Ju no Kata can be practised by two people without any special clothing or equipment. It resembles the willow that the doctor Akiyama Shinobu noticed whilst meditating. Whilst other trees were losing branches to heavy snow, the willow just let the snow fall off and its branches sprang up again without damage. Like the willow we use some strength in ju no kata as we must both keep a strong root to maintain good balance.
There are several aims of Ju no Kata.
Physical culture: It makes the spine flexible, loosens the shoulders and strengthens and conditions the legs and trunk.
Physical education: Student learns to use right amount of force in right direction and use body as a unit, with muscles working in coordination. Also improves balance and kinesthetic awareness.
Psychological interest: Force applied against the body, and methods of evading it, excite the instinct of self-preservation. This could be why judo is so popular.
Inner calm: The movements are practised slowly at first so students don’t become panicky due to the sudden unexpected attacks. In time the movements can be sped up to a realistic level.
Ju no Kata is practised slowly at first in order to master the delicate manipulations of balance and force. Gradually speed and force are increased. If speed is introduced to soon, precision may never be achieved. Hoever, the kata must not become ‘dead’. The student must make the movements flow smoothly and rhythmically and must be fully aware of what is going on around him. He must not just be performing an unthinking series of meaningless movements drilled into his mind.
Ju no Kata is designed so that it can be practised without the advantage of randori experience (normally randori is a great help to kata and the two should be practised concordantly).
The circle is used often in Ju no Kata. Some movements use big circular movements that are artificial and would never be used in real life. A purpose of them is to train Nai-Ki (inner energy). Breathing must be correct when making these circular movements, or they are a waste of time. Breathe deeply from the stomach and feel the energy flow through your body. If done correctly, Ju no Kata can promote exceptional energy and coordination, even in old age.
Description of Techniques
Tori and uke face each other about 8 feet apart, facing joseki (on Tori’s left). They make a formal bow by sliding the extended fingers round the thighs until they touch the kneecaps. The eyes look down. They then face each other and bow again. Then they step forward (right foot, left foot) to face each other with feet under the shoulders.
Tsuki-Dashi (forward thrusting with hand): Uke and tori are 6 feet apart standing in good posture. Uke advances in right tsugi-ashi. He raises his right arm, straight with fingers extended, palm facing inwards. The thrust is at the point between the eyes. Tori steps to the side with his right foot and catches the outstretched wrist with his right hand, thumb down. He pulls uke forward and up till he comes in front. He grabs uke’s left wrist with his own left hand, thumb up. Tori stretches uke’s body up and back; he doesn’t bend his own knees. Uke frees his wrists by turning to the left and himself catches the wrists as they both turn. Uke turns tori and brings him in front of him. Tori and uke are in the same postion as when Tori had uke’s wrists and Tori was behind (this time, however, uke is behind). Note that uke has both thumbs uppermost. Tori executes a similar escape, but turns to the right instead of the left and fully extends the fingers of his left hand. He goes to the position that both students have now been in, but has both thumbs uppermost. Tori releases uke’s left wrist and pulls his right arm straight up. Tori steps back a pace (left foot, right foot) and holds uke helpless, bent back with body extended and prevented from twisting out by the pull on his arm and Tori’s left hand on his left shoulder. Uke gives the signal by tapping his body twice with his left hand, then returns uke to the upright posture. Tori turns to the right and stands still; uke moves to tori’s left back corner, ready for the next move.
Kata-Oshi (Shoulder push) Uke places his right hand on Tori’s back between the shoulder blades, tips of fingers just beneath the neck, and pushes. Tori yields, keeping his legs straight. His hands slide down his legs and round them until his is resting his palms on the back of his calves (this bit is great for flexibilty in the hamstrings and spine). Uke has moved to the side of Tori, level with his head. If Tori were straight uke would be in front of him. Uke is bent over considerably, but not as much as tori. Tori catches Uke’s right hand with his own right hand, Tori’s thumb is in the centre of uke’s palm. Uke is preparing to thrust at the point between the eyes with his extended left fingers. Uke tries to avoid the lock on his right arm by the thrust and by twisting. As he does this both students straighten up, not not fully. Uke twists in towards Tori. Tori catches uke thrusting his left hand similarly. Tori steps a pace back (right, left) and draws uke’s hands diagonally upwards to get maximum stretch on uke’s body. Uke gives the signal by stamping lightly on the mat. Tori returns him to the upright postion, stepping forward a pace to do so. Tori stands still, and uke stands about 2 feet away, facing him for the next move.
Ryote-Dori (Double wrist grab) Uke grips both Tori’s wrists. Tori bends slightly forward. Tori releases right wrist by twisting it in and up. Note extended fingers and slight twist of body. Tori brings right arm over and releases left wrist by drawing it back. Tori’s fingers are extended, preparing to grab uke’s right wrist. Tori has caught and drawn out uke’s left wrist and is preparing to lift uke in a makikomi action. Tori should ideally not grip the judogi here or any time during junokata! He just puts his arm round uke’s arm. Uke has his left hand on Tori’s left hip to help him maintain good balance. Tori lifts by bending his back til he is at a 90 degree angle, legs slightly bent. Uke arches his back at the end and straightens his ankles. His feet should be facing up at about a 40-45 degree angle. Good lower back exercise. Tori does not throw (and never does in junokata). Uke gives the tapping signal with the left hand and Tori lowers him gently to his feet again. Tori stands still. Uke moves back a little.
Kata-mawashi (Shoulder turning) Uke comes and stands about1 foot behind tori. He places his right hand on the top back of Tori’s right shoulder, his left hand on the top front of the other shoulder and turns Tori round. Tori gives way by pivoting on his left foot. When they face each other, Tori’s left hand slides down the inner sleeve to grasp finally at the elbow. Tori comes through and grasps Uke’s shoulder as high as possilbe, pulling him forward. He has his knees bent a bit. Tori’s left foot finishes level with his right. He holds uke tightly to him and lifts him in seoinage. Uke points his feet and arches his back so he is in the same position as he was in makikomi. He gives the signal with his left hand and is lowered.
Ago-oshi (Chin push) Tori faces Joseki in shizenhontai and uke stands just under 6 feet away. Uke advances in right Tsugiashi and rasies the right arm as he advances, like in Tsuki-dashi. Uke’s aim is to push Tori’s jaw with his fingers. When the hand is about to touch, Tori catches it with his right hand (thumb on palm and pressing away and forward). Tori takes his right foot through in a very big arc, turning so that he twists Uke’s right arm. Uke tries to relieve the pressure by turning to his right, supplementing this with a thrust of his left fingers towards Tori’s eyes. Tori catches the left arm in a similar fashion as it comes through and makes uke twist much further then he intended. Uke pulls his arms in as they become fully extended in order to avoid a kata-oshi finish. Tori pushes uke’s hands to the top of his shoulders, but secures the same postion as in kata-oshi otherwise as regards spine and balance. Uke gives the signal with a foot and Tori returns him to the upright postion. Tori return to the positions in which they began the kata.
Kiri-Oroshi (Downward cut)
Uke advances to face Tori about 3 ft apart. Uke pivots on his left foot and faces away from Joseki and stands in Shizenhontai. Uke swings his right arm to the side and straight up. Uke pivots on the left foot to turn to the left and then, advancing the right foot, strikes down at the head as if with a sword blade. Tori steps back (left, right) and the blow passes in front of him; he catches the hand as it passes with his right hand (overhand grip on the wrist). Tori takes a big step with the right foot and presses uke’s arm back and down. Tori should have bent knees and a wide stance. Tori draws up his left foot and again advances with the right; uke steps back with his right foot, his arm fully extended. By keeping his balance Uke nullifes the effect of Tori’s push, and Tori’s own position becomes weak as he comes right in front of Uke. Uke frees his right wrist from Tori’s weakened hold by turning his right thumb down and pushing Tori’s elbow with the power of his body. His push begins to turn Tori. Tori continues to turn, moving his right foot in a big curve. Tori finishes his turn, note that the left foot was a pivot! Tori straightens up and catches Uke’s left wrist with his own left hand (thumb down). Tori moves right behind Uke (left foot, right) pulling Uke’s arm to unbalance him to his left rear. Tori steps well back with the left foot and pulls Uke’s arm up and out; his right hand goes up towards Uke’s left shoulder. Tori holds Uke off balance directly to the rear. Uke gives the signal with the right hand and Tori puts him back on balance. Tori stands with Joseki on his left.
Ryo-kata-oshi (Double Shoulder Push)
Uke moves to Shizenhontai about 2 ft behind Tori. Uke raises his hands, pointing the fingers and keeping the backs of the hands close to his chest until the arms are fully stretched. He brings his hands on to Tori’s shoulders and presses down. Tori gives way by crouching down, keeping his back straight until he is crouching as low as he can go. His heels are off the floor. Tori turns in a series of small steps, beginnnig with the left foot. When he is facing Uke he holds Uke’s right wrist with his left hand and turns in the same direction, pulling uke forward. As he does he adds his left hand, slightly furthur up Uke’s arm than his right hand. Rising a little, Tori goes forward with small steps, pulling Uke after him. To forestall any forward throw, Uke pushes at Tori’s hips and pulls back. After pulling Uke 3 or 4 steps altogether Tori stops. Utilizing Uke’s resistance, he turns to throw off Uke’s left hand and makes a big step with his left foot and then the right foot, bringing him to Uke’s right rear in Jigotai, knees bent. He has increased the pull on Uke’s arm, and with his straight left arm he unbalances Uke to the rear. Tori must show great firmness in the final pose. Uke gives the signal with the left hand and Tori puts him back on balance.
Naname-uchi (Slanting cut)
Uke comes to face Tori about 3 feet away. Uke raises his right hand, fingers extended, over his left shoulder. He brings the outside edge of the hand towards the point between Tori’s eyebrows. Tori leans back to let the blow pass. With his left hand (fingers extended) he sweeps Uke’s right hand out, controlling Uke’s balance. Tori extends his right hand fingers (seperating middle and ring fingers a little) and thrusts at uke’s eys. Uke withdraws his left foot and deflects Tori’s hand with his left hand, and then graps the wrist. Tori steps forward with the left foot to recover his balance and releases Uke’s right wrist. With his left hand (thumb below) he grips Uke’s left wrist and pushes, so that he frees his right wrist and brgins to take Uke off balance. Uke saves himself by applying his right palm (fingers down) to Tori’s left elbow. Uke begins to push Tori round in a curve. Uke has freed his left wrist by his push and is turning Tori, who begins to sink as he turns on his left foot. Tori passes right under Uke’s right arm and takes his right foot behind Uke, coming against him so that the bodies form a T. Tori’s right arm encircles Uke’s hips and presses him against Tori’s right hip. Tori’s left hand comes on the left side of uke’s abdomen. Tori raises Uke by straightening his knees (though not fully) and pushing his hips forward. So he is leaning back. His upper legs are parallel with his back to avoid spinal strain. Uke is stretched, like a plack of wood. He is helpless agaisnst the uranage and stretches his arms up and claps twice. Tori sets him down.
Katate-dori (overhand grip)
Tori stands facing Joseki; Uke comes beside and slightly behind him. Uke grips Tori’s wrist. Tori takes his arm forward and up, stretching the fingers. Uke holds on. Tori has freed himself by bending his elbow, applying a lever action against Uke’s arm. Uke brings up his right hand and pushes Tori’s arm still farther, stepping forward to help his push. Tori gives way and moves to the left, shifting his left foot, but twists the upper part of his body more than the lower, so creating an opportunity to slide in his left arm round Uke’s waist along the belt line. His right arm clasps Uke’s left elbow to him. Tori withdraws his right foot a trifle and lifts Uke with Uki-goshi. Uke holds his body in a horizontal straight line. Tori may take him up till the feet are higher than the head if Tori’s physical condition allows. Uke gives the signal with his right hand and Tori puts him back on his feet.
