-ryu jo. Yet for most practitioners, at least within the realm of my own limited experience, I have yet to see anyone, other than Nishioka shihan, wield a sword in such a proper way.

Shinto-ryu kenjutsu, the source of Shinto Muso-ryu jo, is moving further and further away from its original form, and it follows that Shinto Muso-ryu is also in a similar state.

After considering the original tachisuji, it then follows to explore the angle that the jo takes.

In Shinto Muso-ryu jo there are three strikes, Honte-uchi, Gyakute-uchi, and Hikiotoshi-uchi, which all follow the same angle of attack , although there are some differences in “Tenouchi” (I’ll get to that later).

As an example, I will explain Nishioka shihan's movements in Hikiotoshi-uchi.

 

Hikiotoshi no kamae

Upon raising the jo from Hikiotoshi no kamae the body is squared and the left hand is directly in the centre of the chest (along the natural horizontal line from armpit to armpit).

The jo is raised at a 45 degrees angle to the body; this is the most important point. If one holds the jo upright here the action becomes a mere hit and it will not be possible to “shield oneself with the jo and strike.”

From here, leave everything as it is and strike through, cutting down at 45 degrees.

It is important to make sure that the tip of the jo passes by the tip of the opponent's nose.

The body is turned 45 degrees to the left (“hanmi”) and the jo is at the opponent's face at a 30 degree angle. At this point, the tip of the jo is threatening the seigan (“between the eyebrows”) while the body is shielded in behind the jo.

It is then possible to sweep the opponent's sword, break the opponent's posture, and shatter their intent, all the while protecting oneself with the jo. This is called “Sankujiki” a point when all three are broken simultaneously and where the perfection of the jo's lies.

This same strategy is found in Shinkage-ryu's Gasshi-uchi and in Itto-ryu's Ichimonji no uchi.
At this point the opponent's “ki” (spirit), “ken”(sword), and “tai” (body) have been completely broken.

Without changing anything cut down in a continuation of the above movement.


Afterwards, step out with the right foot, return the jo back along the line it has just travelled in order to assume Migi-honte no kamae.

What do you think? Both Honte-uchi and Gyakute-uchi pass along the same line.

At first glance it appears to be a simple strike, but other than Nishioka shihan and those who have received training from him, there is no one to be found doing this.

Nishioka shihan has always said that this is the strike Shimizu senshi wanted to pass on.

The influence of modern day Kendo (a competitive sport using Shinai) upon the universally practiced ZNKR jodo is by no means small (in comparison, it is quite large), the hasuji or “blade angle” of jojutsu of practitioners who have studied ZNKR jodo is quite different, even though they perform the same patterns of Shinto Muso-ryu kata.

In fact, I was once told by a Koryu kenjutsu practitioner that he had tried to learn Shinto muso-ryu jo but there was nothing of interest in it. When I asked why, they told me that “...only a sequence of the movements was taught. The reasoning and strategy such as Gasshi-uchi or Ichimoji no uchi, the most important aspects of Koryu kenjutsu, is completely lost”.

Nishioka shihan is always saying that Honte-uchi, Gyakute-uchi and Hikiotoshi-uchi are the most important techniques, that meeting the sword strike and then overcoming it, and to ‘always shield yourself behind the sword and perform the technique’ are the Gokui of the jo. I agree with this wholeheartedly.

Nishioka shihan embodies the execution of this strike superbly. With all unnecessary strength left out, and no strain anywhere, this masterful movement, performed simply and effortlessly, is without a doubt such that it caused one American practitioner to proclaim Nishioka shihan a “jo-saint”.

If one looks hard at Nishioka shihan’s technique and demonstrations, one sees him using a movement that involves the opening and closing of the scapulae and pectoral muscles in a very natural, inconspicuous manner.

This is embodied in the 64th kata of Shinto Muso-ryu, which is called “Aun”.

