Friday, February 27, 2015

My first text book "Essential Jo" is published

If you've been wondering where I've been for last month or so, I have been working at a somewhat furious pace in the background on one of my long-sought after goals.  And now I've finally achieved it:
After 6 years of toil and struggle, my first martial textbook, "Essential Jo" has finally been published!


The book is intended as a complete instructional manual on practical, as well as sophisticated and elegant, techniques using the jo.  For those who don't know, the jo is the Japanese 4-foot staff, originally taught with the ken (sword) in the samurai arts.

As far as I can tell, Essential Jo is the most comprehensive text on the subject to date, offering a course of study from white through to black belt in the "Way of the Jo" (jodo).

The book features over 900 professional black and white photographs accompanied by clear, detailed textual explanations.

While it is intended primarily for students with experience in weapons arts, particularly jodo, the book can also be used by beginners for home study.

I think the art of jodo makes an excellent addition to any martial art system.  I believe karateka, internal and external gong fu practitioners, Filipino martial artists and Western sword/stick artists alike will be able to co-opt this self-contained course of study into their curricula - and I have prepared the text accordingly, following the syllabus we use at the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts.

At the core of our jo method are a series of 20 basic techniques called “suburi”. We have retained these from aikijo (the jo method of the art of aikido) as we find them to be a comprehensive catalogue of the different deflections, strikes and sweeps that one can make using the jo.


A detailed performance of the first 5 suburi or basic jo techniques

Added to this are 9 “kumijo” (literally “an encounter with jos”) – 2 person combat drills that apply the suburi in a dynamic, effective environment. These drills are modeled on traditional kumijo from various schools but are, in the end, my own creation. They are the result of almost 30 years of martial training, combining the features of the arts to which I refer above, and many other armed and unarmed disciplines.

Importantly, unlike many other 2 person drills taught in relation to the jo and other weapons, the drills “loop”: that is to say, they can be practised continuously without end. The practical result of this is that in each drill both sides use the same sequence. The sequences are also short (between 6 to 10 movements), making them easy to learn.

The “looping” nature of these drills is not just a means of facilitating inculcation. Nor is it merely matter of learning/teaching convenience. Rather, each move has been carefully thought through so that it provides the most logical and economic answer to the attack you are facing. The drill then provides your partner with the best answer to your counter. And so it goes. Like the game of “rock, paper, scissors”, these drills cycle through the optimum responses to various attacks, “grooving” effective, reflexive responses which utilize “wu-wei” – the Daoist concept of “no unnecessary action” or the “line of least resistance”.

The 9 kumijo provide what I feel are a comprehensive set of jo skills. It is my experience that when you’ve well and truly inculcated these drills into your reflexive response, you will have an answer to virtually every type and angle of attack.


A sample of the 9 kumijo of the muidokan system

I first started writing the text in 2009 and Lucia Ondrusova took about 2/3 of the pictures in that year.  Lucia also took the cover photo on location at a monastery I was training at in Taiwan in 2011.  My brother took the remaining paired photographs with Lucia offering advice via Skype in that same year.

Then followed the arduous process of liaising with publishers.  I had two very positive initial reactions from big publishing houses and both got me to go through to the very final stages, only to tell me at the 11th hour that they had reconsidered.  It would have been nice if they hadn't strung me along for two years apiece!  (I had been asked by both publishing houses to do reviews of their publications and I would have thought that the courtesy of promptness on their part was the least I could expect, but it seems not!)

Whichever way it goes, the book is finally published and available for purchase - through my publishing house Pikkeljig Press and via Amazon shortly.  It will be available in Barnes and Nobel, Book Depository and other major bookstores starting in 6-8 weeks time, although from experience with my fiction book "The Mirror Image of Sound" (which actually features some martial arts too - or at least some fighting anyway!) the cost through other outlets is greater.

I'd like to thank my student, training partner and life-long friend Jeff Cosgrove.  He has all my respect and more as both a martial artist and wonderful human being.

I'd like to thank Lucia and my brother Nenad for all their wonderful work in taking the photographs for the book.

I also want to especially thank Nenad and his wife Tania for the use of their marvelous centre and, more than anything, for their unflagging support, encouragement and belief over the years.

I want to thank my cousin Branko for posing with me in some of the pictures, Jeff Mann for proof-reading and my mentor, teacher, friend and adopted "kume" James Sumarac for his teaching, guidance, energy and positivism.

Last, but not least, I must (as always) thank my wonderful wife Maureen who has never stopped believing in me and my projects.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic