In my fridge I have frozen vegetables, fish tofu and soy sauce. In the cupboard are udon noodles and on the counter, bread. These, along with chili garlic paste are basic ingredients for my cooking, they are easy for me to work with and I use them for most of my recipes.
Last evening was the first class of the new year I guess, not the first booked time but the first where most of the class showed up so call it the start. One new person found the room and Ikkyu-forever-guy brought a couple of new folks to try things out. I appreciate his efforts, one person recruiting friends can make a huge difference to small-number arts like ours and they ought to be recognized more often. Everyone got a poster from a demonstration in 1995, I found a bunch of them with the ephemera. “I wasn’t born then!”
We worked on the basic ingredients of jodo to start the class. We did the pre-kihon kihon. Those are some simple ways of exploring the stick that I’ll share with those who may have a new group as well. First, line everyone up in a bunch so that you can use the “nail that sticks up” method of group-movement to correct the new students. Now find the ends of the stick by putting your palms on the ends. Very simple. Tell a stupid joke or explain a bit about jodo (optional) while they get used to the length of the jo. Next have them shift their hands, palms out and thumbs on the ends. Then have everyone turn one hand around the end so that the palms are facing each other but don’t move away from the ends. Switch the hands for a while. Now look in the direction of the switch (tell them to do it when they start doing it themselves). Turn in the direction of the switch (the correct one of course). All this gives them the length of the stick and how to switch hands around the ends. That hand switch is not intuitive.
Now put the stick in one hand and circle the other arm like you’re doing a front crawl. Then a back crawl. Repeat on the other arm.
There you have it, basic ingredients to make hundreds of jodo recipes. Make sure you tell the new folks that this is all they need, if you tell them jodo is really complicated they will fire up the filing cabinet in their head and be ready to listen instead of watch. Fewer ingredients means they can see them all right there on the counter.
Back to the stick, palms out and square to the front. Turn one hand over and face that direction. Slide the stick in that direction. Pull it back, switch hands and directions and slide out the other way. If the crowd isn’t in unison they will hit each other. Let them, they’ll work it out and everyone will move together pretty soon. When they are, add a little hit in there, thrust, pull back as per usual, now back hand pushes the jo over the front hand (don’t step). Front stroke. Now un-hit (back stroke) and turn the other way to thrust, unthrust, hit, unhit and turn. Once they have that one add in another thrust. Turn, thrust, unthrust, hit, unhit, thrust, pull back, turn the other way and repeat.
That’s a LOT of information but don’t tell them that. It’s simple, they all did it. Did I mention you should mix the seniors in with the beginners? You should, physical modeling is very efficient.
Next we went through the solo kihon, just a buch of ways to put the basics together, no big deal, don’t worry about getting it right, just do what everyone else is doing, this isn’t rocket science it’s just a way to move the stick around and you’ll have years and years to do it right. Try to keep the seniors from helping too much, they’ll want to correct everything and that takes more time than we need to spend right now. Let the rest of the class hammer down that nail.
All 12 kihon done, first super slow, then at regular speed, don’t worry if you can’t keep up, just try.
Then kata number one, two and four and that’s our hour and a half done. “The new folks are never going to remember all that” you say? No, but they have spent quite a bit of time practicing the three basic ingredients and next class they will be surprised how much their body remembers when their brain hadn’t a clue an hour before.
A few ingredients you are comfortable with, then you can look at what else is in the fridge and create a meal without looking at the internet. Someone told me recently that there’s an app that will give you a recipe if you tell it what you have in the cupboard.
That’s like sorting through your kata to try to figure out what you should do while you’re being attacked.
Know your basic ingredients, everything else is just flavouring.
Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023