It is said the name “Aun” comes from “A” as in “opening” and “Un” as in “closing”. This is represented in all of Nishioka shihan's movement. It is not restricted only to simple strikes but applies to all the actions of his jo. Even in all the other kihon waza – Kaeshi-tsuki, Gyakute-zuki, Makiotoshi, Kuritsuke, Kurihanashi, Taiatari, Tsukihazushi-uchi and Taihazushi-uchi – Nishioka shihan performs this opening and closing of the scapulae and pectoral muscles naturally. This ability to perform the waza without any force or strain is the result of nearly 70 uninterrupted years of constant training and is admirable.

Regardless of what others say, Nishioka shihan is the oldest living shihan in the jodo world today. To anyone with a sensibility extending to jodo, I recommend seeing the movement of Nishioka shihan personally at least once and accepting his teaching with proper modesty.



(iii) Regarding Tenouchi (how to grip the jo)

Nishioka shihan asserts that students of Shinto Muso-ryu jo should understand the difference between honte and gyakute grips. Perceiving the difference between these two grips is essential to all martial arts which use weaponry but regrettably only a few people can distinguish between the two and demonstrate them correctly.

Shinto-muso-ryu’s jojutsu originated in Shinto-ryu Kenjutsu and therefore, the jo (stick) is viewed to have a blade. Furthermore, I believe that students should use jo as if it had a blade even though it is merely a round stick and many practitioners today ignore this. I am afraid most practitioners are unaware of the theory of the “blade” that the jo has. For example, many students mistakenly believe that the difference between honte and gyakute is merely the distinction of the right hand’s grip when, in reality, the difference is in the grip of both hands. Furthermore, if you grip the jo incorrectly you are unable to use the jo to its full potential.

Look at the pictures below.

This is honte grip.

The jo follows the “life line” of the palm while being gripped (see the palm picture chart below), just as a cook grips hocho or a chef’s knife.

With the honte grip, you can use the jo softly, freely, and flexibly.

This is gyakute grip. Both hands grip jo along the brain line and emotion line of your palm just as a gymnast grips a horizontal bar. With this grip one can utilize the weight of the jo freely with force and power.


In the technique of kuritsuke, your front hand is in honte and braced on the forehead while the back hand is free and in gyakute. This transmits strength to the front of the jo. While being held in this way, the whole body is in control of the jo. Nishioka shihan once said Shimizu Takaji shihan had taught proper kuritsuke over and over again yet today, the correct grip form of kuritsuke is not observed.
(I will refer to kuritsuke, kurihanashi, and tai-atari later.)

In summary, honte is used as a cook grips the handle of a chef’s knife or as a carpenter grips a hammer, flexibly. Gyakute is used like a gymnast grips a horizontal bar or when a weight lifter picks up a heady dumbbell, powerfully.

When the jo is gripped in honte, the thumb and middle finger form a “ring”; when the jo is gripped in gyakute, the thumb and index finger form a “ring”.

Furthermore, both of these hand/finger positions are found in Asian meditation practices and illustrated in art and statues. For example, yielding and gentleness is represented in honte, with the thumb and middle finger, whereas strength and vigour is shown in gyakute, with the thumb and index finger.

Since ancient times Shinto and Mikkyo (Esoteric Buddhism) have both believed that your state of mind changes according to how you join your fingers.The methods of joining fingers are called “koritekumi” or “mitewaza” in Shinto, and “shuin” in Mikkyo and in both religions the joining of the fingers represents important elements of the mind. Accordingly, Shinto-muso-ryu students are joining fingers in similar ways when they grip the jo. As in religion where the mindset is changed with the finger position, the Shinto-muso-ryu student does likewise in a soft honte way or in a hard gyakute way. The techniques of Shinto Muso-ryu jo are closely connected with these states of mind.

Moreover, the significance in understanding the secret of honte and gyakute manifests in Buddhist statues. In the spring of 2009, I went to Horyuji Temple in Nara and saw the Shaka Triad there. The Shaka Triad at Horyuji was made in the first year of the Joei era (1232AD) during the Kamakura Period. Amida sits in the centre, to the right stands Kannon Bosatsu (Buddhist deity of mercy), and to the left stands Seishi Bosatsu (Buddhist deity of wisdom). The appearance of Kannon Bosatsu and Seishi Bosatsu along with Amida signifies their help with his aspiration of salvation through mercy (Kannon), and wisdom (Seishi). When looking at their hands, I was surprised because Kannon is joining his thumb and middle finger, and Seishi is joining his thumb and index finger.

