Shimizu Takaji

v  Shimizu Takaji

He was certainly jojutsu's greatest exponent in the latter part of the 20th Century. Shimizu studied under Shiraishi Hanjiro. Shimizu Takaji (1896-1978), Shindō Musō-ryū's 25th unofficial headmaster and the arts leading personality during the 20th century. He was born in Meiji 29, only 29 years after the samurai shogunate collapsed in 1868. The Shimizu family served formerly as village headmen and minor clan officials. Takaji's father ran a general store. Takaji was the second son among parents' three boys and three sisters. His mother died when he was only ten. After he finished elementary school, Shimizu worked at a manufacturing company at Hakata. He entered the jojutsu dojo at age 17, initially as a student under Shiraishi Hanjiro. According to Matsui Kenji, Shimizu practiced jojutsu in the early morning with Otofuji. After practice, the two would swim in Hakata Bay and relax before heading off to work. Practice would also be conducted under Takayama at the Fukuoka dojo, where Shimizu was an assistant instructor.

In 1921, Shimizu and other senior members gave a demonstration of jojutsu at the May festival of the Dai Nippon Butokukai. One of the observers was Kano Jigoro, the founder of Kodokan judo. Kano, an astute observer and active supporter of martial arts, asked to see more. Takayama and Shimizu gave him a private demonstration. Impressed, Kano asked if someone could come to Tokyo and teach jo at the Kodokan. Shiraishi was already very old and other master teachers had prior commitments, so Shimizu first became considered as the person who would most likely move to Tokyo to teach jo. In 1927, Shimizu gave a demonstration of jojutsu for the National Police Agency. In 1931, Shimizu, Otofuji Ichizo and Takayama Kiroku demonstrated jo at the tenth anniversary of the founding of Meiji Jingu shrine. That same year, Shimizu was asked to become an instructor for a special unit of the Tokyo police force. Shimizu left his wife and child in a relative's care in Fukuoka and moved to Tokyo. Shimizu did not part with his family without some sadness and misgivings, but he felt that it was important for someone to spread the art of jodo beyond the backwaters of Kyushu. Through sponsors, Shimizu opened a school called the Mumon ("No Gate") Dojo, teaching high-ranking judoka, naval officers and police officers. His students were all of the highest social and personal character. As his student numbers grew, Shimizu was faced with a dilemma. The old way of teaching jo kata was developed for the training of a small, exclusive group of samurai. Shimizu found that he had to make some changes in the training regime for modern Japanese students. After discussions with other jojutsu masters, Shimizu formulated the 12 basic kihon methods. Once Shimizu introduced the kihon in Tokyo, it was adopted by the Fukuoka dojo in Kyushu. While Shimizu was spreading jo in Tokyo, the homeland of jojutsu-Kyushu-also maintained its jo legacy. Jojutsu training became part of the Fukuoka Agricultural School's martial arts training regime. Takayama also helped spread jojutsu in Ehime, Hyogo and Shikoku prefectures. On the death of Takayama, Otofuji became head of the Fukuoka dojo in 1929.

Shimizu taught select students at his Mumon Dojo and the police academy while other masters taught the art in Kyushu at the Fukuoka dojo. In 1940, Shimizu ventured to Japan-occupied Manchuria to teach. However, although the numbers of students rose tremendously, it was still a rather exotic art compared to the more popular kendo and judo. (As an interesting sidelight, the great judo master Mifune Kyuzo was also a student of Shimizu for a while.) Shimizu became head of the Dai Nihon Jodo Kai in 1940, a move which officially changed the system from jojutsu to jodo. The still-rather exclusive membership continued until circa 1955, when jojutsu was actively opened to the general public. According to Patrick Lineberger, this decision was due to Shimizu's acquaintance with Kano Jigoro, the founder of Kodokan judo, who encouraged Shimizu to make the arcane art more accessible to people as a means of physical, mental and spiritual training. Another impetus to a wider study of the jo was that after World War II jojutsu was one of the few martial arts allowed by the Occupation forces, since it served the civilian police force. That, according to Nishioka Tsuneo, is why many kendo enthusiasts in the police force picked up the jo during the postwar period. The jo continued to be a part of the training of special police forces, called the kidotai. Shimizu taught a slightly different jo style to the police officers, based on the weapon's practical applications. Around 1965, Shimizu opened the hombu (main) dojo, the Renbukan. Kaminoda Tsunemori became charged with teaching the police force, while Shimizu concentrated on spreading jo to civilians.

In keeping with the changes in orientation, Shimizu decided to change the term jojutsu to jodo, the "way" of the jo. Shimizu, like the founders of other -do forms, wanted a formerly combative art to also serve a higher philosophical and spiritual purpose. It is important to note, however, that jodo when properly practiced should reflect its ancient combative roots. In the late 1960s, Shimizu helped in the construction of the Muso Gonnosuke Jinja shrine on the grounds of the Homan Shinto shrine at Mount Homan. The seeds of Shimizu's internationalism bore fruit when the International Jodo Federation was formed in the 1960s, with branches in Europe, the United States, and Southeast Asia. In the early 1970s, he journeyed to the United States and Malaysia, spreading the art of jo through the world. When the novel Miyamoto Musashi was published in 1971 (from a compilation of serialized chapters in newspapers), the art of jojutsu received a boost in popularity. Although it was largely a work of fiction, the book featured the friendship between Gonnosuke and Musashi. In 1975, Shimizu's wife passed away, and subsequently the great proselytizer of jo died in 1978 (Showa 53), on June 22. The Shinto Muso-ryu is practiced by various organizations, including the Shindo Muso-ryu Hozon-kai, the main branch of jodo training. Other organizations developed after Shimizu's death, each developing their own following. There is also the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation) Jodo-bu (Jodo Section). The Kendo Federation's version of jodo is slightly different, due to the influence of modern kendo techniques. What are the Shinto (Shindo) Muso-ryu characteristics? A cursory examination of the accompanying photographs will show a bit of the flavor of the ryu. It is a powerful art, in which a jo is used against a swordsman.
The jo could be used to strike like a sword, sweep like a naginata, thrust like a spear. Its two ends could be used, unlike the single point of a sword, and its ma-ai (fighting distance) could be varied according to the hand grip you take. Because of its speed and changeable ma-ai, it is a formidable weapon in the hands of a skilled master. There are 12 kihon, which also form the basis of the modern Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Jodo-bu (All Japan Kendo Federation Way of Jo Section). There are also 12 omote waza ("outward" forms), 12 chudan, 2 ran-ai, 12 kage, 6 samidare, 5 gohon no midare, and 12 okuden ("secret" forms). Students begin with tandoku renshu (single practice), in which the basics, or kihon are performed solo. This is followed by sotai renshu, practicing in pairs, in which one person assumes the role of a swordsman against a jojutsu person. Meik Skoss, in describing the proper attitude for practicing kata, writes that "...All attacks are characterized by relaxed movements and postures, maximum focus of energy being applied only at the actual moment of impact. This allows maximum efficiency of movement and conservation of energy and also provides the trainee with a critical margin (yoyu) to be used in the case of something unforeseen occurring". Beyond technique, however, there is a poem from the oral tradition that admonishes the student to, "Concentrate on being a person who causes no injury to others. Our teaching is: In the heart of the jo is an arrow." In another saying, Shimizu sensei himself taught his students that, "Jodo should be done to build one's character and that jodo should be like a steering wheel. The road is life. And there are all kinds of ways one can go down the road. Use jodo to steer as straight a course as possible through life".