Jo Beginners

As a rare treat, I taught a couple of sword taking techniques this week using the jo.

I had forgotten how amusing it was to watch students deal with this weapon for the first time.

It is just a stick after all.

The techniques taught were very simple, essentially just a couple of movements each.

But as soon as they picked up the jo, everything they just saw demonstrated, left their brain.

First, they stand there, frozen in place, looking at the weapon in their hand as if somehow it would do the right thing.

Then they try, in a myriad of complex ways, to reproduce the technique. Hands change grip, extra footwork is added, the jo spins round in an effort to make sense what they think they were just taught. There is the inevitable joke by the instructor that they must be holding it upside down.

Scenes so cliched, yet still both amusing and dismaying as to how anyone could turn something so simple and effective into something so complex and ineffective.

Lest you think I am singularly cruel in my enjoyment of this confusion, it is worth noting that one of the yudansha in the class, whilst watching these struggles, was quietly giggling to themselves in remembrance of their own first attempts to come to terms with the jo, many years ago.

It is just a stick.


Kai Cho


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