View Full Version : Length of a Jo

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06-08-2002, 06:20 AM
How long should a jo be? I see them sold in lengths from 50 inches to 54 inches. I assume that if I were 6'5", I'd need the 54 inch one, and the 50 inch one if I were 5' tall. Aside from that, is there any specific guide? For example, in Karate, the sai should extend about an inch beyond the elbow (for poking purposes).

06-08-2002, 07:43 AM
When I bought mine, I was given two opposing opinions from different instructors: the most common opinion was to the level of my arm pit; the minority opinion was the standard length.

I have both. I like having a jo whose reach is similar to my opponent...I think larger partners often forget that I can hurt them, and remember better when faced with a big stick. ;) (this was the reason for the minority opinion, I think, he knew my size made it difficult for me to get respect from most partners). I like the shorter one if I have to roll with it, or just warming up with it as it clears the ground more easily from my vertically challenged height---but I have learned to manage those with the longer jo as well. I will admit my bokken, while having a smaller hilt to fit my hand, is as long or longer than most others'.

Greg Jennings
06-08-2002, 11:42 AM
Among most aiki-jo there doesn't seem to be a standard size. The "armpit high" is what we use in our dojo.

Those aikido dojo that practice ZNKR Jodo Seiteigata or Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo probably use the standard length/diameter. It's like 7/8" diameter and 50.25" in length.

Best Regards,

Bruce Baker
06-08-2002, 01:48 PM
There is the old saying of speak softly but carry a big stick, which can be more of hinderance than help in class.

If you are practicing by yourself, then either the shoulder high, or up to the arm pit rule applys as we are talking about using walking sticks to defend ourselves. Most jo's are based on the simple broom that is longer than the sword and shorter than a spear, but then again even spear length can vary from man to man, and country to country.

If the entire class has 54 or 60 inch jo, then it would be easier to learn techniques with that size jo.

They are fairly cheap, and although the ideal size for a taller person doesn't always give a perportional size for a smaller person training with a taller person, it will work itself out as practice makes techniques easier and easier by mere repetition. I find the many people are thrown off by the larger diameter or heavier jo, so I went back to carrying two for a while. One for classes and one for individual practice without a partner.

When in doubt, ask your instructor about the prefered length he/she would have you practice with in class.

I have a six foot/ three piece/break apart that is rather fun to unscrew into its pieces and adapt into routines we do in class, but it is not practical to swing in most smaller rooms, classes, or practice situations ... so I save it for at home/backyard practice.

Eventually, learning to use any straight piece of wood, whether broomhandle or walking stick will be second nature, but for class ... try to keep some uniformity as it expediates learning by the class by using simular jo's.

I prefer to use a 60 inch jo, which is shoulder high, makes a good walking stick. Since I have problem gauging the middle, I have added a string whipping (just like found in whipping the end of a rope) to the middle of mine, which makes it easy to find the balance point.

I would say that the ideal practice jo is shoulder height, but that is based on the purportional size of the jo to the each person so it can be comfortably wielded.

Tony Peters
06-12-2002, 02:17 AM
Jo length is one of two lengths either you go with the modern "armpit" measurement...or you use the traditional measurement of 4 Shaku, 2 Sun and 1 Bu which is just under 50"

06-12-2002, 07:32 AM
Welcome to aikiweb! I hope you find this forum at least as helpful as Cyberdojo! I want to echo the armpit length suggestion. As the jo derived from a simple walking stick, there was not originally a standard length. The mobility of the weapon's movement is enhanced if it is proportional to the size of the person, IMHO. That is not to say that a larger (IE 54 inch)isn't useful. See if you can try out both types by borrowing at the dojo and then make your decision. Good jo tend to not be cheap.


