Journal of Non-lethal Combatives, Sept 2000

A Brief History of ZNKR Jodo

By Kim Taylor with assistance from Jeff Broderick, Yasuhiro Mori, Joseph Svinth, Eric Tribe, and Peter Yodzis. Direct correspondence to Kim Taylor at Text copyright © 2000 Seidokai. All rights reserved.

The jo is a four-foot stick used as a Japanese martial art weapon, and training in its use is called jojutsu or jodo.

The following is an excerpt from "THE LITTLE BOOK OF JODO: a goomba's guide to the stick" the Sei Do Kai jodo manual, available through EJMAS Unique Books

The photos of Shimizu sensei and Donn Draeger are courtesy of Jon Bluming whose autobiography is also available through EJMAS Unique Books.

Jodo, Taylor and Tribe

The history of Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Association, or ZNKR) jodo is essentially the history of the Shindo Muso-ryu (SMR). This is in contrast to ZNKR iai, or sword-drawing arts, which developed from several styles (mainly Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu and Muso Shinden-ryu). ZNKR jodo is almost entirely derived from the Shindo Muso-ryu practice of Shimizu Takaji (1876-1978).

The following history is based largely on The History of Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu by Matsui Kenji with further information from other English language sources listed in the bibliography. Readers who are familiar with jodo will find plenty to argue about here, in the source materials listed, and in the popular press, as there are as many opinions on the art as there are major lines of practice. We invite studied comment on the paper, and welcome new research initiatives.

Note: All Japanese names in this article are written in the Japanese fashion of family name personal name.

Muso Gonnosuke and the origin of Shindo Muso-ryu jodo

As with many historical figures, little is known for certain about Muso Gonnosuke's life. It is said that his full name was Muso Gonnosuke Katsukichi, and that early in life he was known as Hirano Gonbei. It is claimed that he was a menkyo holder (e.g., an instructor) in the Katori Shinto-ryu and of the Kashima Shin Ryu (or the Kashima Jikishinkage-ryu in some sources). In the Keicho era (1596-1614) he met Miyamoto Musashi, either in Akashi or in Edo. What happened at this meeting varies between the SMR sources and the records of other schools. The SMR version has Musashi stop Muso with juji-dome, or cross-block. Other sources, however, suggest that Musashi almost never (if ever) used two swords in a match, and that he met Muso with a small stick or a willow bow he was carving. Some sources say Muso was using a bo (a six-foot staff), others a long bokuto (a wooden training sword). Regardless, Muso was defeated and that defeat was pivotal to the development of jodo.

Wayne Muromoto describes the encounter as found in the Kaijo Monogatari of 1629. Musashi met Muso, who was a six-foot tall warrior who wore a 2-layer overcoat and a haori with a hinomaki (rising sun) crest. On one lapel was written "heiho tenka ichi"  and on the other "nihon kaizan Muso Gonnosuke" (best martial artist in the land). Muso was accompanied by six students and rather rudely challenged Musashi who tried to decline the challenge. Muso insisted and drew a four-foot bokuto from a bag, striking at Musashi suddenly. Musashi stood up and with the stick forced Muso across the room and then tapped him between the eyes.

The Honcho Bugei Shoden of 1716 agrees with this story and quotes the Niten Ki as well. This would seem to be the end of things, but modern writings tend to mention a rematch in which Muso met Musashi with a jo and defeated him. In no history of Musashi is there any mention of a single defeat, and the only older source identified that mentions a rematch is a scroll at Tsukuba Shrine in Ibaragi prefecture which, with no corroboration, is suspect.

After this defeat Muso continued wandering and finally stopped at Mount Homan in Chikuzen (modern Fukuoka) where he stayed for 37 days, finally having a dream where he was told "maruki wo motte, suigetsu wo shire" or, "holding a round stick, know the suigetsu". (Literally the solar plexus, as used here suigetsu likely means to know one's center [hara], combative distance [ma'ai], and self.) From this teaching Muso developed the techniques of the short staff or jo. Muromoto states that there were five of these, the "hiden gyo-i". More techniques have been added through the years.

