A long time ago I wrote about Mac tricking me into a weapons tournament. Been thinking about that, as well as a conversation between acquaintances on the efficiency or superiority of jo versus katana.
I stayed out of the conversation, but it was quickly apparent that I didn’t see the problem the way the people arguing did. It ties back to that tournament. In the tournament (and it wasn’t any big thing, just a small round robin among friends), I stuck with a shinai the whole time. I’m used to katana or boken. The shinai itself is something I never practice with. It is too straight, too long and too light. The other competitors were very skilled and everyone had their pick of weapons- sticks, spears, staffs, shinai, daggers, sword and shield.
The choice of weapon wasn’t the reason I made it through undefeated, though I over-heard one of the other contenders comment that “the katana is a superior weapon.” It isn’t really-- I’d rather use a spear any time I have range, or a pair of short swords if I don’t-- and I wasn’t using a katana anyway.
The thing the others players were doing (speculation alert) and the genesis of the argument about katana and jo, is that everyone was trying to figure out what they could do with what they had. They were playing from their resources, trying to maximize their skill base to win.
The stickfighters were fighting with their sticks with all they had, for instance.
I was looking at what my opponent had. How do you defeat a pair of sticks? Sword and shield? Spear? Another shinai.? Strategizing to the opponent instead of from myself.
The katana/jo thing. You don’t use a stick against a sword the way you use a stick against a stick.
There are people who will tell you that blade and stick are interchangeable, but they haven’t thought about it much. Both are longer than they are wide, but they do damage in very different ways and do their most serious damage to different tissues. Orientation (is it edge on?) isn’t a problem with a club. Things that bleed off power from blunt strikes will still leave you bleeding badly if you try them on blades.
One of the conversants in the great debate, impressed with the might of steel, offered to stand with his katana against anyone who would face him with a jo. He explained that steel was inherently superior to wood, stronger, more dangerous.
But it’s not, really. Wood and steel are strong in different ways. For that matter different types of wood are different. Part of the problem is how to use one against the other. The bigger problem is how to use a staff against a swordsman or a sword against a jodoka.
Jo against jo might be a matter of skill.
Jo against sword? In the first second you will see if he is afraid or not. If he is not afraid, he will come to you. You shorten your grip and the jo has nearly a foot of extra reach and you beat at his hands until he can no longer hold his weapon, circling and angling as he tries to close.
If you see the glimmer of fear, you close, pressing the center of the jo into the blade, hoping it bites, making sure it does because that will buy you the instant to get into the dead space behind his hands, where you can use elbows, the staff and your hands to punish or strip away his weapon…
Sword against jo? The only thing you have to fear is the thrust, and that only at specific range. If the point of the jo strays outside of the triangle, launch an attack pressing the blade, hips and feet all closing. He cannot retreat as fast as you advance. If he angles press on.
If the point never strays, circle (blade high) until you catch his feet slightly impeded, then circle your sword down, gliding his tip to the side as you step in. Use the sword as a pressing blade and do not forget the hilt, your elbows, knees and head.