Posted by: B Gourley | July 8, 2010

Jōjutsu and the Goldilocks Principle

Japanese stick fighting includes rokushaku-bōjutsu (six-shaku, approximately 6 foot, staff skills), jōjutsu (four to five foot staff skills), and han-bōjutsu (also called sanshaku-bōjutsu, three-foot stick stills.) Of the three, jōjutsu may be the most useful for dealing with attackers armed with a sword. It has just enough range out distance a swordsman, but is fast and allows for flexible movement. My reference to the Goldilocks Principle is, of course, meant to convey that the is “just right”, while the is too long and the han-bō to short.

There is, of course, the quite famous story of Musou Gonnosuke who was allegedly defeated by Miyamoto Musashi in a dual, but then later, after an extensive period of meditation and training, had a rematch in which Gonnosuke used a  and was victorious. Of course, there is a great amount of controversy about the story, and many versions of it. There seems to be a consensus that Miyamoto Musashi was undefeated in sword-on-sword matches, and many believe the defeat by a -wielding Gonnosuke was his only defeat (others say he was completely undefeated.) There is also a question about what weapon Gonnosuke used in the first dual, some say a rokushaku-bou, and others say a bokken (wooden sword.) Obviously, we can never know the true facts as they died with the very few people present at the events. However, the story remains an intriguing endorsement of  jōjutsu.

It may not be immediately clear what I mean by the rokushaku-bō being “too long”. The range of the  is certainly advantageous, but because the staff-wielding individual has to move the quite a distance to get lethal energy behind it, it is always vulnerable to being moved inside by a swordsman. A swordsman can deliver a lethal strike with a much smaller motion, and, therefore, if he or she gets inside and negates the range of the the martial artist with the  faces a dire situation. An individual skilled with the staff must be supremely effective at rapidly leaping in and out to change range as need be, and must be able to utilize the full-length of the weapon in a way that is not easily exploited.


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