Katate-age (Arm raising)
Uke comes to face Tori and stands about 6 feet away. Uke and Tori simultaneously raise their right arms out to the side and then up, coming on to tiptoe. In little steps, slow at first then quickening, they come together; after 3 or 4 steps they meet at the right shoulder. Tori avoids a collison by quickly taking his right foot back and turning away. Uke, carried by his impetus, makes a big step with the right foot, coming in front of Tori. Tori holds Uke to him with his left hand on top of the arm and pushes Uke down to his right. Uke reacts back. Tori has suddenly released his pressure and changed to a push in the opposite direction. Tori is now pushing in the same direction in which Uke is trying to move, so they are both in ‘Harmony’. Uke braces himself against this new attack by Tori; Tori again lets go so as to permit Uke to come upright.Tori’s left hand is now on Uke’s left deltoid, his right hand on Uke’s right elbow. As Uke comes up Tori shifts his right hand to Uke’s right wirst and pulls him out and up. Tori moves his left hand to the shoulder point and steps back (left, right) pulling Uke up and back until Uke is fully stretched out and completely off balance. Uke gives the signal with his left hand and Tori returns him to the upright position. They return to the positons in which they began the kata.
Obi-tori (belt grab)
Uke comes to face Tori about 3 feet away. Uke raises his hands out and over and comes forward in a big movement to grasp Tori’s belt (wrists crossed, left on top). A small step forward (left, right) is allowed, but not imperative. Tori takes his hips slightly back and pulls aside Uke’s left arm by applying his right palm to the wrist. Then Tori applies his left hand with the inside edge against Uke’s arm and the thumb seperated. Tori turns Uke to Uke’s right. Tori may pivot on the left foot to help the movement. To keep balance Uke follows with his left foot in a big curve; Tori changes his right hand to the shoulder and keeps Uke turning. As Uke comes right round he pulls at Tori’s elbow and then moves his right foot back to complete the turn (no break is to be made in the turn). Tori gives way to the pull and makes a half turn by bringing his right foot through. Uke pulls at his left shoulder to unbalance him. Tori twists his upper body so Uke’s pull fails to unbalance him. He slides his left arm in for a left ukigoshi. Tori holds Uke tightly against him and raise him in Ukigoshi. Uke’s body should be straight and feet should be level with or higher than the head. Uke gives the signal with right hand. Tori sets him down.
Mune-oshi (chest push)
Uke comes to face Tori and stand close to him. Uke raises his right hand, fingers straight, to shoulder level, takes his shoulder a bit back, and then pushes firmly at Tori’s left chest. Tori gives very slightly and deflects Uke’s hand up by grasping the wrist. He pushes Uke in the same way Uke pushed at him (right hand). Uke moves to deflect the hand. Uke carries Tori’s right hand up and gets his own right hand down to grip Tori’s wrist. Tori grabs Uke’s left wrist and lifts it firmly on high; he then takes his right foot back (and the left slightly forward if necessary) and moves his left arm down and through, carrying Uke’s arms with it. Tori passes through with small steps, carrying Uke round with him. Extended fingers, obviously. Tori swings his left arm up and his right arm down, continuing to turn and taking Uke with him. Shoulders brush all the time. A 2nd half turn nearly complete, Tori frees his left wrist and grasps Uke’s wrist. Tori pulls Uke’s right arm straight out to the side and carries his left arm diagonally upward to the side. Releasing his right hand grip he slides the hand down Uke’s arm. Uke begins to be bend over his right back corner. Tori takes a big step with his right foot, ending up with his hips behind Uke’s. He bends his knees a trifle if necessary. Uke is bent over backwards and gives the signal with one foot. Tori puts him back on balance.
