Lusitan fencing in Queensland, Australia
Isn’t Jōdō a Japanese martial art?
Yes, it is. Jōdō is the modern Japanese ‘way of the jo’ or stick, which is derived from older methods of Jōjutsu. Jōdō practitioners use a short staff, usually 0.9 to 1.5m (3 to 5 feet) long.
Portuguese Jogo do Pau, which employs a 1.5m (5 foot) long staff, is not related to Japanese Jōdō in any way. ‘Jogo’ in Portuguese means ‘game’ or ‘technique’ and ‘pau’ means stick, so ‘Jogo do Pau’ can be translated as ‘game’ or ‘technique of the stick.’
Although there are bound to be some similarities between short staff fighting arts, Jogo do Pau has a very different look and feel to Jōdō in action. Jogo do Pau focusses on combat against other equally armed opponents, while Jōdō has a strong focus on defence against the Japanese sword.
I’ve read that Jogo do Pau originated in India, is that true?
Most likely not. There are visible similarities between Jogo do Pau and various other short staff arts such as Canarian Juego del Palo, French Bâton, Italian Bastone, North African Tahtib and Indian Silambam.
Such similarities are, however, more simply explained by independent parallel development than by a single source of origin theory. The physical capabilities and limitations of particular forms of weapon, operating within similar social and environmental constraints, will often and unsurprisingly result in similar adaptions and visibly similar techniques.
Why practice with staves today when people don’t carry them around?
Mostly, we practice Jogo do Pau for the same reasons other people practice other martial arts and sports such as Kendo and modern sport Fencing: for fun and competition while preserving a fascinating cultural activity and getting some exercise with friends at the same time.
Swinging a two-handed hardwood staff around through the motions of striking and parrying transitions is a good form of exercise for the whole body. For those with a competitive steak, fencing an opponent with staves is a challenging and rewarding sport in its own right.
Although self-defence with two-handed staves is less likely in today’s world, Jogo do Pau practice also includes the use of shorter, one-handed batons, and a one or two-handed stick like object is often close to hand in the typical home, should occasion demand it. The principles of timing, distance and space management learned in Jogo do Pau practice are also valuable in any kind of physical encounter.
Is Jogo do Pau practice dangerous?
Not when practiced carefully and responsibly by suitably fit people, under proper guidance from an experienced instructor. All martial arts practice (and any form of physical exercise) involves risks, and weapon-based martial arts can involve greater risks, but these risks can be mitigated with proper care, control, attitude and equipment.
Jogo do Pau has been practiced relatively safely in Portugal for centuries with minimal equipment. To make practice even safer while permitting high levels of speed to be used, we employ modern personal protective equipment (PPE) such as fencing masks, padded vests, gloves, and arm guards from time to time. The most important safety measures, however, are a positive attitude, respect for the art and our fellow training partners, an awareness of our surroundings and any hazards, and complete control over our staves and our own bodies at all times.
Additionally, there is always a trained and certified first aid provider and first aid kit at each practice session.
Will unarmed techniques, such as kicking or wrestling, be practiced?
No. While there is certainly significant value in practicing unarmed martial arts and sports independently, within Jogo do Pau practice sessions the focus is strongly on using the weapon to remain outside unarmed striking and grappling ranges as far as possible (this becomes especially important in outnumbered scenarios).
How much does it cost?
One of the advantages of Jogo do Pau practice over some other weapon-based martial arts and modern sport fencing is the relatively low cost of entry for beginners. To start with, you’ll just need yourself, some athletic clothing suitable for outdoor practice and a 1.5m timber staff (contact us for specific details before you buy a staff). Eventually you’ll need to invest in some specific group attire, equipment and protective gear for more intense training and free play, but that will be sometime in the future.
Week to week training outdoors is free, however there will be incidental costs from time to time to cover things like insurance and group equipment and supplies.
Can anyone join and participate?
Due to the nature of Jogo do Pau practice, you need to be at least 18 years old to participate. You’ll also need to have a basic level of fitness and mobility that permits you to safely practice fencing with staves and batons.
How do I get started?
If you are interested in learning more or trying Jogo do Pau out for yourself, email us at jdpbne(at)gmail.com.