I find the display of honte and gyakute as the foundation for all the states of mind, spirit and body in Buddhist statues and scripture amazing. In the martial art of Hiryu (one closely related to esoteric Tendai Buddhism), it is taught that controlling breath, oneself and others is achieved through joining the fingers.

Kannon bestows mercy upon people with freedom, and Seishi bestows wisdom upon people with belief. The idea of mercy and wisdom is similar to the fundamental spirit of jo: “Do not hurt others, but correct and punish them." Is there any other martial art that teaches such a lesson? In this perspective, the proper use of honte and gyakute influences not only technique but also the human spirit: ignoring their importance is a rudimentary mistake.

When one thinks of the meaning of Shinto Muso-ryu in same spirit as the founder, Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi, then one will pay the utmost attention to the differences and the practice of honte and gyakute. When you practice in this way, you will finally realize the secret of Tenshin-sho (Heavenly Spirit Teachings) as shown in the Secret of Gomuso and one will understand that Shinto Muso-ryu is not limited to techniques. This is similar to the Japanese mythology of the two Shinto gods, Izanagi and Izanami, who created the Japanese archipelago with Amano-nuhoko spear[1]

In this way, the teachings of Tsuneo Nishioka shihan are masterful as he is always guiding us to correct techniques.

[1] According to a Japanese Shinto myth, the gods Izanagi and Izanami thrust Amano-nuhoko spear into the chaos of the universe and stirred it. When they pulled it out, the drips from the spear formed the Japanese archipelago.


(iv) Regarding Kuritsuke, Kurihanashi and Taiatri

One distinguishing characteristic of Nishioka shihan’s Shinto Muso-ryu is his particular way of gripping the jo. He learned this grip directly from Takaji Shimizu shihan. I do not know anyone else who grips jo in this way.

When I first learned this grip from him more than 25 years ago, it felt awkward because it was different from what I had learned before.

I said to Nishioka shihan, “Isn’t your way of holding jo different from the way it’s generally practiced?” He answered, “I learned this gripping style from Shimizu shihan. If you fix your forward hand on your forehead, your forehead acts as a fulcrum point and you can move jo like a lever. No jo practitioner that I know holds jo in this way, but it is effective, so learn it well.”

I believed what Nishioka shihan said and after spending some time imitating and practicing this way, I realized that his method is logical.

It is regrettable that this method of holding the jo had not spread among other of Shimizu sensei’s students and I came to my own interpretation as to why this is. When I thought about the cause of the jo being held affixed to the head (as Nishioka shihan does) and the gap between the head and hand (as most others do) I came to the conclusion that when Shimizu shihan was practicing with someone taller, it was difficult for him to fix his hand on his forehead. Therefore he probably changed his technique, because he was shorter than most of his students, to accommodate the height difference. Ultimately, he held the jo above his head to demonstrate and perform the technique.

Of course, you can use your forward hand as a fulcrum point without fixing it to your forehead to perform the technique. However, if you fix your hand on your forehead and use it as a fulcrum, it is a powerful way to perform Kuritsuke.

This technique is difficult to master and there are only a few among Nishioka shihan’s students who can do it. This is perhaps another reason that most Shinto Muso-ryu practitioners perform Kuritsuke with their hands above their heads.

This method is the essential for all the three of the yawara techniques: Kuritsuke, Kurihanashi, and Taiatari - and throughout the entire school of Shinto Muso-ryu jo. Kuritsuke is found in the Omote set (Tachiotoshi, Tsubawari, Hissage, Kasumi), the Chudan set (Ichiriki, Oshizume, Taisha, Shinshin, Yokogiri-dome), the two kata of Ran-ai, the Kage set (Tsukizue, Hissage, Kasanoshita) and the Samidare set (Ichimonji, Jumonji); Kurihanashi is used in Ran-ai and Gohon-no-midare; Taiatari is used in Omote, Chudan, and Oku.

Now, let me explain about the basic form of Kuritsuke.

