AIKI JO NOTEBOOK UPDATE: KAMAE IN AIKI JO.

In writing my Notebook, I have started to consider two things: the area of Jo Awase, and breaking the shell of the practices so that Aiki Jo can be understood as a fighting art.  I have started back at the with the Awase section, which should properly follow after the 20 Suburi and the 31- and 13 Jo Kata techniques.  When reviewing the material I have at my disposal, I understood that there are a number of fixed positions in Aiki Jo that are used to strike, thrust, and change the jo.  However, the stances are not what’s important when you want to talk about fighting with the jo.  The postures need to be understood as vehicles for applying strikes and thrusts.  I have compiled a list of the basic postures in Aiki Jo, along with some words from none other than Musashi himself.  I hope that this will be useful to anyone else that reads this.

From my Notebook:

Aiki Jo Kamae

Jo no Kamae – This is the basic standing posture with the jo held vertically in the left hand in front of the left foot.
Tsuki no Kamae

  • Choku – From Jo no Kamae, grabbing the jo in the manner of Choku Tsuki.
  • Kaeshi – From Jo no Kamae, grabbing the jo in the manner of Kaeshi Tsuki.
  • Ushiro – From Jo no Kamae, grabbing the jo in the manner or Ushiro Tsuki.
  • Gyakute – Grabbing the jo as Ushiro Tsuki but thrusting to the front with Hidari Gyakute Tsuki.  This and the Ushiro grip is the basis for Chudan no Kamae.

Chudan no Kamae

  • Hidari – The Gyakute hold in the left posture.
  • Migi – The Gyakute hold in the right posture.
  • Ushiro – The Gyakute hold in the right or left posture with the jo to rear, as in prepartory to Gedan Gaeshi.

Ken no Kamae

  • Chudan – The middle position for ken.
  • Jodan – The high position for ken.
  • Ushiro – The jo gripped as ken but held to the rear.

Hasso no Kamae

These are the basic postures from the Aiki Jo curriculum.  I include these for the sake of understand the different postures you can assume with the jo and how they relate to each other as they become strikes with the jo.  It’s not important to assume a particular stance at a particular time, since you cannot and do not fight that way.  You win by striking, thrusting, throwing, pinning the opponent, not by virtue of Kamae.  This is called “having a stance but not using a stance.”  Musashi writes about this with more than enough eloquence:

THE FIVE ATTITUDES

The five attitudes are: Upper, Middle, Lower, Right Side, and Left Side. These are the five.  Although attitude has these five divisions, the one purpose of all of them is to cut the enemy.  There are none but these five attitiudes.

Whatever attitude you are in, do not be conscious of making the attitude; think only of cutting.

Your attitude should be large or small according to the situation.  Upper, Lower and Middle attitudes are decisive.  Left Side and Right Side attitudes are fluid.  Left and Right attitudes should be used if there is an obstruction overhead or to one side. The decision to use Left or Right depends on the place.

The essence of the Way is this. To understand attitude you must thoroughly  understand the middle attitude. The middle attitude is the heart of attitudes.  If we look at strategy on a broad scale, the Middle attitude is the seat of the commander, with the other four attitudes following the commander.  You must appreciate this.

THE “ATTITUDE NO-ATTITUDE” TEACHING

“Attitude No-Attitude” means that there is no need for what are know as long sword attitudes.
Even so, attitudes exist as the five ways of holding the long sword. However you hold the sword it must be in such a way that it is easy to cut the enemy well, in accordance with the situation, the place, and your relation to the enemy.  From the Upper attitude as your spirit lessens you can adopt the Middle attitude, and from the Middle attitude you can raise the sword a little in your technique and adopt the Upper attitude. From the lower attitude you can raise the sword and adopt the Middle attitudes as the occasion demands. According to the situation, if you turn your sword from either the Left Side or Right Side attitude towards the centre, the Middle or the Lower attitude results.

The principle of this is called “Existing Attitude – Nonexisting Attitude.”

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement.  It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him.  You must thoroughly research this.

Attitude in strategy on a larger scale is called “Battle Array”. Such attitudes are all for winning battles. Fixed formation is bad. Study this well.

OTHER SCHOOLS WITH MANY METHODS OF USING THE LONG SWORD

Placing a great deal of importance on the attitudes of the long sword is a mistaken way of thinking. What is known in the world as “attitude” applies when there is no enemy. The reason is that this has been a precedent since ancient times, and there should be no such thing as “This is the modern way to do it” in dueling. You must force the enemy into inconvenient situations.

Attitudes are for situations in which you are not to be moved. That is, for garrisoning castles, battle array, and so on, showing the spirit of not being moved even by a strong assault. In the Way of dueling, however, you must always be intent upon taking the lead and attacking. Attitude is the spirit of awaiting an attack. You must appreciate this.

In duels of strategy you must move the opponent’s attitude. Attack where his spirit is lax, throw him into confusion, irritate and terrify him. Take advantage of the enemy’s rhythm when he is unsettled and you can win.

I dislike the defensive spirit know as “attitude”. Therefore, in my Way, there is something called “Attitude-No Attitude”.

In large-scale strategy we deploy our troops for battle bearing in mind our strength, observing the enemy’s numbers, and noting the details of the battle field. This is at the start of the battle.

The spirit of attacking first is completely different from the spirit of being attacked.   Bearing an attack well, with a strong attitude, and parrying the enemy’s attack well, is like making a wall of spears and halberds. When you attack the enemy, your spirit must go to the extent of pulling the stakes out of a wall and using them as spears and halberds. You must examine this well.

Since Aikido is a martial art, we must concern ourselves with the practical application of techniques.  I sincerely hope that the reader will think about Musashi’s words regarding kamae.  If we think of Aiki Jo in the terms that Musashi uses, we can understand that Tsuki no Kamae as the general as far as thrusting, and Chudan Ken no Kamae as the general as far as thrusting.  This means that things like Chudan no Kamae and Hasso no Kamae become the variations of the first two instances.  You must understand that in an instant, any posture you make can change to any other in the course of using the jo.  Understand that any posture you assume is designed to strike your opponent.  In Aikido,we usually do not strike at our partner, but allow him to come as he wants and deal with it accordingly.  This is not a defensive attitude.  We allow our opponent to perceive an opening and when he attacks he is already lost.  Other times, we draw out our attack, and force him to attack or defend in a manner that is not favorable to him.  We control the encounter and the issue is already decided.

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6 Responses to AIKI JO NOTEBOOK UPDATE: KAMAE IN AIKI JO.

  1. Alejandro Villanueva says:

    Thanks for the great job!

  2. autrelle says:

    Alejandro,

    Thank yourself. Your input has been most helpful. Watch out for my next update which concerns a set of solo exercises to practice jo striking and thrusting combinations not in the Suburi, 31- or 13 Jo Kata.

  3. Stefan Hultberg says:

    Hi

    I received the manual a few days ago and I am thoroughly enjoying it, many good points!!!

    Hopefully I will be able to come up with a few good comments after my uchi-deshi stay in Iwama in april!!!

    All the best

    Stefan

  4. autrelle says:

    Thanks Stefan! I hope your training goes well!

  5. Hi,

    This is a very useful post, you surely have good knowledge. Thanks very much. I bookmarked your site and will be back for more 😉 . Hope you post more stuff.

    Cheers,
    Dave

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