In 1601 Kuroda Nagamasa received a stipend of 520,000 koku and control of the prefecture of Chikuzen. Muso took employment with this lord and remained in the fief's employ until his death. Pascal Kreiger states that Muso gave menkyo (permission to teach) to ten students but Matsui could find no densho (a curriculum or lineage list often given to students upon completion of training) earlier than that of the fourth headmaster Higuchi Han'emon, who flourished three generations after Muso, meaning around 1700. There are also no records from the Kuroda archives describing Muso's employment, his birth or death dates, or his social position. One thing that does confirm Muso's presence in the clan, however, is a record in the Tsukuba shrine on Mount Tsukuba of an odachi (large sword) donated by Muso Gonnosuke.

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The Shindo Muso-ryu lineage

As mentioned, no curriculum lists, or densho, earlier than that of the fourth headmaster are known at the moment. However, that document lists two teachers back to Muso: the second headmaster is Okubi Mogozaemon and the third Matsuzaki Kin'emon. This document also traces Muso's prior training lineage back to Matsumoto Bizen no kami. It is not until the end of the Edo period (i.e., the mid-nineteenth century) that the lineage is pushed further back in time to Iizasa Ienao, founder of the Katori Shinto-ryu.

In fact, the first name (shindo or shinto; which transliteration is "correct" depends on one's modern organizational affiliations) of the school is the "true path"  Muso-ryu bojutsu, rather than the present "way of the gods" as it is in Katori Shinto-ryu. Therefore assumptions that the style has links to that school, based on the name, are suspect.

The fourth headmaster, Higuchi Han'emon, gave menkyo certificates to Yokata Hanzaburo (in 1720) and Harada Heizo Nobusada (Kaisai) (menkyo between 1711-1726, died 1733). Yokata carried on the "true path" line that also became known as the "Moriki-ryu". This line was broken then reestablished by Hatae Kyuhei in the 1800s and finally died out with Yamazaki Koji. Matsui states that the last headmaster before the break, Inoue Ryosuke, died in 1831, but Hatae Kyuhei (d. 1829) revived it. One must assume that Inoue was sick for a period and that Hatae stepped in to train the successor before he himself died.

Harada Heizo received a "true path" densho but changed the name to "new just". This line, which continued to the present era, was also called Kansai-ryu. There were great famines in Japan in 1727-28 and it is thought that Harada died in poverty.

"New just" Muso-ryu was handed down through Hara Shiemon (d. 1754) to Nagatomi Koshiro Hisatomo (1717-1772), the seventh headmaster who revitalized the line and taught 300 students. Two of these students were Ono Kyusaku (d. 1822) and Komori Seibei who were named instructors in the Haruyoshi and Jigyo districts of the city, respectively.

When Kuroda Nagamasa received control of the Chikuzen fief, he built a castle near Hakata Bay that he called Maizurujo (dancing crane) or Tsurujo (crane castle). On the east was the Haruyoshi area and on the west the Jigyo. In these areas lived the kashi (junior officers) and the ashigaru (foot soldiers). As a result of these separate appointments of instructors, the art split into what came to be called the Haruyoshi and Jigyo lines.

By 1796 Muso-ryu was firmly established as an art of the ashigaru. Its name was changed to "way of the gods" (Shindo Muso-ryu) and the techniques were rearranged.

There were now five lines of "Kuroda Jo" being taught: the Haruyoshi and Jigyo lines of Muso-ryu, the "true path" Muso-ryu, and two others, Ten'ami-ryu Heijo and the Shin-Chigiriki. These stick arts were taught as part of the dangyo or "men's arts" of the Kuroda han. The dangyo also included torite (seizing or capturing) and nawa (rope). They also may have contained hojutsu (gunnery). Instructors in these arts, including the Muso-ryu jo, were appointed to the position; they were not hereditary.

Ono Kyusaku was named a dangyo instructor for Haruyoshi in 1796. From this time until the end of the Edo period (circa 1850-1867; also known as the Bakumatsu), the Muso-ryu was closely associated with the dangyo system.

In 1815 the Jigyo line of Muso-ryu was broken when Fujimoto Heikichi died. Hatae Kyuhei, instructor on the Haruyoshi side from 1822 to 1829 revived this line which then continued to the Meiji era (1868-1912), when it died out with the last headmaster Yokota Enji (d. 1876).