(a) Kuritsuke

Figure 1: Front View
Figure 2: Side View

Stand in Tsune no kamae (a natural standing posture). Next, move left by stepping to the left side with the left foot. Move the jo in front of your thighs by flicking it forward and to the left, catching and holding the tip with your left hand (figures 1 and 2). (This is an ancient and characteristic movement in Shinto-muso-ryu; one first avoids the opponent’s sword and then strikes the back of their hand simultaneously. This movement is not necessarily practiced in all branches of Shinto Muso-ryu, but Nishioka shihan said this was the correct movement of Kuritsuke).

Figure 3: Front View
Figure 4: Side View

After striking the back of your opponent’s hand, immediately aim the end of jo at their eyes.
Figure 5

Figure 6

Figures 5 and 6 above show the areas which the jo should strike. After striking the opponent’s hands, one must immediately point the end of jo at the eyes to threaten him.


Figure 7: Front View
Figure 8: Side View

Years ago, I asked Ichizo Otofuji shihan about the difference between Zenkenren jodo and Shinto Muso-ryu, and he said, “There are no big differences, but (1) shidachi does not strike the back of the opponent’s hand but instead the Nakatsuka (middle of the sword handle). (2) shidachi does not aim the jo at uchidachi’s eyes. These were the two items that Shimizu shihan proposed and were agreed when Zenkenren jodo rules were made. At the time, the rest of the techniques were the same.”

Figure 9: Front View
Figure 10: Side View

Next, move your left elbow to the left side of your chest and press down tightly to the side. Then, trying to hide your body behind the jo, move the jo as if to draw a conical shape with the left end of the jo at the fulcrum point. In this way your opponent fails to gain any opportunity to cut you.

Immediately after Kuritsuke, shidachi strikes to uchidachi’s face by moving the end of the jo upward. This technique is not performed to avoid the injury to the uchidachi. Next, stand in gyakute position.

Figure 11: Front View
Figure 12: Side View


Release your gyakute right hand from the jo and hold jo in honte grip.

Bring your feet together, stepping up with your left foot so that it rests beside your right foot. Stand in the normal tsune no kamae.

As previously mentioned, when one performs Kuritsuke, one must follow the basic principle of Shinto-muso-ryu jo: always hide the body behind the jo. Nishioka shihan performs Kuritsuke without using any power in the hands or arms, but moves the jo as if drawing “a cone shape” in the air with his shoulder and elbow. He does not give the uchidachi a chance to cut him because as he performs Kuritsuke, he destroys uchidachi’s spirit, sword, and body.

This is a Yawara (origin of Jujutsu) technique. If one uses too much force while handling the jo, uchidachi will certainly resist your force and your technique won’t be effective.

It is said that flexible movement is more efficient than rigid movement. Always keep your body flexible, soft, and ready to respond flexibly to the way uchidachi attacks you. One does not try to resist or react rigidly or one will lose the battle because of a rigid response.

Kuritsuke, Kurihanashi, and Taiatari are all based on this Yawara technique. But because one holds a jo it is tends to be difficult to maintain flexible movements.

The basic Kuritsuke techniques I mentioned above are performed not only in Omote, but also in Chudan, Kage, and Samidare. The skill of Kuritsuke is within: (1) always hiding the body behind the jo; and (2) drawing a cone shape in the air with the end of the jo so that the opponent has no chance to attack you.

Nishioka shihan explains the differences of Kuritsuke in Ichiriki and Oshizume and in Shinshin in Chudan.

After you are in Kuritsuke position, the movement of the Kuritsuke in Ichiriki and Oshizume is different from that in Ran-ai and Shinshin.

When one is in Kuritsuke position and is touching the sword handle from underneath, one slides the jo to the left side by moving the body until the end 10 centimetres of the jo meets the handle.

According to Nishioka shihan, Shimizu shihan required Nishioka shihan to practice this again and again, from a very young age because it was important.

Then, while turning the body to face uchidachi, the jo is pressed down to the uchidachi’s abdomen, passing through the centre of uchidachi’s body. I have never seen this Kuritsuke other than Nishioka shihan’s. When I asked Nishioka shihan about it, he said that other students failed to learn the correct Kuritsuke.

