Photos By Ramon Drapatsky

Workouts for Judo

Learn Judo Online

Get Instant Access

the early 17th century, Muso Gonnosuke. It pitted Gonnosuke's much-praised skill with the odachi (long sword) against Musashi's formidable two-sword style. Musashi defeated Gonnosuke but didn't kill him, and the young warrior withdrew in shame to the Kamado Shinto shrine atop Mt. Homan. The story holds that he meditated there for 37 days, after which he collapsed and had a vision. In one version of the legend, a celestial child appeared to him and said, "Holding a round log, know the suigetsu," referring to an attack point on the body.

Inspired by his vision, Gonnosuke carved a jo that was about 50 inches long, making it shorter than a standard bo and longer than an odachi. Exploiting the short staff's maneuverability, Gon-nosuke defeated Musashi in their second duel. Exactly how he did it is unclear, but it's likely that he used the ends of the jo to attack pressure-sensitive spots on his foe's body. Thejuji-dome (crossed-sword block) that Musashi often used to defeat a swordsman would be a liability against a stick fighter who could use the spot where the blocking weapons touched as a pivot point to swing the other end under the block and attack.

Gonnosuke created a school ofjojutsu to pass on his new techniques—and the others he developed—and now jojutsu is part of nearly every jujutsu ryu (style). Jo versus sword is still practiced actively in many schools, an echo of the ancient duel, fought and refought by each new generation.

A second popular Japanese weapon, one that's the signature tool of nearly all classical jujutsu systems, is the yawari. It can range from a 6-inch-long conceal-able stick to 3-foot-long club. Folk tales suggest that the original yawari was the broken handle of a sword that was used in desperation by a samurai whose weapon had shattered on the battlefield.

The third primary Japanese stick weapon is the hanbo, which can range from 24 inches to 40 inches in length, with 36 being the standard.

Nearby Okinawa boasts its own stick weapons derived from farming tools. They include the bo, a staff 5 feet to 7 feet long; the tonfa, a wooden handle originally used to block swords; and

Combat Flail
By adopting some of the rhythmic drills of Philippine stick fighting, jujutsu students often learn basic hanbo handling more quickly.

the nunchaku, or rice flail. These tools-turned-weapons were exported to Japan, where they became staples of numerous martial arts. At first, traditionalists balked at the inclusion of what were considered "peasant weapons," but that thinking changed when practitioners demonstrated the power and effectiveness of the new implements.


In the 20th century, as the martial arts spread across the globe, practitioners who'd specialized in traditional Japanese and Okinawan weapons were exposed

The yawari is a close-range fighting stick taught in traditional jujutsu.

The yawari is a close-range fighting stick taught in traditional jujutsu.

Traditional Jujutsu

to a different method of stick fighting, one that caused a revolution in the way the arts were taught. They experienced escrima.

The Philippine stick art stepped into the limelight when the public watched Bruce Lee wield his weapons in Enter the Dragon. It's been stated that Lee picked up his stick skills from Dan Ino-santo during the time they spent training together. Once the demand for instruction was established, American martial artists learned that many talented Filipinos lived among them and were ready and willing to spread their art. Thus, the escrima explosion started.

What's not as well-known, and certainly not as well-documented, is the effect the Philippine arts had on the way Japanese stick fighting was taught.

Japanese stick skills were conveyed largely through solo and two-person kata. Practicing such ritualized drills required dedication and attention to detail, becoming an exercise in mind and body Zen. Training entailed self-denial, harsh discipline, long hours of meditation and constant reaffirmation that perfection is an unreachable ideal. While such an approach was perfect for ascetics with hours a day to devote to training, it didn't appeal to everyone.

Escrima advocated a different approach. Like most Philippine arts, it was less concerned with solitary ritual than with infusing a sense of energetic belonging. The classes were vital and often filled with percussive music that made the blood heat up and the muscles jump. The drills were often practiced with live sticks in rhythmic patterns that sang as the weapons whirled and flashed.

Considering the American mind-set and need for instant gratification, it's no wonder the ascetic approach to training never really caught on. With the advent of colored belts and the success of chain schools, the old ways of teaching began to fade. That shouldn't be viewed as a sign the traditional ways were inferior, but as a realistic appraisal of the fact that Americans generally have less time to devote to slower, more deliberate methods of instruction.

influences, not wanting to add salt to old wounds. But this is the 21st century, and the post-war generation has grown up. In fact, many of its members are masters in their own right, and they've been raised in a climate in which tensions from the war no longer matter. In recent years, the acceptance and even acknowledgment of Philippine influences has become more marked in the Japanese arts.

The most frequently seen change is that the hanbo, the shortest of the Japanese staves, is now usually the same length, thickness and heft as the escrima stick. That's partly because a traditional hanbo is difficult to purchase without special-ordering one from an overseas manufacturer. Conversely, escrima sticks of good quality are inexpensive and

The Bombay truncheon is a short stick used in several ancient Indian martial arts.

The Philippine traditions have demonstrated a far-reaching appeal. And the funny thing is, that appeal is now helping the traditional martial arts.


Many jujutsu ryu have begun adopting Philippine stick-fighting drills as a way of shortening the time needed to make students combat proficient. Both methods—Japanese and Philippine— will eventually bring a hard-working student to a level of competence, but the Philippine way is faster. And it's more entertaining, which seems to resonate with Americans.

The ways in which escrima has influenced jujutsu are many, but they're subtle. Partly because of animosity between Japan and the Philippines that dates back to World War II, many instructors were quiet about accepting those abundant.

Escrima's two-person drills have become part of many jujutsu dojo and can even be found in karate schools. Inviting escrimadors to give demonstrations and workshops for jujutsu students—and for practitioners of kenpo, karate and even kobujutsu—is becoming popular. As a result, students are exposed to new ideas, and ultimately the arts grow.

In the 1950s, several jujutsu ryu hired professional boxers to teach their members Western fist fighting. Originally, it was done so new defenses could be devised for coping with attacks initiated by punchers, but eventually many of the exercises—particularly the body-conditioning and body-toughening drills—were adopted, along with some of the footwork, evasion methods and striking skills.

That's not particularly strange because jujutsu, by nature, is a vital and fmmWm^

AWSDA's 15th Annual Self Defense Conference and Seminar






fl uitttfflM



Instructor proposals still being considered! or 631-226-8383 for more info.

American Women's Self Defense Association

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts

Do You Want To Learn How To Protect Yourself? Have You Ever Thought About Learning The Art Of Self Defense? Discover The World Of MMA. The Complete Guide to Finally Understanding Mixed Martial Arts.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment