Shintō Musō-ryū

Shintō Musō-ryū
Shintō Musō-ryū
Founder Musō Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi (夢想 權之助 勝吉, fl. c.1605, dates of birth and death unknown)
Date founded Sometime between 1602 and 1614[1]
Period founded Early Edo period
Current information
Current headmaster No single leader. 25th and last (unofficial) headmaster was Takaji Shimizu.
Current headquarters No single headquarters
Arts taught
Art Description
Jōdō or jōjutsu Art of the staff
Kenjutsu Sword art
Tanjōjutsu Art of wielding a walking stick
Kusarigamajutsu Art of the chain and sickle
Hojōjutsu Rope-tying art
Juttejutsu Art of the truncheon
Ancestor schools
Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū
Assimilated schools
Ikkaku-ryū • Ittatsu-ryū • Isshin-ryūShintō (Kasumi)-ryūUchida-ryū
Descendant schools
Keijojutsu[2] • Seitei Jodo

Shintō Musō-ryū, or Shindō Musō-ryū (神道夢想流?),a most commonly known by its practice of jōdō, is a traditional school (koryū) of the Japanese martial art of jōjutsu, or the art of wielding the short staff (). The technical purpose of the art is to learn how to defeat a swordsman in combat using the , with an emphasis on proper combative distance, timing and concentration. The system includes teachings of other weapon systems which are contained in Shintō Musō-ryū as auxiliary arts (Fuzoku ryuha). The school is sometimes abbreviated as SMR.

The art was founded by the samurai Musō Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi (夢想 權之助 勝吉, fl. c.1605, dates of birth and death unknown) in the early Edo period (1603–1868) and, according to legend,[1] first put to use in a duel with Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵, 1584–1645). The original art created by Musō Gonnosuke has evolved and been added upon ever since its inception and up to modern times. The art was successfully brought outside of its original domain in Fukuoka and outside of Japan itself in the 19th and 20th century. The spreading of Shintō Musō-ryū beyond Japan was largely the effort of Takaji Shimizu, 1896–1978), considered the 25thd headmaster. With the assistance of his own students and the cooperation of the kendō[3] community, Shimizu spread Shintō Musō-ryū worldwide.



Musō Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi, founder of Shintō Musō-ryū (Image from the Buko Hyakunin Isshu)

According to its own history,[1] Shintō Musō-ryū was founded in the Keichō era (1594–1614) by Musō Gonnosuke, a samurai with considerable martial arts experience. His experiences, which would climax in his two duels with the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, led him to create a set of techniques for the . These techniques constituted the core of his new school which he named Shintō Musō-ryū.[1] Gonnosuke used his training in kenjutsu, naginatajutsu, sōjutsu and bōjutsu, which he acquired in part from Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū[4] and Kashima Jikishinkage-ryū, to develop a new way of handling the in combat.[5]

..know the solar plexus with a round stick[6]
Miyamoto Musashi wielding two wooden swords. The legend states that Musō Gonnosuke found a way to break Musashi's two-sword style of combat and defeat him.

Gonnosuke was said to have fully mastered the secret form called The Sword of One Cut (Ichi no Tachi), a form that was developed by the founder of the Kashima Shintō-ryū and later spread to other Kashima schools such as Kashima Jikishinkage-ryū and Kashima Shin-ryū.[1][7] Gonnosuke developed several techniques for the that were to be used against an opponent armed with a sword, partially by using the superior length of the to keep the swordsman at a disadvantage. The legend states that Musō Gonnosuke fought two duels with Miyamoto Musashi. Gonnosuke was defeated in the first,[1] but was victorious in the second, using his newly developed jōjutsu techniques to either defeat Musashi or force the duel into a draw. One of several legends says that while resting near a fire in a certain temple, Gonnosuke heard a voice say, "With the round stick, know the strategy of the moon in water" (丸木を以て、水月を知れ maruki o motte, suigetsu o shire?).[1] Supposedly that was his inspiration to develop his new techniques and go fight Musashi a second time. After the creation of his techniques and his establishment as a skilled jōjutsu practitioner he was invited by the Kuroda clan of Fukuoka, in northern Kyūshū, to teach his art to their warriors.[1] Gonnosuke accepted the invitation and settled down there.

Shiraishii Hanjiro (1842–1927), Shintō Musō-ryū's 24th official headmaster

Shintō Musō-ryū survived the abolishment of the samurai in 1877, and the Second World War. With the efforts made by Shiraishi Hanjiro and his successor Takaji Shimizu, the art's 24th and 25th unofficial headmasters, respectively, the art progressed into an international martial art with numerous dōjo all over the world.

Modern day Shintō Musō-ryū

Jōdō and jōjutsu

Shimizu Takaji (1896–1978), Shintō Musō-ryū's 25th unofficial headmaster and the arts leading personality during the 20th century

Partially because Shintō Musō-ryū has no single head-organization or single governing body, there exist no standardized way of conducting training. Dōjos belonging to individual SMR groups have individual ways of training and passing on the tradition. As with several other arts, such as iaidō and aikidō, Shintō Musō-ryū was renamed from "jōjutsu" to "jōdō" by Shimizu Takaji in 1940. Note that the use of the appellation "jōdō" is not universal for all SMR practitioners. Shimizu Takaji never held a formal position of leader of SMR. The words jōjutsu and jōdō are normally used interchangeably by the various groups.

Staff methods

Being a koryū, an old school with a traditional way of teaching, SMR uses verbal teachings that are passed on from teacher to student in order to teach the large majority of the practical applications in the art. The training forms (kata) alone do not (and cannot for practical reasons) reveal all the large number of practical applications and variations of the arts techniques. This can only be done properly by an experienced teacher who spends many years passing on the teachings to the student. Many koryū arts have deliberately hidden the main applications inside their training forms making it visible for all to see, but still hidden, unless properly explained by a teacher knowledgeable in the art. This was done as a way of making sure the secrets and principles could not be copied by rival schools or individuals.

The SMR tradition has been shaped over the centuries as to teach the student, besides the actual fighting techniques, the proper value and application of combative distance to the opponent (Ma-ai), posture (shisei), mental awareness (zanshin) among other skills[6]. As a traditional Japanese martial art there is also a high emphasize on etiquette, bowing (ritsurei) and attaining proper mental attitude in the student and approach to his/her training.[6]

An example of using the staff to control the sword and prevent it from continuing a strike

In the fighting art of SMR the aim is to defeat an opponent armed with one or two swords using the staff.[6] In SMR the staff is a flexible weapon and can be used in several ways. A staff-wielder can use the superior length[6] of the staff to keep the opponent at a distance which gives the wielder an advantage. The staff is also used, when applicable, to get very close to the opponent and use the staff to control the opponents arms or hands. The staff can be used in a manner that enables the wielder to defeat the opponent without killing him. Common methods is controlling the opponents hands, wrists, and other targets by using the staff to either strike at, thrust or otherwise manipulating the target-areas[6]. When applicable, more lethal strikes are aimed at the opponents more vital areas such as the head, solar plexus and temples are used[6].


Demonstrating Hissage no kamae, a tactical position to hide the staff behind the back and leg for surprise deployment against an opponent

The forms (kata) and fundamentals (kihon) are at the center of what is taught in SMR, and there exists no form of organized and standardized sparring (kumite) such as in karate, kendō and judō. A common procedure is to teach new students the twelve basic techniques and then progressing into practicing the training forms. There are approximately 64 forms with the staff,[1][6] although the number can vary from the individual SMR groups and organizations. The auxiliary arts incorporate their own sets of forms with their respective weapons.

A normal training session is very systematic with the senior student commanding the pace and direction of the session with the entire group often training as one, especially during warm-ups and drills. A normal session usually begins with a repetition of fundamental exercises for all students. Sometimes drills are added to further sharpen the basic techniques. Drills and forms involving newer students are often performed with a more senior student taking on the role of the attacker"attacking sword" (打太刀 uchidachi?). In all paired techniques and drills, in addition to the uchidachi, there is always a receiver of the attack, "receiving sword" (受太刀 shidachi?)[6]. When applicable, the uchidachi is always the senior to the shidachi in terms of experience. This is done as a way to develop the younger shidachi increase his skills by having him face a more experienced and confident swordsman and thus heighten the combative feeling.


Training with the staff under a responsible leader is done with a high emphasis on student safety. Unlike the wooden-sword, which is generally not lethal and only used in training, there is no safe traditional training-version of the staff and the weapon used in training is the same weapon that would have been used in actual combat[6]. When applying strikes or thrusts to vital area the student is taught not to use full force but to halt the staff within a few centimeters of a particular vital area such as the temples or other parts of the head. Other less sensitive areas on the human body are struck, though with much reduced force.[6] The practice of forms and techniques is conducted under the supervision of a senior student that ensures the techniques and forms are proper and within safety margins.

Etiquette and traditions in the dōjo
Nishioka Tsuneo and Katsuhiko Arai demonstrating Kazari, the traditional bowing before/after a kata

A typical Shintō Musō-ryū dōjo practices the same courtesy and manners as found in Japanese society generally; placing great emphasis on etiquette and tradition.[6] In some dōjo, Japanese verbal commands[6] are used to guide basics, warm-ups, and the training of the "standard forms" (seiteigata).

The traditional Japanese bow (ritsurei)[6] is practiced in all Japanese and Western dōjo. Although not all dōjo use the exact same routine, they do generally contain the same set of principles. Students bow to the front of the dōjo (shōmen) when entering the dōjo or leaving it,[6] and observes the hierarchy with instructors (sensei), seniors (senpai), and juniors (kōhai).

During the practice of basics and forms, certain rules of behavior are applied when switching positions and weapons between shidachi and uchidachi[6]. This is done in order to have an orderly training session and to reflect good manners, as well as for safety reasons. The students bow before and after performing a kata, drill or any other exercise[6]. The switching of weapons is, by tradition and experience, a way to minimize any threatening appearance and show respect for the training partner.

Kazari 飾り(かざり) is the traditional SMR-way of initiating and ending kata-training[6]. Kazari (meaning ”ornament”) is also done in all the auxiliary arts. Kazari starts with the two practitioners crossing their weapons and placing them crossed on the floor, retiring a few steps to perform a squatted bow (rei), and ends which the practitioners going forward to retain their weapons and start kata-training[6].

Forms (kata)

The practice of forms (kata) is an old way of teaching traditional martial arts in Japan, and is the core of many "old school/flow" (koryū) martial arts. Forms are used as a way to teach advanced techniques and maneuvers through a series of scripted movements and actions against one or several opponents.[6] In the majority of the old martial arts, forms are at the center of the art with little or no sparring as compared to modern martial arts (gendai budō) such as Karate, Kendō or Jūdō.

The modern Shintō Musō-ryū system holds approximately 64 staff-forms divided into several series, though this number is including variations and is not always counted as an individual form[1]. Students following the teachings of Shimizu Takaji normally learn 5 more kata in a separate series called Gohon-no-midare[6]. This series is not taught in all SMR-groups. A common procedure is for new students to begin their form training by learning two or more forms from the "standard staff forms" (seitei jōdō) due to their (relative) technical simplicity.

The series Gohon no midare, was created by Shimizu in the late 1930s and are not part of the original "scroll of transmission" (denshō), which contains the list of official SMR techniques.[1][6] Thus, the Gohon no midare is not taught in all Shintō Musō-ryū dōjo.[1][6]

Basic techniques

The "basic techniques of striking and thrusting" (kihon no uchi tsuki waza) is a system of twelve techniques drawn from the existing staff-forms with minor modifications[6]. They are used as a way to better introduce a new student to jōdō and is also a good tool for further skill development for seniors. The basic techniques were developed and systematized mainly by Shimizu Takaji[1] at his Tokyo dōjo for the purpose of easing the introduction to (complex) forms training. Shimizu's peer, Takayama Kiroku, leader of the Fukuoka Shintō Musō-ryū Dōjo, saw the value of these basic techniques and introduced them into his own training sessions. Shimizu would eventually remove or modify some of the more dangerous techniques and beginner-level forms so as not to cause injuries to newer students.

The basic techniques are trained both individually[6] (tandoku dosa) and in pairs (sotai dosa), with the defender using the staff and the attacker using the sword. Today, new students normally begin with tandoku dosa, learning the staff first and later switching to the sword, and then finally learning the entire technique with a training partner. The techniques are normally trained in sequence.

During the Edo period and well into the 20th century the attacker was always the senior student, with the defender (being the junior), starting and training only the staff forms for several years before learning the attacker's role [1]. In modern times for the most part, a beginner learns both the sword and staff right from the beginning of his training.

The following are the twelve basic techniques:[1][6]

  1. Honte uchi (本手打 main strike?)
  2. Gyakute uchi (逆手打 reverse-grip strike?)
  3. Hikiotoshi uchi (引落打 downward-pulling strike?)
  4. Kaeshi tsuki (返突 counter thrust?)
  5. Gyakute tsuki (逆手突 reverse-grip thrust?)
  6. Maki otoshi (巻落 downward twist?)
  7. Kuri tsuke (繰付 spin and attach?)
  8. Kuri hanashi (繰放 spin and release?)
  9. Tai atari (体当 body strike?)
  10. Tsuki hazushi uchi (突外打 thrust, release, strike?)
  11. Dō barai uchi (胴払打 body-reaping strike?)
  12. Tai hazushi uchi migi (体外打右 body-releasing strike, right side?); tai hazushi uchi hidari (体外打左 body-releasing strike, left side?)

The twelve basic techniques are used in both Shintō Musō-ryū and in the Seitei jōdō of the All Japan Kendō Federation (Zen Nihon Kendō Renmei, ZNKR), although the latter uses a slightly modified version.

Seitei Jōdō Kata

The Seitei Jōdō kata were developed by Shimizu Takaji in the 1960s and presented to a committee tasked with the creation of a compact Jōdō system to be taught in Kendō dojos.[1][6][8] The result was the Zen Ken Renmei Seitei Jōdō system consisting of twelve forms and twelve basic techniques. Ten of these forms are drawn from the existing Shintō Musō-ryū Jō forms with minor modifications, and two other forms were created specifically for Seitei Jōdō. The two specific Seitei jōdō forms are taught in various Shintō Musō-ryū dōjos outside the main series of Kata.

Grades – new and classical

For many of the classical martial arts organizations the highest rank available in is the "License of Complete Transmission" (Menkyo Kaiden) of the teachings of the system, and includes the technical as well as oral tradition. This rank is used in many classical martial arts of Japan. In SMR, a student considered for a Menkyo Kaiden must first attain the separate rank of Menkyo. This process will take many years, depending upon the skill, dedication and maturity of the student. Shimizu Takaji himself was issued his Menkyo Kaiden very early in his life in comparison to modern western standards.[9]

A person with a fully valid Menkyo Kaiden has the right to teach the art to whoever he chooses and also holds the right to issue scrolls of transmissions to his students. The Menkyo Kaiden holder may also, if he so chooses, implement modifications in the SMR system to techniques or kata. As Shintō Musō-ryū does not have a single organization with a single leader, these changes will only be relevant to that teacher's direct students, and will not be universal. Instead, every person who has been issued a Menkyo Kaiden can technically be described as teaching their own variation of the ryū, known as "ha". "Ha" is a variation of a martial arts system taught by a Menkyo Kaiden but is still a part of the main ryū. However, if a Menkyo Kaiden decided to make radical changes to the system, such as adding or removing parts of the art, he would be departing from belonging to a ha, and in effect be creating a new style.

A recent example of a ha turning into its own style is found in the iaidō art Musō Shinden-ryū created by Nakayama Hakudo. Nakayama trained in Musō Jikiden Eishin-ryū iaijutsu, and decided to modify what he had learned and officially label it Musō Shinden-ryū, thus creating a new style with no official ties to Eishin-ryū.

There are five classical ranks in Shintō Musō-ryū, as follows in ascending order of seniority:[1]

  1. Certificate of Entering the Interior (奥入書 Oku-iri-sho?)
  2. First Syllabus (初目録 Sho-mokuroku?)
  3. Later Syllabus (後目録 Go-mokuroku?)
  4. License (免許 Menkyo?) – Awarded after the first of the five Gokui-kata have been taught.
  5. License of Complete Transmission (免許皆伝 Menkyo Kaiden?) – Once all five Gokui-kata have been learned, the Menkyo scroll is officially stamped by the senior instructor and thus becomes a Menkyo Kaiden.

Grades in Seitei Jōdō

The Seitei Jōdō system has a dan/kyu system but due to different grade demands the Seitei Jōdō rank is not valid as a Shintō Musō-ryū rank. The system also includes the Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi ranks.

Other forms of Grades

Modern-day Shintō Musō-ryū is practiced within several large independent organizations which includes the European Jodo Federation, Nihon Jōdōkai, International Jōdō Federation, International Jodo Association, Sei Ryu Kai to name a few. As such the individual organizations has different grading requirements and in some cases different type of grades.

European Jōdō Federation

EJF is headed by Pascal Krieger and incorporates three separate grade systems.[10]

  • 1. The dan/kyu system used in the majority of modern Japanese martial arts today.
  • 2. The "Shoden, Chûden and Kuden" system put into effect by Donn F. Draeger, used today by the International Jodo Federation.
  • 3. The classical system of giving licenses of transmission: "Oku-iri", "Shomokuroku", "Gomokuroku", "Menkyo" and "Menkyo Kaiden".
Grades in the International Jōdō Association

IJA follows the grading system used by Kuroda Ichitaro. Students grade up to 5th dan and thereafter receive licenses of transmission. Students must also grade with the Zen Nippon Kendō Renmei in the Seitei series of Kata.

  • 1. The dan/kyu system. Grades are issued up to 5th dan.
  • 2. The classical system of giving licenses of transmission: "Oku-iri", "Shomokuroku", "Gomokuroku", "Menkyo" and "Menkyo Kaiden".
Grades in the Nihon Jōdōkai

NJK is headed by Kaminoda Tsunemori and incorporates two separate grade-systems.[11]

  1. The classical system of giving licenses of transmission: "Oku-iri", "Sho-mokuroku", "Go-mokuroku", "Menkyo" and "Menkyo Kaiden".
  2. A new system developed by Kaminoda Tsunemori's organization to replace the Dan/Kyū system. The new system involves three ranks in three jō-kata series, "Basic" ( Omote?), "Middle-level" (中段 Chūdan?) and "Shadow" ( Kage?), after which the classical grade-system is used.

Ranks attainable in the Omote series:

  • Basic Technique, First Grade (表技初級 Omote-waza Sho Kyū?)
  • Basic Technique, Middle Grade (表技中級 Omote-waza Chū Kyū?)
  • Basic Technique, Upper Grade (表技上級 Omote-waza Jō Kyū?)

Ranks attainable in the Chūdan series:

  • Middle-level Technique, First Grade (中段技初級 Chūdan-waza Sho Kyū?)
  • Middle-level Technique, Middle Grade (中段技中級 Chūdan-waza Chū Kyū?)
  • Middle-level Technique, Upper Grade (中段技上級 Chūdan-waza Jō Kyū?)

Ranks attainable in the Kage series:

  • Shadow Technique, First Grade (影技初級 Kage-waza Sho Kyū?)
  • Shadow Technique, Middle Grade (影技中級 Kage-waza Chū Kyū?)
  • Shadow Technique, Upper Grade (影技上級 Kage-waza Jō Kyū?)

Classical ranking system

  • Oku-iri-sho
  • Sho-mokuroku
  • Go-mokuroku
  • Menkyo
  • Menkyo Kaiden

Weapons and training gear

– The staff

  • Theis featured in several Japanese martial arts. For more information see the and Jodo articles.
A Jo made of red oak, approximately 128 cm long

Essentially the is a wooden staff approx 128 cm in length. In modern times the measurements has been fixed to 128 cm in length and between 2.4-2.6 cm in width, though in the Edo-period the length of the was customized as to suit the height of the wielder. The is used in several gendai and koryu martial arts such as aikidō and Tendo-ryu respectively.

According to legend, Gonnosuke was inspired to create and use the from a divine vision[1] some time after he was defeated by Miyamoto Musashi in a duel. In this vision, a divine being in the form of a child appeared, brandishing a stick (or log in one version) and proclaiming "maruki o motte, suigetsu o shire" ("Holding a round stick, know the suigetsu"). The , however, as a simple staff or walking-stick cannot be claimed to have a single inventor.

The , like its larger sibling the , was never an effective killing-weapon on the battlefield in comparison to the sword, spear, glaive and bow. Although the and most other staves could be used to lethal effect when thrust at vital points of the body, when faced with a fully armored opponent those vital points would in most cases be covered by armour-plating. As a result there were very few ryu that were dedicated to the staff-arts in the warring era with other more effective weapons were available. There are several ryu that include -techniques in its system. One example is the -tradition found in the koryū art Tendo-ryu Naginatajutsu, founded in 1582. In Tendo-ryū, which uses the Naginata as the primary weapon, there are techniques with the that simulates a scenario where the naginata has been cut in two and the wielder has to defend himself with the staff-portion only. With the onset of peace with the start of the Edo-period (1603–1867), the conflicts with heavy armored warriors became a thing of the past. In this era, the -art would come into its own against non-armored samurai, ronin, bandits and other opponents. It was extensively used to police the local clan domains.

Various other martial arts also include elements of that are not necessarily related to Shintō Musō-ryū. One of the most famous promoter of the outside of Shintō Musō-ryū in modern times, and indeed in the martial arts community as a whole, was the founder of Aikidō, Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba trained in a variety of ryu including Yagyu swordsmanship, but is not known to have trained in Shintō Musō-ryū.[9] Ueshiba also used the long staff to perform the same techniques.

Ken – The sword

  • The Ken is featured in several Japanese martial arts. For more information see the Kenjutsu article.

The Japanese Samurai sword, with its long history and many variations, has a prominent role in Shintō Musō-ryū. In the early Edo period the Samurai wore the Daishō, or two swords which was only allowed to be carried by Samurai and was an undeniable symbol of their status in the Tokugawa's Japan. The Daishō consisted of the katana (long sword) and the wakizashi (short sword) and they were the weapons of choice for samurai during their regular duties. When the Samurai went to war a heavier and curved sword (tachi) would be used instead. In SMR the katana is the weapon used, but for training purposes a wooden sword (bokken) is used to minimize risk of injuries. Every form (kata) starts with the attacker, called uchidachi, attacking the defender (shidachi), who in turn defeats the opponent. In addition to the Katana, the wakizashi/kodachi is also used. In some of the staff and sword forms of SMR, the long sword is used in tandem with the short sword and sometimes only the short sword is used. In addition to the sword training provided in jo-kata, an addition of twelve kenjutsu-kata[1] is found in SMR.


In the majority of dōjos today, the jōdōka essentially uses the same clothing as practitioners of kendō, minus the armour and other protective padding: A blue/indigo uwagi (jacket), an obi (belt, often the same type as used in iaidō), a blue or black hakama (wide trousers used by samurai).[6] The type of clothing worn is not universal for all Shintō Musō-ryū dōjos. In some dōjos, which in addition to jōdō also may also have aikido practitioners, the white keikogi and regular white trousers are allowed. All-white keikogi and Hakama are also used in various dōjo and/or on special occasions such as public demonstrations or competitions.b

Fuzoku Ryuha (Assimilated Schools) of Shintō Musō-ryū

The modern Shintō Musō-ryū tradition is composed of approximately 64 jo-kata and is divided into eight sets. Together with the 12 kenjutsu kata they compose the core of the SMR-tradition. From the Edo period to the Meiji period, several other arts were assimilated fuzoku into the various branches of Shintō Musō-ryū and were meant to be trained alongside the main jo-forms. but For all intents and purposes, each of the fuzoku ryuha retain a separate identity with their own history and tradition and are generally not taught to people outside the SMR-tradition. Over the years several lineages of Gonnosuke's original art have added or dropped other Fuzuku Ryuha.[1]


Matsuzaki Kin'emon was the third headmaster of SMR and he is credited[6] with the creation of the Ittatsu-ryū and the Ikkaku-ryū. These two arts were taught in the Kuroda-domain as a complement to the combat-arts of the bushi (warriors) which included the staff, sword and musketry. The arts were not specifically SMR-arts though they were taught to the same students. After the fall of the Samurai the two arts found their way into the SMR-tradition as taught by Shiraishi Hanjiro, the arts 24th unofficial headmaster.

In many Shintō Musō-ryū dōjo, the assimilated arts are not normally taught to a student until he/she has reached a designated level of experience & expertise and a certain level of proficiency in the jō-forms. These designated levels are not standard but vary according to each organizations preference.

Isshin-ryū kusarigamajutsu

Isshin-ryū kusarigamajutsu is a school of handling the chain and sickle weapon. The 24th unofficial headmaster of Shinto Musō Ryu, Shirashi Hanjiro, received a full license (Menkyo) in Isshin-ryū from Morikata Heisaku in the late 19th century,[1]. Shiraishi would later transmit the Isshin-ryū to his own Jōdō students. Isshin-ryū should not be confused with the modern Okinawan karate system Isshin-ryu

Ikkaku-ryū juttejutsu

Ikkakū-ryū juttejutsu utilizes the jutte as a way of self-defense for use against an attacker armed with a sword (katana). It was originally created by Matsuzaki Kin'emon, the third headmaster of SMR and originally did not limit itself to jutte training but had a variety of weapons. It was mainly used by police-forces of the late Edo-period of Japan.

Kasumi Shintō-ryū kenjutsu (Shintō-ryū kenjutsu)

A collection of eight long-sword and four short-sword kata, including one two-sword kata are found in Shintō Musō-ryū. Neither the twelve kata nor the art itself had any known name in the Shintō Musō-ryū until the mid-19th century when "Shintō-ryū kenjutsu" started to be used and specific names were given for each of the twelve kata. In the 20th century, "Kasumi Shintō-ryū" or more recently "Shintō Kasumi-ryū" has surfaced as the original name for the twelve kata as taught in the Shintō Musō-ryū, though it is as of yet not an official name.c

Demonstration of a Uchida-ryū tanjōjutsu kata

Uchida-ryū tanjōjutsu – (Sutekki-jutsu)

The art of using the tanjō, (a 90 cm staff), that were originally created by SMR menkyo Uchida Ryogoro in the late 19th century.[1][6] The twelve kata, which at the time of their inception were loosely organised into a system called "sutteki-jutsu", were derived mainly from Shintō Musō-ryū and Ikkaku-ryū techniques.[1] "Sutteki" was the Japanese pronouncement of the english word "stick". Sutteki-jutsu was further developed by his son Uchida Ryohei, who systematized his father's work and brought about the modern Uchida-ryū tanjōjutsu system. The art was first known as Sutekki-Jutsu and later named Uchida-ryū in honor of its creator. The art was adopted into SMR to be taught alongside the other arts. Chuwa-ryū tankenjutsu is another name used for this art.

Ittatsu-ryū hojōjutsu

A school of restraining a person using cord or rope for use by police forces of the Edo-period and up to modern times. Matsuzaki Kinueumon Tsunekatsu, the third headmaster is credited[6] with creating the Ittatsu-ryū.

Weapons for integrated arts

As with the staff, the weapons found in the integrated arts were not inventions of Shintō Musō-ryū headmasters, but had been created and used long before they were chosen to be taught alongside the Shintō Musō-ryū Jo forms.[1]

Jutte(jitte) and tessen

  • The Jutte is featured in several Japanese martial arts. For more information see the Jutte article.

The jutte (or jitte) was a widespread Edo period police weapon used to control, disarm and subdue a criminal who would most likely be armed with a sword, without killing him (except in extreme situations). There exists at least 200 known[6] variations of the jutte. The jutte used in Shintō Musō-ryū is approx 45 cm in length.[6] In the integrated art of Ikkaku-ryū juttejutsu, the tessen, or war fan, approximately 30 cm in length, is used in tandem with the jutte in some of the kata.


  • The Kusarigama is featured in several Japanese martial arts. For more information see the Kusarigama article.

The Kusarigama is a chain-and-sickle weapon. The weapon is used in several ryu and the design varies from school to school. The kusarigama used in Isshin-ryū has a straight, double-edged 30 cm blade with a wooden handle approx 36 cm[6] long with an iron guard to protect the hand. The chain (kusari) has a heavy iron weight and is attached to the bottom of the handle. The chain is 12 shaku long[6] (3.6 meters) and the attached weight can be thrown against an opponent's weapon, hands or body, either disarming him or otherwise preventing him from properly defending himself against the kama. In some kata, the iron weight is thrown directly at the attackers body causing injury or stunning the opponent. The kusarigama also has non-lethal kata designed to trap and apprehend a swordsman, partially by using the long chain as a restraint. A famous user of the kusarigama outside of Shintō Musō-ryū was Shishido Baiken, who was killed in a duel with the legendary Miyamoto Musashi. During kata practice a safer, all-wooden version, (except the metal handguard), is used with softer materials replacing the chain and weight. For demonstrations (embu) a kusarigama with a metal blade is sometimes used.