The Kuritsuke found in Shinshin and Ran-ai does not initially move the body away to the left, but instead the body stays in place, and Kuritsuke is performed by softly gaining control over uchidachii’s arms until the jo touches below uchidachi’s lower abdomen.

Nishioka shihan always says that uchidachi must step back by moving the farthest leg from shidachi first in order to avoid shidachi’s attack to the face with the end of the jo.



(b) Kurihanashi

Next I would like to talk about Kurihanashi.

Kurihanashi is in Ran-ai and Gohon-no-midare kata and is one of the “yawara” (grappling) techniques. First you strike the back of uchidachi’s hands with the jo from underneath, then immediately aim the end of jo at his eyes; then you unbalance them and at a 45 degree angle to their rear.

Many students simply throw uchidachi backward, however more than 40 years ago Kouichi Hamaji shihan taught me to throw uchidachi back at a 45 degree angle.

These pictures show shidachi’s stance just after Kuritsuke position and before performing Kurihanashi
Press lower arm down tightly into the ribs while lowering the elbow. Move the top hand up and to the front to throw uchidachi away from you. Shorten the distance between the hands as you throw them. Do not lower the end of jo below uchidachi’s head level.

 

Over the course of time shidachi began to throw uchidachi backward and this technique has become popular.

I myself was not an exception. Nishioka shihan said to me that throwing uchidachi at a 45 degree angle is the orthodox way of doing Kurihanashi. I used to throw uchidachi backward, but when Nishioka shihan taught me the orthodox method of doing Kurihanashi again I remembered how Hamaji shihan had taught me Kurihanashi for the first time all those years ago.

If you think about Kurihanashi rationally, to throw uchidachi backward is against the natural movement. To throw them at a 45 degree angle to the rear agrees to the principles of yawara and is reasonable.

I don’t know why throwing to the rear in Kurihanashi has become popular but my guess is that when many students were practicing Kurihanashi in a narrow Dojo space, shidachi would throw uchidachi backwards to avoid colliding with other students practicing nearby.

Of course, in the case of Kurihanashi in Gohon-no-midare, shidachi throws uchidachi backward, but this is different from Kurihanashi in Ran-ai. It is rather similar to Tai-atari.


(c) Taiatari

The initial posture is identical to Kuritsuke and Kurihanashi.

Unbalance the uchidachi by driving the tachi upward. shidachi’s lower hand is placed at uchidachi’s solar plexus while the upper hand is in front of the face. Neither of the hands are touching the body at this time.

Stepping forward with the right foot, strike uchidachi’s solar plexus with the lower hand.

Next, push the upper hand into uchidachi’s face and drive them away and back.

Both hands are now gripping the jo in gyakute.

Step forward and stand in tsune-no-kamae posture.

This is Nishioka shihan’s taiatari. It is important to strike uchidachi in succession with each hand after shidachi drives the tachi upward; this is because it’s easier for uchidachi to defend against one strike but harder to defend against two.

Therefore, there is a lot more to taiatari than one thinks. In traditional Japanese taijutsu (body technique/skill) the double strike is retained as atemi (the art of striking vital points of the body to immobilize an opponent). In taiatari you are practicing atemi using the jo.

So far Nishioka shihan’s kuritsuke, kurihanashi, and taiatari have been explained. These techniques should be studied thoroughly so that Nishioka shihan’s jo can be handed down to the next generation.

 

(v) Regarding Kaeshitsuki   February, 2010

Another characteristic of Nishioka shihan’s jo lies in the footwork of Kaeshitsuki. He asserts that it’s one of the crucial techniques of Shinto-muso-ryu jo.

This is the stance immediately following the honte stance.

The body is turned facing sideways. Stand on the blades of both feet.

Close-up. Notice the blades of the feet.

 





















 

 

 

This movement originates from Taijutsu (body technique/skill). Furthermore, I have never seen anyone practicing this technique within jo except for Nishioka shihan.

It’s a pity that many jo practitioners tend to overlook these tiny but important traditional techniques. I fear for the future of these techniques and believe they may disappear, but it is still possible to preserve and hand down to the next generation.

With this spirit Nishioka shihan expects the Seiryukai to cherish and hand down the techniques he has learned from Shimizu Takaji shihan to as many jo students as possible.