The ability of Hatae to revive both the True Path and the Jigyo lines of Shindo Muso-ryu, while being the Haruyoshi instructor, would suggest that the lines were not distinct, and that there must have been a certain amount of cross training.

During the Bakumatsu, or the mid-nineteenth century, the three lines of Muso-ryu were very active. There were eighteen menkyo holders in the Haruyoshi line, fifteen in the Jigyo and nine in the "true path".

At the end of this period, in 1871, the han, or traditional feudal system, was abolished, and along with it the dangyo instructor's positions.

Jodo, Taylor and Tribe

The associated arts

There are several other weapons arts associated with the modern Shindo Muso-ryu. These include the Ikkaku-ryu juttejutsu (short stick), Ittatsu-ryu hojojutsu (rope), Shinto-ryu kenjutsu (sword), Isshin-ryu kusarigama (sickle and chain), and Uchida-ryu tanjojutsu (half-jo fighting methods).

Wayne Muromoto states that the third headmaster, Matsuzaki Kin'emon, introduced Ittatsu-ryu and Ikkaku-ryu. Matsui makes no mention of this but these two arts certainly have the longest association with the Muso-ryu.

Matsui notes that by the mid-1700s the Ikkaku-ryu torite (capturing art) was taught in the "new-just" Muso-ryu and the Ten'ami-ryu. Ittatsu-ryu rope was taught in "new-just" Muso-ryu and Ikkaku-ryu rope in Ten'ami-ryu. This mixing of Ikkaku-ryu between two of the jo schools again argues for a great deal of cross training between "schools" or ryu. This is not surprising when one considers they were all being taught in the same han to the same population of students.

Hirano Kichizo (d. 1871) replaced Matsumoto Bizen no kami with Iizasa Yamashiro no kami as the starting point of the ryu. Hirano also developed Shinto-ryu kenjutsu in the Muso-ryu by introducing eight tachi and four kodachi sword kata.

Shiriashi Hanjiro (1842-1927) introduced Isshin-ryu kusarigama to the curriculum, and he also adopted Uchida Ryogoro's (1837-1921) Sutekki-jutsu, or cane arts, which were developed around 1900 after Japanese gentlemen began carrying western-style walking sticks to go with their bowler hats. The latter art is now usually called tanjo-jutsu.

The modern era of Shindo Muso-ryu and the formation of ZNKR jodo

After the Meiji restoration of 1868 Hirano Saburo Yoshinari of the Haruyoshi line and Yoshimura Hanjiro Yoshinobu of the Jigyo line began training students jointly. Shiraishi Hanjiro (1842-1927) attended these practices and was one of six people eventually awarded a joint densho. Shiraishi was originally a student of Hirano Kichizo and Sada Teisuke of Haruyoshi. He later received mokuroku from Okuma Shinpachi of the Jigyo line. His training before receiving the joint menkyo was from Yoshimura Hanjiro.

Outside Japan there is often an assumption made that the various ryu -- and even the branches within a ryu -- were distinct and exclusive entities, and many argue further that one should study with only one instructor. However, the dangyo of the Kuroda han seemed to be a wide mix of ryu, and there seemed to be no problem for Hatae Kyuhei to reestablish two "ha" or branches of Muso-ryu. Likewise, Shiriashi Hanjiro had four instructors from two branches. Therefore exclusivity may owe more to a student's (native or foreign) lack of opportunity to study with other instructors than to choice.

Because the old ways had fallen out of favor and new ways had not yet developed, the Meiji era (1868-1912) represents a bottleneck in the history of the Japanese martial arts. Shiraishi was the only senior instructor of the combined Shindo Muso-ryu tradition to teach during this period, and as a result his methods set the standard for subsequent Shindo Muso-ryu instruction.

Shiraishi's dojo in Hakata was fixed to the wall of an inn. It measured 3.7m by 9.1m (about 12 by 30 feet) and was open on one side. Shiraishi taught from the veranda of his house, which faced this wall. He had many students, but the three most influential were Takayama Kiroku, Shimizu Takaji, and Otofuji Ichizo.

During the early Showa period (1926-1945), Japan became an ultra-nationalistic country with enormous imperial ambition. Because training in martial arts was supposed to make young people more resistant to the blandishments of socialists and more willing to serve and perhaps die during war, the Japanese government began actively patronizing traditional martial arts and ways. As a result, jodo flourished during this period.

