The Twenty-One Count Jo Pattern

David Scott © 2020


This is the first Jo pattern I remember learning back in the early 1970’s. Although other people have reported learning it directly from Sugano Sensei, I am a little uncertain of its origins.

While researching its history however, I have discovered that it is almost the same as the “Jo kata for Total Coordination” illustrated in the text Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere by A. Westbrook and O. Ratti 1970. Also, there is a YouTube clip entitled “Tohei Sensei performs Jo Kata” which is almost identical. [Youtube link here]. It is likely therefore that Sugano Sensei learnt this pattern from Tohei Sensei.

It was called the 21-count pattern but obviously it depends upon how you choose to count it. As recorded here it has 21 moves and an additional 2 moves making it 23.

It challenges the idea that only the strikes are to be counted as, in this version, this is not the case. There is also a clear strike that is not counted.

Numbers (and names) are a bit of an anathema to practicing Aikido in real time in the dojo and ultimately need to be left behind. Similarly, we are best to eventually escape practicing the pattern in a specific orientation/direction although personally I find doing so helps me when initially learning a pattern. Training the pattern moving freely in any possible direction that maintains the flow of the pattern can in turn become a step on the way toward the freedom to simply move freely with the Jo.

Sugano Sensei preferred the term pattern rather than kata and often made the point that nothing is fixed. While it behooves us to ensure that the art continues to evolve, I believe there is considerable value in practicing and studying it how it once was done.

Start facing South standing in left hanmi holding the Jo (junte) in the chudan position. 

  1. Tsugi Ashi forward to execute Chudan Tsuki in left hanmi and return to Jodan
  1. Drop the Jo down to a horizontal position and Chudan Tsuki again and return to Jodan Kaishi
  1. Stepping forward on the right foot and strike Yokomen Uchi from your right side
  1. Step forward on the left foot and maintaining the grip on the Jo strike Giyaku Yokomen uchi from your left
  1. Release the Jo in the left hand and transfer it to the other end of the Jo and look behind and strike behind at knee level with a Gedan Tsuki as you turn 180 degrees to face North

Continue to turn allowing the left hand to slip to the middle of the Jo and the right hand to slip down to the end as you step forward into left hanmi with the Jo in the chudan position facing North and essentially repeat the above moves in this direction. 

  1. Chudan Tsuki and return to Jodan [This move is left out in some versions.]
  1. Chudan Tsuki and return to Jodan Kaishi
  1. Yokomen uchi stepping forward into right hanmi and
  1. Giyaku Yokomen uchi but on the left side and maintaining the hand grips.
  1. Turn tenkai 180 degrees to face South but this time bring the Jo in a big arc over head at 12 o’clock and down low to knee level as a low-level block.
  1. Follow this with a chudan Tsuki in right hanmi and staying in the same position.
  1. Step forward on your left foot and strike Yokomen uchi from your left side.
  1. Release the left hand and move back into Jodan position.
  1. Open back as you strike Yokomen uchi again and continue the movement down to strike behind Ushiro Tsuki at knee level without looking.
  1. Step forward on the left foot and execute a Yoko strike to the right temple of your imaginary partner and then
  1. Retract the Jo a little to make a jodan Tsuki to their face.
  1. Release the Jo with the right hand and turning it in the left move back and up to the jodan position.
  1. Open back and execute a Yokomen uchi strike and continue this to again strike Ushiro Tsuki behind without looking but on this occasion go down onto your left knee.
  1. Rise up from this position stepping forward with your left leg and execute a yoko uchi strike at knee level followed by a knee level Tsuki (attack not counted).
  1. Release the right hand grip shifting this hand to the middle of the Jo and the left hand from the middle to the end as you turn tenkai look and strike Gedan Tsuki behind at knee level.
  1. Step forward and south on the right leg and execute a yoko uchi strike at knee level in this direction.


Some people add two extra moves!

  1. Release the grip of the left hand and turn the Jo in the right to assume right hanmi with the Jo in the chudan position and moving tsugi ashi execute chudan Tsuki.
  1. Step forward on the left foot and keeping the same grip make a Giyaku Yokomen uchi strike from your left to finish.