The tanjō (literally short staff[6]) is a 90 cm short staff used in the assimilated art Uchida-ryū tanjōjutsu. Although of the same length, the tanjo should not be confused with the hanbo, which is used in other martial arts. The modern tanjō is the same width as a standard jō. The tanjō of the Meiji era were thicker at the top and thinner at the bottom,[6] as was the design of the walking-stick at the time. The original inspiration for the tanjō was the western walking-stick which soon found a practical use in self-defense in the Meiji era.


After the death of Shimizu Takaji in 1978, SMR in Tokyo was left without a clear leader or appointed successor. This led to a splintering of the SMR dōjos in Japan, and eventually all over the world. With no single organization or individual with complete authority over SMR as a whole, several of the various fully licensed (menkyo) SMR-practitioners established their own organizations both in the West and in Japan.

From the end of the Samurai reign in 1877 to the early 20th century, SMR was still largely confined, (though slowly spreading), to Fukuoka city on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu where the art first was created and thrived. The main proponent of SMR in Fukuoka during this time was Shiraishi Hanjiro, a former Kuroda-clan warrior (ashigaru), who had trained in and received a joint-license from the two largest surviving jo-branches of SMR. Among Shiraishis top students were Shimizu Takaji, Otofuji Ichizô (1899–1998) and Takayama Kiroku (d.1938), Takayama being the senior. After receiving an invitation from the Tokyo martial arts scene to perform a demonstration of SMR, Shimizu and Takayama established a Tokyo SMR-group which held a close working relationship with martial arts supporters such as Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. Shiraishi died in 1927 and there now existed two main lines of SMR. The oldest of the two was found in Fukuoka, now under the leadership of Otofuji with the one in Tokyo under Shimizu. Takayama, the senior of the three students of Shiraishi, died in 1938 leaving Shimizu with a position of great influence in the SMR-scene as the senior-most student of Shiriashi, (Otofuji being his junior), that would last up to his death in 1978. Although Otofuji was one of Shiraishis top-students he was unable to assume the role that Shimizu had held in Tokyo. By the 1970s the Tokyo and Fukuoka SMR-communities had fully developed into separate branches with their own leaders. Unlike Otofuji, Shimizu was a senior of both the Fukuoka and Tokyo SMR, with great knowledge and influence over both. With Shimizu's death, Otofuji was not in a strong enough position to claim the authority over the Tokyo SMR and no sort of agreement could be made over who should succeed Shimizu. The informal position of headmaster over the SMR-community as a whole could not be filled. Otofuji would remain the leader of Kyushu SMR until his death in 1998.

From these two lineages, the Fukuoka and the Tokyo, there stems today several SMR-based organisations all over the world. One of the largest is the All-Japan Jodo Federation (ZNJR), established in the 1960s as a branch of the All-Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR). The ZNJR was established to further promote Jo through the teaching of ZNKR Jodo, also called Seitei Jodo. It remains the most wide-spread form of Jo in the world today.

Notable Shintō Musō-ryū practitioners

  • Donn F. Draeger (1922–1982) – U.S. Menkyo of TSKR and Menkyo of SMR (the latter awarded posthumously)[12][13] – The first foreign student of Shimizu Takaji and the first foreign Menkyo of Katori Shintō-ryū.
  • Hosho Shiokawa – Japanese Menkyo SMR – Student of Shimizu Takaji and Nakajima Asakichi – Head of Shiokawa-ha of SMR – 15th Soke of Mugai-ryu Iaido.
  • Kuroda Ichitaro (1911–2000) – Japanese Menkyo SMR – Was the most senior student of Shimizu Takaji for many years until his death – At time of death held 10th dan in arts of Kendo, Jodo, Iaido and Shodo.
  • Kaminoda Tsunemori – Japanese Menkyo SMR – Student of Shimizu Takaji – Head of Nihon Jodokai – Soke of Isshin Ryu Kusarigamajutsu.
  • Matsui Kenji – Japanese Menkyo SMR Fukuoka line – Menkyo of Asayama Ichiden-ryu – student of Shimizu Takaji and Otofuji Ichizô – Scholar and author of several works on SMR-history and lineage.
  • Matsumura Shigehiro – Japanese Menkyo in Suio-ryu and of SMR Fukuoka line – student of Shimizu Takaji and Otofuji Ichizô – Head of the Kobujodokai organisation.[14]
  • Nishioka Tsuneo – Japanese Menkyo SMR[3][15] – student of Shimizu Takaji, founder of the SMR-group "Sei ryu kai"[16] – technical advisor to European Jodo Federation since 1994.
  • Phil Relnick – US Menkyo in SMR and TSKR[17] – Student of Nishioka Tsuneo and Shimizu TakajiPan-American Jo Federation.[18]
  • Steven Bellamy – GB Menkyo SMR – Student of Shimizu Takaji and Kuroda Ichitaro – International Jodo Association. Hanshi 8th dan Musō Shinden-ryū Iaido.[19]


