Today's weapons class marked the first day back with the Jo, so we started, as always, with suburi. Sometimes we just cycle through them as though we already know them and there's nothing to be gained by lingering over, say, suburi #1, choku tsuki.
Not today. Perhaps it was the residual effect of Hitohiro Soke spending about 15 minutes on Tai No Henko last Monday. Regardless, Goto Sensei made a point of unpacking the elements of the first two Jo Suburi so that by the time we'd finished with Kaishi Tsuki, half the time for class was over. It was time well spent.
There are different body postures for various stages in the execution of Jo suburi #1. One of the most important of these, Goto Sensei stressed, was the finish posture. As we extend into the thrust it is important to rotate the back hip behind as the back foot establishes hanmi. In this posture the entire body lines up into a single plane, such that the opponent can only see the front edge. The rest of the body is obscured. The Japanese name for this posture is "Hitoemi." Goto Sensei says it roughly translates as "single layer."
In the picture O-Sensei shows how Hitoemi is both an offensive and a defensive posture. It is offensive because it is adopted in the process of making a strike. it is defensive insofar as there is very little body surface for the opponent to target. It is like you are slicing straight through to the center of the opponent, while at the same time flattening out off line so that the opponent's attack misses. Pretty sneaky, but that's how it's done.
We practiced finishing both Choku Tsuki and Kaishi Tsuki, the first two Jo Suburi, in Hitoemi posture. It took a little extra rear hip movement to align the body just off the line of attack.
Finally, we made it past the first two Jo Suburi. We'd spent nearly a half hour on the various elements that go into making a precise forward thrust. Over the remaining minutes we methodically covered the next three, Ushiro Tsuki, Tsuki Gedan Gaishi, and Tsuki Jodan Gaishi. Each seemed to have a universe of key elements such that, if any one were left out or executed sloppily, the whole thing would break down.
I kept remembering how my usual practice is to race through the early suburi just to get to some of the more complicated and fun suburi, such as Hasso Gaishi Uchi. At this pace, we'll get to #14 sometime next month.
Even though we practiced putting our bodies into a "single layer," the complexity of seemingly simple thrusts with the jo appears, on closer inspection, to have many layers, just a few of which we examined today.
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