 

(vi) Regarding Gonosen   February, 2010

Last but not least, I would like to write about Nishioka shihan’s words: “Gonosen is the essential technique of Shinto-muso-ryu jo.

Taking the first move in a battle is a poor tactic because it will lead to your defeat. You should move only after your opponent moves.

This is the spirit of Japanese martial arts called “Yosei Shinbu,” which stresses the importance of persuasion and not force. Before resorting to arms, you should first talk to your opponent sincerely. If that fails you have no choice but to use divine force to punish an evil opponent. However, when you resort to force, you should pay honor before fighting. This is why Japanese warriors (samurai) introduced their names and places of origin to their opponents on the battleground.

When you are fighting an opponent, you are the architect of divine will, filled with love and affection. You should use force not in order to destroy your opponent but to correct his wrong behavior.

“Shinbu (Divine Force) does not mean resorting to violence to fulfill your desire. It means using force to elevate your morality, bringing peace to your family, and to contributing to society.

The spirit of Shinto-muso-ryu jo lies in the words: There is nothing other than the jo to teach a person without causing injury.

Therefore, when you practice jo, you should not strike first, but wait until your opponent moves first.

Nishioka shihan says, “The essence of Shinto-muso-ryu jo lies in three points: watch your opponent carefully; be patient to the last moment when your opponent moves to kill you; and never strike first, only move after your opponent moves.”

 

Take Hikiotoshi-uchi for example. Watch uchidachi’s initial movement carefully.

shidachi moves only after uchidachi begins to strike with the sword. This is very difficult as people tend to move first.

If shidachi moves first, uchidachi will have a chance to position his sword on the jo.

Just before the sword reaches shidachi, move the jo so that it will ride on top of the sword.

Immediately after shidachi’s jo slides down uchidachi’s sword, shidachi points the end of the jo at uchidachi’s eyes to keep control.

At this instant, uchidachi’s sword is pointed away and to the left of shidachi.

This technique is identical in Shinkage-ryu’s “Gasshi-uchi” and Itto-ryu’s “Kiriotoshi”.

(Note: In the picture above, the distance between is wider than normal so that Gonosen can be understood.)



Gonosen is one of the most important techniques of the Shinto Muso-ryu jo. It is applied in Honte-uchi, Gyakute-uchi, Hikiotoshi-uchi, Kuritsuke, Kurihanashi, and Taiatari.

The spirit of Gonosen is to be patient and watch the opponent carefully. Move only after they move. Practice makes perfect.

Gonosen techniques can be applied to many types of Japanese martial arts as well. If one masters Gonosen, one can gain an unswerving mind. Such a mind is a benefit one gets from practicing Japanese martial arts. With this benefit you can contribute to society and your country.

Nishioka shihan says, “uchidachi is the parent and shidachi is the child, uchidachi should treat shidachi with the tenderness of a parent". If you wield the sword only to boast skill, it becomes a murderous sword. If uchidachi behaves like a parent who guides a child, the sword becomes a parental one. This is the core of Shinto Muso-ryu jo.

Of course, it is only natural that uchidachi and shidachi practice goes hand in hand, but if one knows the parental relationship between uchidachi and shidachi, you can acquire a samurai moral.

Thus, Nishioka shihan shows the basic principle of Japanese martial arts. His spirit of Shinto Muso-ryu jo is, I believe, comparable to that of a national treasure.

3. In Conclusion

I have delineated my thoughts about Nishioka shihan’s jo. His existence is precious to the world of Japanese martial arts and his jo techniques are incomparable.

Therefore, I think it important for jo students to learn as much as possible from Nishioka shihan. I am determined to continue to practice jo keeping in mind his jo spirit as well as Hamaji Kouichi shihan’s last words: never tarnish the traditions of Shinto-muso-ryu jo.

I sincerely hope for your understanding of and assistance for Nishioka shihan’s Shinto Muso-ryu jo. Thank you.

February 7, 2010



4. Looking to future

As mentioned above, the art and the spirit of Shinto Muso-ryu jo as passed down to us by Nishioka Tsuneo shihan is one of the greatest treasures of Japanese budo. I think that to pass this on to future generations is to repay the kindness Nishioka sensei has shown spending so much time teaching and guiding us.