Takayama Kiroku opened a dojo in 1929 that was named Fukuoka Dojo. Takayama was named shihan ("master") and Shimizu fuku-shihan ("assistant master"). There were five more menkyo holders as well in this group.
Shimizu Sensei, photo courtesy Jon Bluming

In 1930 Shimizu moved to Tokyo and when Takayama died in 1938 Otofuji Ichizo took over the Fukuoka Dojo. He continued teaching at Fukuoka until his death in the 1990s, and awarded menkyo to several of today's top-ranked jodo instructors.

Shimizu Takaji was born in 1896 and in 1913, at the age of 17, began training in jo with Shiraishi Hanjiro. In 1918, at age 23, he received his mokuroku (scrolls of transmission) and two years after that his menkyo certificate. In 1927, through an introduction provided by the well-known swordsmanship instructor Nakayama Hakudo, Shimizu demonstrated jo to the Tokyo police. In 1930 he moved to Tokyo and began teaching at the Mumon Dojo (formerly the Teikan boxing gym). In 1931 he began teaching jo at Kano Jigoro's Kodokan judo dojo as well as to the Sea Scouts (Admiral Takeshita Isamu, an avid swordsman and aikibudo practitioner, was head of the Sea Scouts) and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. In 1933 a special police unit was formed which included the jo in its equipment, and it was here that Shimizu began his long association with the top kendo instructors in Tokyo.

In 1939 Shimizu went to Manchuria to teach jo and Matsui states that he eventually taught jo to 1,500,000 people. This figure undoubtedly includes all the students of his students.

In 1940, perhaps to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the legendary establishment of the Japanese Empire, Shimizu changed the name from jojutsu to jodo and formed the Dai Nihon Jodokai (Imperial Japan Jodo Association).

Following World War II there was a purge of ultra-nationalistic and militaristic organizations in Japan and kendo and judo were for awhile no longer mandatory subjects in public schools. Furthermore, a licensing body known as the Butokukai was disbanded. As a result, many martial arts teachers were unemployed. Jodo instructors were less affected than many, however, as even under the Allied occupation government the Japanese police continued training in kendo, judo, and keijo, or police staff. The latter was interrupted for a short time in 1948 while the New York Police Department provided the Japanese police with training in the use of nightsticks, but resumed soon thereafter. [EN1]

Jon Bluming, Shimizu sensei and Donn Draeger Aug 1959

In 1954 the Butokukai reopened in Kyoto, to cheers from the Japanese political right, whose members still believed that martial art training provided a good way of instilling ultra-nationalism into young people. In 1955 the Nihon Jodo Renmei (Japan Jodo Association) was formed and in 1956 was renamed the Zen Nihon Jodo Renmei (All Japan Jodo Association).

In 1965 the Renbukan Dojo was built on donated land and existed until 1978 when it was closed.

ZNKR seitei jodo

In 1964 Otofuji Ichizo visited Shimizu in Tokyo and discussed Shimizu's proposal to the ZNKR for a seitei jo training set. This led to the establishment of a research committee and in 1968 Shimizu Takaji and Nakajima Asakichi demonstrated the seitei jodo kata to the Chair of the ZNKR. The seitei jo kata were approved and in 1969 Shimizu (tachi) and Otofuji (jo) presented them to the public. Seitei iai was also presented for the first time at this demonstration.

Shimizu Takaji was a great popularizer of jo, through his own teaching, the association with the ZNKR, and through such things as collaboration with Yoshikawa Eiji on his famous pre-World War II newspaper series and novel about Musashi Miyamoto in which he promoted the character of Muso Gonnosuke. [EN2] He died in 1978.

Headmasters and lineage counts

It is said that Shimizu Takuji was the 25th headmaster of Shindo Muso-ryu while Shiraishi Hanjiro was 24th. These counts are made by combining the Haruyoshi and the Jigyo line instructors, as you don't get that many by following one line only. At the moment there does not seem to be a headmaster as such, but there are several menkyo kaiden and, of course, the ZNKR ranking system contains many 8-dan ranked instructors. When an art is small, it is easy to identify a leading teacher, but with the many students training today, the situation may be considered similar to the heyday of the dangyo training, with several lines and lineages all teaching the same art with slightly different approaches.