Tony Peters
06-12-2002, 10:16 PM
Rob not to jump you but you are not correct about your statement that the Jo is derived from a simple walking stick. The Jo has a very well documented origin. 1605 Muso Gonnosuke Katsukichi founded the Shindo Muso Ryu Jo system (pg60 Jo way of the stick, Pascal Krieger). Though Aikijo is not based on sword movements like SMR is the Jo has always been a weapon. That it is about the size of a european walking stick is anecdotal at best. The size of the Jo was originally very strickly regulated at what I posted above 4 shaku, 2 sun, 1 bu. The Jo of karate is of Chinese origin not Japanese (like most of Karate). Most Koryu that I have seen that use the jo use a Jo of very similar lengths to that of SMR Jo. Aikido for some reason uses a fatter jo. This is probably because the Aikijo system has it's much of it's origins in jukendo/bayonette fighting. Still the original Jo's of aikido seem to be sized in keeping with those of the Koryu. Which on a normal japanese person would not fit in an underarm.

George S. Ledyard
06-20-2002, 06:10 PM
Originally posted by Bruce Baker
I prefer to use a 60 inch jo, which is shoulder high, makes a good walking stick. Since I have problem gauging the middle, I have added a string whipping (just like found in whipping the end of a rope) to the middle of mine, which makes it easy to find the balance point.
The "under the arm pit legth" is of course proportional and eliminates the guesswork about where the middle of the weapon is since a normal tsuki kamai will put your hands in just the right place when you are relaxed. You will find that the front fingure of the front hand will almost precisely be on the center point of the jo. This is not true when one uses either a longer or shorter weapon.

06-20-2002, 07:19 PM
Originally posted by Tony Peters
Rob not to jump you but you are not correct....

No sweat. It wasn't the first time, won't be the last. I stand corrected.


06-20-2002, 09:20 PM
The armpit measurement is common with what I was taught back in the UK, but when I queried that over here I was told absolutely not. The jo is a fixed length and measured in the traditional Japanese unit "Shaku". 1 shaku is 30.3cm and a jo should be 4.21 Shaku, which equates to 127.563cm. The diameter of the jo is also based on an old measure (the name of which I can`t remember), and should be 2.43cm

You can do the metric to imperial conversions

06-14-2016, 06:07 PM
TO Summarize: Jo length is very specific in SHINDO MUSO RYU JOJUTSU. The length is 4.21 Shaku (127.6 cm or 50") and the diameter is 8 Bu (24mm). The end cut must be very straight with a minimal edge bevel (not rounded). The material should be Japanese cold climate/slow growth/tight grain white oak. (Tozando has them.) Many SMR practitioners use one jo for their entire lives. SMR practice is very precise and efficient with defined kata and efforts to maintain a clear koryu lineage.

AIKIDO, on the other hand, is all about adaptability. The roots of Aiki-JO (like the rest of Aikido) incorporate techniques from a wide variety of sources filtered through the experience and expertise of O Sensei and his students. Incorporated into Aiki-JO practice are definite elements of yari (spear), juken (bayonet), and ken (sword) along with traditional Jojutsu - all of which use different lengths of weapon. Jo use in Aikido is more adaptive and continues to evolve divergently (again like Aikido in general), so it varies with styles. AS a result, the length, diameter, and material tend to vary widely. Aikido practitioners have been known to go to the hardware store and cut down a broom handle to make their jos. Armpit height is a good rule of thumb but even that leaves room for personalization and refinement. Big guys tend to like bigger sticks, but IMHO, they will discover that they are sacrificing speed and agility for clobber.

In my experience, Aiki-JO is more about practicing Aikido with a Jo than about inventing a new Jo style. The Jo informs the body and it in turn informs the use of the Jo. Some techniques simply reveal their internal mechanics better with the jo.

Therefore JO dimensions can be personalized. At the same time, the consistency of requirements for SMR jo give you a means of quick comparison and repeatable standards. So I also think Aiki-JO has a lot to learn from traditional koryu JOjutsu.

Disclosure: I practice both SMR and Aikido.

Janet Rosen
06-14-2016, 10:08 PM
14 years after the guy asked?