In 1992 Nishioka Tsuneo shihan founded Seiryukai to honour the words the late Shimizu Takaji sensei bestowed upon him before passing: “Left as things are I will have produced mere stick-swingers”, and “I want you to do all you can to pass on the living jo.”

After my own teacher Hamaji Kouichi shihan passed away in 1985, I became Nishioka sensei's pupil in accordance with my late teacher's final wish. Initially, for several years, we had Nishioka sensei come here, to Nagoya, monthly, to instruct the group under Hamaji shihan, then every other month, which eventually became just a few times a year. Whenever he came down, Nishioka sensei would stay at my own dojo next to my clinic and even after a full day's training he would allow me to discuss Shinto Muso-ryu jo with him late into the night. I remember those times very fondly.


Photo of a time I received a lesson on Hojo-jutsu from Nishioka sensei

5th June, 1992

 

Through our discussions during this period I came to understand and appreciate Nishioka sensei's purpose in establishing Seiryukai. As a result, we began hosting Seiryukai Seminars in my own city of Nagoya as well. From the inaugural Shinto Muso-ryu jo Seiryukai Nagoya seminar held on 1st May 2005, to the 11th and final on 5th September 2010, we received the benefit of sensei's guidance at these seminars twice a year until his health began to decline.


Photo taken at Shinto Muso-ryu Seiryukai Nagoya seminar.

(sensei is shown wearing my samue and holding my jo.)

Since 2005 we have continued to host public training seminars, together with Hamaji Mitsuo shihan and Tomita Takashi shihan, which have to date been held 17 times. Within that time many people have experienced Shinto Muso-ryu jo as passed on to us by Nishioka sensei. Not only pupils from around Japan but those from overseas such as Australia's Mr Greg Clarke and Austria's Mr Martin Topplitzer took part as well.

Moreover there are more than a few for whom these seminars have proven opportunities to become direct students of mine.

Australia's Mr Greg Clarke, for instance, became my pupil with the permission of Nishioka sensei and currently runs the Australian branch of Sumera Budo Juku.

But now that Nishioka sensei has reached his 90th year I think that we of the next generation have entered a period where we must think very seriously about how best to carry his flame into the future.

Sensei has in the end left behind 11 people as his personal torch-bearers.

He wrote the short piece “My wish” to entrust us with his wish that each of the 11 should bear the Seiryukai name and with it sensei's will embodied by that name.

As I have some thoughts at this current point in time, I will show here some of what I personally, as one of the torch-bearers, have received from sensei, though it may be rather forward of me to do so, in order to clarify his intentions.

 

Nishioka sensei’s notes from Shimizu Takaji sensei's teachings on Shinto Muso-ryu jo, Shinto-ryu Kenjutsu, Ikkaku-ryu Jittejutsu, and Uchida-ryu Tanjojutsu.

Signed by Nishioka sensei, and received on 11th December, 1995.

Letter of succession

I hereby bequeath the ryugi with a roll of Menkyo imparted from Shinto Muso-ryu jo twenty-fifth generation Shimizu Takaji Katsuyasu sensei

I hereto set my hand and seal

An auspicious day in June, 1998

Nishioka Tsuneo Yasunori    (in)

To     Mister Ishida Hiroaki

Shinto Muso-ryu jojutsu Menkyo-jo given to Nishioka sensei by Shimizu Takaji sensei.

 

Calligraphy copy of the Emperor Showa's new year imperial edict, 1st of January, 1946 done by Nishioka sensei in 1989.

This was the imperial proclamation given after losing the war, which mentions the emperor’s intention to rebuild the nation along with its people. Nishioka sensei idealised the late emperor as a manifestation of the essence of the Japanese spirit and kept this edict close to his heart.

The above roll was received on 30th September, 2001.

Takao Chikusen’s Chinese poetry that Nishioka sensei calligraphed.

Received on 30th September, 2001.

Disc of the footage of Hiden “Gomuso”, performed and filmed in private by Nishioka sensei and myself. 

Filmed on 2nd March, 2007.

