The history of Shindo Muso-ryu
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 (jō). The technical purpose of the art is to learn how to defeat a swordsman in combat using the jō, 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, 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, who, unlike many other traditional martial arts teachers, wanted Jodo to be known and taught internationally. With the assistance of his own students and the cooperation of the kendō community, Shimizu spread Shintō Musō-ryū worldwide.
According to its own history, Shintō Musō-ryū was founded in the Keichō era (1594–1614) by Musō Gonnosuke, a samurai with considerable martial arts experience. A wandering warrior himself (Rōnin), Gonnosuke would eventually cross paths with the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. The two men fought a duel in which Musashi defeated Gonnosuke with relative ease. Gonnosuke, a proud warrior who according to the stories had never been defeated, was deeply shocked by his defeat and retired to a cave for meditation and reflectation. This period of isolation and reflection led him to (eventually) create a set of techniques for the shorter staff jō with at least one goal of defeating Musashis two-sword style. These jo techniques constituted the core of Gonnosukes new school (ryu) which he named Shintō Musō-ryū. Gonnosuke used his training in kenjutsu, naginatajutsu, sōjutsu and bōjutsu, which he acquired in part from Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū and Kashima Jikishinkage-ryū, to develop a new way of handling the jō in combat.
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. Gonnosuke developed several techniques for the jō that were to be used against an opponent armed with a sword, partially by using the superior length of the jō 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, 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” (丸木を以って、水月を知れ maruki wo motte, suigetsu wo shire?). Supposedly that was his inspiration to develop his new techniques and go fight Musashi a second time. After the creation of his jō 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. Gonnosuke accepted the invitation and settled down there.
Shintō Musō-ryū survived the abolishment of the samurai in 1877, and the Second World War. With the efforts made by Shiraishi Hanjirō and his successor Shimizu Takaji (清水隆次), the art’s 24th and 25th unofficial headmasters, respectively, the art progressed into an international martial art with numerous dōjo all over the world.