Just a Round Bar, Yet Still a Round Bar – The Man who Won against Musashi

Shinto Muso Ryu Jojutsu

Miyamoto Musashi is legendary Japanese swordsman known not only to all in Japan but even to many around the world. He has been appeared as the main character in many novels and movies. He is possibly the most well-known swordsman, and the strongest swordsman. He himself wrote in the Gorinsho that he has never lost a fight in his life with a real sword.

Yet, although it is merely an oral tradition, there was apparently one warrior who broke Musashi’s unbeaten record. His name is Muso Gonnosuke. His date of birth and death are unknown but he is thought to have been a swordsman in the early Edo period, and thought to be the founder of “Shinto Muso-Ryu Jojutsu” which still lasts to this day.

Muso Gonnosuke - Founder of Shinto Muso Ryu Jojutsu

According to the records, Gonnosuke applies his Shinto-ryo to challenge Musashi but is resoundly defeated. After that Gonnosuke goes through intense training to try and beat Musashi, but when he visited Mt. Homan in the state of Chikuzen (modern-day Fukuoka), he received a heavenly oracle that said “use a round tree to know the water-moon (one of the Japanese gods)”. From then on he decided to change from using a sword to a wooden cane. Gonnosuke was not only a skillful swordsman but exceeded also in using the spear and also the naginata (Japanese halberd). He developed “jojutsu” (skill of the cane) by combining all these other expertise using a wooden bar.

Kamado Jinja - Muso Gonnosuke Jinja - the birthplace of Jojitsu

With his newly acquired jojutsu, Gonnosuke fought Musashi again. In Gonnosuke’s school, the tradition says he won, but in Musashi’s tradition it was it ended in a draw. Either way, by switching from a sword to a cane he gained the skills to match Musashi.

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What, then, is this jojutsu?

The can is about 128 cm and the round tip is 2.4 cm wide. One can plunge like a spear, swing like a halberd, hold it like a long-sword. In this way it combines the technique of many different weapons in infinite variety. The moves are designed to fight against swords, like hitting in a way that the top of the sword would slip, or go for the fists when the opponent attacks.

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Furthermore, these techniques are designed first and foremost to overpower the opponent without killing him. This reflects the supreme value of the samurai. Shinto Musoryu Jojutsu is valued as a martial art genre called “torite” which aims to subdue someone who is causing trouble with a sword. It was taught within the Kuroda-clan in Edo period as an exclusive household skill. Even now, it is reflected in the way the police forces perform arrests, and it has been passed on as a modern martial art called “jodo” which is affiliated to the All Japan Kendo Federation.

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