Uke comes to face Tori about 3 feet away. Uke takes his right foot back in a big step and swings his arm out, extending the fingers until the hand is level with the head. Uke brings his right hand down as a fist, steps forward with the right foot and directs the fist at Tori’s jaw. Tori leans back a little and as the fist goes past he pushes it on the way with his right hand. Tori then brings up his left hand and pushes Uke’s right elbow so Uke begins to turn. Tori makes a big step to his left front, Uke turns on his left foot taking his right foot through in a curve. Tori gives Uke no chance to recover balance, but pulls his arm at the elbow and as Uke braces back Tori threads his right arm through and steps right behind Uke, taking the hips through and lowering his body into Jigotai. Uke’s arm is caught in Ude-garami. Uke gives the signal with free hand. Tori releases him and sets him on balance.
Uchi-oroshi (Downward blow)
Uke takes his right hand diagonally across the body to the shoulder, slowly opening the fingers. When the hand comes above the head the fingers are fully extended. The palm turns out as the hand swings away to the side. The arm comes down and the fingers begin to contract. The hand is brought up the front of the body, becoming a fist. Without a break in the smooth movement, Uke stretches his fist up and steps forward to bring the back of the knuckels on Tori’s head. Tori leans back so that Uke’s fist misses and travels down; Tori establiishes ‘harmony’ by pushing Uke’s arm further in the direction it is going and takes a big forward step, pushing forward and down on Uke’s wrist, making Uke withdraw his right foot to keep balance. When Tori’s forward push is spent, Uke uses his left palm to turn Tori round by pushing his elbow, thus freeing his own right wrist. Tori recovers and allows himself to be turned (his arm is raised), pivoting on his left foot. Uke brings his right foot forward again. Tori slides his right foot in a very big curve, using Uke’s own left arm as a connecting rod to unbalance him. Tori goes well down in Jigotai. Tori takes Uke’s left wrist and keeping Uke tilted of balance, moves behind him (left foot, right foot) Tori gets right behind and establishes a form of hadakajime, his feet wide, knees bent and body turned rather to the left. He must keep Uke’s body and arm extended, allowing a potential lock on the elbow. Uke gives the signal by tapping.
Ryogan-tsuki (Thrust towards eyes)
Uke faces Tori 3 feet away. Uke raises his right hand up his right side (palm down, fingers extnded with middle and ring fingers seperate a little). He takes his shoulder back a little. Uke steps forward and thusts towards Tori’s eyes. Tori avoids by stepping back with the left foot and turning out of the way. He grips Uke’s wrist and carries the hand on, pulling Uke forward. Uke comes forward with the left foot and in his turn grips and pushes Tori’s wrist, twisting his own right wrist free. Tori pushes with his right palm at Uke’s elbow as it straightens out. Uke cannot maintain his hold and is turned to the right, pivoting on the right foot. As Uke comes round, Tori thrusts towards his eyes, advancing the left foot slightly. Uke steps well back with the right foot, turns to the right and grasps the attacking wrist just as Tori did earlier. Tori recovers balance by advancing his right foot; he grips Uke’s wrist to free his own left wrist. Uke pushes at the elbow and Tori begins to turn away, drawing in his left foot a little at the beginning but thereafter twisting mainly the shoulders without moving the feet more. As Uke turns Tori, he draws up his own right foot. Tori leans a little back and slipping under the arm moves into Ukigoshi; his foot movement should be minimal. Tori lifts Uke in Ukigoshi, Uke straightning out. Uke’s feet should be level with or higher then his own head. Uke gives the signal and Tori returns him to his feet.
Conclusion of Ju no Kata
Tori and Uke face each other 6 feet apart. They withdraw one step (left, right) bringing the feet close together and make standing rei. They then turn to Joseki and rei simultaneously.
More Discussion on the Judo Forum. See the video of first place winners from the 2008 IJF Kata World Cup. The most complete book on the subject is Ju No Kata: A Kodokan Judo Textbook by Keiko Fukuda, 9th dan. More about the author is below, and in the article A Lifetime of Judo.