Changes to jodo through its history

It is hard to know what changes were made to the art from the time of Muso to the Meiji period, but it is safe to say there were additions to the art from the original five techniques -- assuming that was the number Muso developed. There were undoubtedly changes in style and curriculum associated with the split into three lines, and certainly at the re-unification of the lines in the Meiji. The two Ran-ai kata were developed in the Bakumatsu (1850-67), a rather poetic development perhaps, if you consider the "chaos" of the period and the "uniting (with) chaos" meaning of Ran-ai.

Matsui mentions some of the changes Takayama Kiroku made to popularize jo, and Shimizu Takaji carried these on. (Matsui states that Otofuji Ichizo eventually returned to the older forms).

Shimizu Takaji certainly made jo easier to teach to large groups with the introduction of the twelve kihon waza [basic techniques] to the school, and he also introduced the later Gohon no Midare set of kata to the koryu. [EN3]

No martial art is fixed in place or in history, doubtless there will be further developments in the art.


Iizasa Yamashiro no kami
Matsumoto Bizen no Kami
"true path" jodo founded keicho (1596-1614)
1. Muso Gonnosuke
4. Higashi Han'emon 
"true path"
Harada changes name from "true path" to "new just"
5. Harada Heizo (d. 1733) 
"new just" ("kansai-ryu"
5. Yokata Hanzaburo "true path" (menkyo 1720)
Nagatomi has 300 students
7. Nagatomi Koshiro (1717-1772)
Moriki Keichi "Moriki-ryu" (menkyo 1784)
Kuroda han dangyo jo established for ashigaru, name now "way of gods", techniques rearranged. ikkaku-ryu, ittatsu-ryu linked to SMR
Ono Kyusaku (d. 1807) 
(dangyo 1796)
Komori Seibei 

Line broken at Fujimoto Heikichi (d. 1815)

 Line broken with death of Inoue Ryosuke in 1831
Ran-ai created in bakumatsu (1850-1867)
Hatae Kyuhei (d. 1829; head 1822-29)
Line reestablished by Hatae Kyuhei
Line reestablished by Hatae Kyuhei, survives until Bakumatsu era 
Lineage pushed back to Iizasa, shinto-ryu kenjutsu formulated. 42 menkyo in the 3 lines
Hirano Kichizo d. 1871 (menkyo 1833, dangyo 1845, retired 1865)
Clan system abolished, end of dangyo instructors
Yoshikawa Wataru 
Yamazaki Koji "shujo-ryu" last of line
Hirano Saburo 1837-1916 
Yoshimura Hanjiro 
only student to teach through Meiji period, isshin-ryu kusarigama introduced, uchida-ryu tanjo created
Shiriashi Hanjiro 1842-1927 "combined lines"
Major expansion of modern jo, Shimizu creates 12 kihon and gohon no midare
Shimizu Takaji
Takayama Kiroku
Otofuji Ichizo



Krieger, Pascal. Jodo: the Way of the Stick (Geneva: Shang Do Kwan, 1989). ISBN 2-9503214-0-2

Muromoto, Wayne. "Muso Gonnosuke and the Shinto Muso-ryu Jo," Furyu, 1:2 (1994), 14-19.

Rogers, John M. "Honcho Bugei Shoden Ch. 5," Monumenta Nipponica, 46:2 (1991), 173-202.

Skoss, Diane, editor. "Sword and Spirit Volume 2" (Berkeley Heights, NJ: Koryu Books, 1999).

Skoss, Meik. "Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo: An Emic Description," Hoplos 4:4 (1985), 12-17.

Matsui, Kenji. "The History of Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu," translated by Hunter Armstrong (Kamuela, HI: International Hoplological Society, 1993).

Online Resources


EN1. Guy H. Power, "Budo in Japanese and U.S. Policies," unpublished M.P.A. thesis, San Jose State University, May 1998, 83-85.

EN2. Yoshikawa Eiji. The Musashi Saga, five volumes, translated from the Japanese by Charles S. Terry (New York: Pocket Books, 1989-1990).

EN3. Koryu literally means "old flow," and refers to traditions dating before 1868. Although "old flow" implies that there can be no changes, this is not true. Instead, it means that only the headmaster of the style can introduce revisions.

JNC Sept 2000