06-15-2016, 09:54 PM
The material should be Japanese cold climate/slow growth/tight grain white oak. (Tozando has them.)

I've got a few good quality shiro kashi jo and bokken from Tozando over the years. I recently read about Japanese white oak on Ellis Amdur's website (www.zaimoku.org), he mentioned most Japanese weapons sold these days are made of inferior oak, from Kyushu or Taiwan. Just curious if anyone knows where Tozando sourced their white oak?

Ellis Amdur
06-19-2016, 12:24 PM
Why not revive old threads? Starts the conversation again, and maybe something new emerges. For example, this:
SMR's standard length jo was not developed in 1605. Like a lot of ryu, SMR has an "ideal" history, traced back to a mythic founder. In fact, the Kuroda domain once had five stick systems, one of which was called chigiriki (literal meaning: nipple power 乳力), suggesting an individualized measurement to that point. Other ryu consider a jo to be a broken-ended pole arm (Tendo-ryu naginata, for example), and their jo is over five shaku, if I recall correctly.
Up through WWII, O-sensei tended to use a bo. It was only after the war that we see jo. And bojutsu continued--for example, Osensei gave Hitkitzuchi sensei a makimono in bojutsu, teaching him something different from what he taught in other locale.
He never established a centralized curriculum, and in fact, did not teach much jo in Tokyo. The main center of jojutsu training was in Iwama, as is well known. It's likely that this is where Tohei, who trained at Iwama as well, when aikijo was being developed, learned his solo form.
At any rate, Saito sensei's jo became the baseline system for most practitioners, including those who developed their own forms (Chiba Kazuo, Saotome Mitsugi - all started with that base, with the notable exception of Nishio Shoji, who merged his unique ideas with a base of SMR). But because things were inchoate, without it being part of the standard curriculum, there was no real "jo design," any more than there was a standardized bokken (one eventually developed in Iwama, but not elsewhere). Even in the 70's and 80's, few were doing kumijo: most were doing throwing techniques with the jo and disarms, and a very few were doing the solo form, in one manner or another. Because of this, people (individual and dojo) just bought jo from the available source, the budoguya. And what were they selling? SMR jo, the most popular system around. The SMR length became the standard, without anyone thinking it through (I think, in part, because jo wasn't really that important in most dojo, so a fine-grained analysis of the optimum length for aikijo waza was not really done. When you look at films of Osensei, it's clear that, at least in proportion to body size, a longer weapon (closer to five shaku) would be optimum.

06-19-2016, 02:33 PM
Thank you Ellis, great information there.

I had a student who was 6'8". He could swing a jo like an arnis baton. I saw a demonstration of a six foot bo kata by an old man who was barely five feet, maybe even less. Very different to when I see extra tall people use the identical weapon.

When a military gets rapidly built and supplied, standardized weapons I would think are just good logistics. Maybe not the same as ideal individual budo.

Ellis Amdur
06-19-2016, 03:28 PM
John - thanks for the reply. Truth is, jo was never a military weapon, except, in some ryu, as a minor contingency plan if a long weapon broke. (Muken-ryu and Toda-ha Buko-ryu do the same thing with naginata, except its a bo). One of my favorite jo schools, a peasant school (not military) with a 5 shaku jo is Muhi Muteki ryu (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_vp9_N_tZw) Here it is again, coupled with Iga-ryu jujutsu (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUFcJTEhxRo) A generation ago, this ryu was much more wild and rough. It has smoothed out the rough edges this generation, I think to its loss.

Anyway, there was a mania for standardization in the Edo period. In this case, due to bureaucratization, rather than military order. Sword length as mandated as well, and in the Kuroda-han, so was the jo. This standardization was far less rife in more rural areas.

Ellis Amdur

06-19-2016, 07:48 PM
Mr Amdur - Thanks for the correction.

Not for mass production but rather bureaucracy and standardization. I'll need to read up on the motivation and justification.