  • ^a The names Shintō and Shindō, as used in Shintō Musō-ryū, are both equally correct. Different SMR-groups use the name Shintō or Shindō depending on their own tradition, no sort of consensus has been made as to which name should be used.
  • ^b Competitions are held in Seitei Jodo only. Seitei Jodo holds competitions on which the performance of the uchidachi and shidachi are judged when performing kata. Shintō Musō-ryū holds no competitions of any sort.'
  • ^c The name "Kasumi" Shintō-ryū is not the universal way of naming the 12 sword kata. The discovery of the name "Kasumi" was made from recent research into the history of Shintō Musō-ryū but is yet to be confirmed. The most common and older way of naming the 12 sword kata in SMR is "Shintō-ryu kenjutsu".
  • ^d The number of headmasters is counted by combining all the known headmasters of all the branches of Shintō Musō-ryū Jōdō including the founder of Katori Shintō-ryū, the latter which the founder of SMR also held a Menkyo Kaiden,[8] and Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami, the founder of the Kashima school that Musō Gonnosuke also trained in.

Acronyms used in text

  • SMR = Shintō Musō-ryū
  • TSKR = Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintō-ryū

See also

  • Bujutsu/Budō – The "Way of War" or the "Way of the warrior". Both terms are used interchangeably to describe both the warrior arts and their ideals.
  • Daimyo – The feudal aristocratic landowner of feudal Japan. They employed samurai as warriors in a vassal/lord relationship to both protect and expand the Daimyos domains before and during the Sengoku Jidai period. The Daimyo as a position lasted until the Meiji restoration and abolishment of the feudal system.
  • Iaido/Iaijutsu – Martial Art – The art of drawing the Japanese sword.
  • Koryu – A term used to describe Japanese martial arts created before the 1876 banning of the samurai sword. Any art created that was created post-1876, such as Judo, Karate, Aikido, Taido, are considered to be Gendai Budō. Karate, although preceding 1876, does not qualify as koryū due to the fact it did not evolve in Japan but on the Ryūkyū Islands (modern Okinawa Prefecture) which did not become a part of Japan until the 17th century.
  • Samurai – The warrior elite of feudal Japan. The Samurai caste was abolished in the Meiji restoration's aftermath.
    • Ashigaru – Originally the conscripted footsoldiers of Samurai-armies, after Tokugawa came into power they became professional soldiers and the lowest ranking samurai.


Ryu from the Kuroda-han area.

  • Ise Jitoku Tenshin-ryū
  • Jigo Tenshin-ryū
  • Shiten-ryū (Hoshino-ha)
  • Sosuishi ryu
  • Takenouchi Santo-ryū


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Matsui, Kenji. 1993. The History of Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu, translated by Hunter Armstrong (Kamuela, HI: International Hoplological Society)
  2. ^ [1] "Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones: A Look at Jo and Bo" by Meik Skoss
  3. ^ a b Tsueno, Nishioka. Nishioka Tsuneo and the Pure Flow of the Jo
  4. ^ Risuke, Otake (2002). Le sabre et le Divin. Koryu Books. p. 31. ISBN 1890536067. 
  5. ^ Watatani, Kiyoshi. Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. Tokyo Koppi Shuppanbu, Tokyo, Japan, 1979 edition. p. 426. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al : Krieger, Pascal - Jodô - la voie du bâton / The way of the stick (bilingual French/English), Geneva (CH) 1989, ISBN 2-9503214-0-2 #6
  7. ^ Muromoto, Wayne. Muso Gonnosuke and the Shinto Muso-ryu Jo
  8. ^ a b Taylor, Kim. A Brief History of ZNKR Jodo, Journal of Non-lethal Combative, Sept 2000
  9. ^ a b Lowry, Dave The evolution of classical jojutsu, 1987.
  10. ^ Official European Jōdō Federation website
  11. ^ Information from Stockholm Jodokai affiliated with Kaminoda Tsunemori
  12. ^ Northern Virginia Jodokai
  13. ^ The International Hoplology Society
  14. ^ Official Kobujodokai Website
  15. ^ Site affiliated with Nishioka Tsuneo
  16. ^ Official Sei Ryu Kai website
  17. ^ Phil Relnicks official Katori Shinto-ryu Website
  18. ^ Phil Relnicks official Shintō Musō-ryū Website
  19. ^ Shindo Muso Ryu Jo Jutsu

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