Keikogi and Hakama (embroidered with the text “The second generation of Seiryukai, Nishioka Tsuneo Yasunori shihan”)

Given by Nishioka sensei as a keepsake in March 2010.

Seiryukai (Ltd.) Company registration book, company seal, and stock certificates.

Entrusted to me by Nishioka sensei on 4th September 2010.

The collection of Nishioka sensei's personal correspondence (letters)

The entire collection of letters from the Shihans
Ichizou Otofuji, Kouichi Hamaji, Tanaya Masami and Mochizuki Osamu.

The letters from Ichizo Otofuji shihan have aparticular importance.

Entrusted by Nishioka sensei on 12th September  2010



The plaque I received for the Seiryukai dojo.

Reverse-side of the same plaque

6th September, 2010

Nishioka Tsuneo Yasunori     



 

My Wish

1.     I, Tsuneo Nishioka, hereby acknowledge a decline in my health and entrust the practical usage of Seiryukai hereafter to Mr Hiroaki Ishida.

2.     I entrust Mr Hiroaki Ishida, as one of my successors, all rights to the many jodo related resources and various visual media* that have been in my possession.

(Note: *visual media includes, but not limited to, digital and printed images, photographs, DVDs, videos and films.)

3.     In terms of the operation of Seiryukai I expect the third-generation shihan to act independently and as individual representatives of Seiryukai.

    The rightful third-generation shihan are the eleven people as follows: Mitsuo Hamaji, Michio Kaneda, X, X, Phillip Relnick, Pascal Krieger, Hiroaki Ishida, Katsuhiko Arai, Taisuke Watanabe, Hiroshi Yamada, Masami Kitta.

(Note: Names are listed in the order they received their Menkyo from Nishioka sensei. Those represented by an X have expressed their wish that their names be omitted.)

4.    I hope from my heart that my successors, the third-generation shihan, will fully understand my intentions and continue to be successful while remaining free from discord amongst each other.  

           12th September 2010

Seiryukai second generation shihan

             Tsuneo Yasunori Nishioka     (jitsuin)  

                    

On the day of writing “My Wish”, at Nishioka sensei’s residence with his wife.

(Nishioka sensei's wife passed away in August 2013 at 89 y.o.)


I have thus far announced the main gifts I have inherited from Nishioka sensei. What I consider my most precious treasure is, in addition to these gifts I have inherited, the many and various memories of the teachings I have received since I began keiko with sensei, keiko that is remembered within my bones.

From this day forth, I will hold as my principle the instructions Hamaji Kouichi senshi gave to me as his last testament “Whatever you do, do nothing to dishonour the ryugi”. As one of those to whom Nishioka shihan has entrusted the next generation, I intend to work harder than ever to pass on Shimizu Takaji sensei's words, "Not mere stick-swingers, a living jo".

September 1, 2013

 

5. After the death of my teacher, now as Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo Aiseikai

In July of last year (2013) an incident occurred. One of my former direct students (an American) wrote slanderous statements about me and spread them all over the world.

Initially, as the statements were false and groundless I left the situation alone.  However, during autumn last year, I became aware of some gossip in Europe from the statements. People were saying that I had stolen Nishioka sensei’s Keikogi. I realised that if I did nothing the situation might develop further and that it could damage my reputation. Therefore, in September last year I posted an article “4. Looking to future” on my homepage stating the history of my relationship with Nishioka sensei and explaining the items I had received from Nishioka sensei.

As a result, the rumour against me ceased and spread no further. However, an opinion emerged that the article might have been posted in an attempt for me to merely boast about myself. Also, another person registered “神道夢想流杖道清隆会 (Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo Seiryukai)” as a trademark and expressed to me that he would not allow me to use this name anymore.  Given that Nishioka sensei was no longer with us and that I intended to keep his wish close to my heart, I deemed it prudent to avoid getting into an indiscriminant dispute.  Therefore, from hereon I have arranged my group to start anew as “神道夢想流杖道愛清会 (Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo Aiseikai)”.

Here in Nagoya, I will continue to treasure Nishioka sensei’s jo and pass it onto the following generation. 

May 30, 2014



Copyright 2009-2015 Hiroaki Ishida. No unauthorised reproduction and translation without express prior consent.                       

 




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