“Every phenomenon in the universe develops itself through a certain progression. Even the cry of a bird and the noise of an insect follow this progression. It is called Jo-Ha-Kyu.” – Motokiyo Zeami (AD 1363 – 1443)¹
The soul of butoh is not really about form alone, but individual essence or story, especially if pulled from the subconscious (subbody). Essentially, the Japanese words Jo-Ha-Kyu involve the three major parts of a story–beginning/opening (thesis), middle/development (antithesis), and end/climax (synthesis).¹ For instance, in Tatsumi Hijikata’s Bugs Crawl, we begin with the simple awareness of the situation and a single bug (Jo), then bugs gradually infiltrate (Ha) till there is nothing left but bugs (Kyu), then there is a resurrection (Kyu/New Jo). Sometimes the line between Kyu and a New Jo may be difficult to see. Catharsis, for instance, may be viewed as the climax, but also a new beginning.
Jo is often small due to serving as a trigger, while Ha is quite often very involved, and Kyu also small. Small, however, does not mean less intense, just an initiation or wrap-up. Because of this, it is not unheard of to hear of Jo-Ha-Ha-Ha-…Kyu.
There can be a Jo-Ha-Kyu within the entire span of a piece or there can be a Jo-Ha-Kyu within one qualia, one among several Jo-Ha-Kyus. There can be a Jo-Ha-Kyu in the throwing of a rock. All shadow work especially contains the Jo-Ha-Kyu, and the Kyu is sustainability/catharsis/healing.
For clarity’s sake, let’s take Joseph Campbell’s story circle (The Hero’s Journey) as fit into Dan Harmon’s categories as an example, and identify the Jo-Ha-Kyu.²
- You (a character is in a zone of comfort) (Jo)
- Need (but they want something) (Jo)
- Go (they enter an unfamiliar situation) (Ha)
- Search (adapt to it) (Ha)
- Find (find what they wanted) (Ha/Kyu)
- Take (pay its price) (Kyu)
- Return (and go back to where they started) (Kyu/New Jo)
- Change (now capable of change) (New Jo)
(As you can see, sometimes the placements of the Jo, Ha, and Kyus are up for interpretation. Not to mention there are meta-Jo-Ha-Kyus within each Jo, Ha, or Kyu.)
Exercise 1: Throwing Jo-Ha-Kyus
As a Jumping Wild exercise, one person throws out various Jo-Ha-Kyus one at a time (first Jo, then Ha, then Kyu). Examples: question, thesis, conclusion / inadequate, adequate, too much / sensation, action, result / birth, life, death.
Exercise 2: Throwing Jo-Ha-Kyu Variations
This is a reduced/deterritorialized Jo-Ha-Kyu Jumping Wild exercise. One person can edit/remix the concept of Jo-Ha-Kyu and one at a time throw either Jo, Ha, or Kyu, but the order may shift. If for instance we throw a Jo followed by another Jo, then the story or scenery is constantly shifting and being felt. Or somebody may call out Jo then Ha, then decide Jo → Ha → Jo then Jo → Ha → Kyu → Jo followed by Jo → Kyu.
Momiyose is a form of Jo-Ha-Kyu where the Kyu is a condensed culmination of the Jo and Ha. For instance, if it takes a minute or two to open and feel the Jo scenery/qualia, and another 8 to travel the journey of changes (Ha-Ha-Ha), then perhaps one chooses a 1 minute climax merging together (whether linearly or not), everything that occurred within the Jo and Ha.³
Several encounters of near-death experiences have the life review or life flashing before one’s eyes. This is very much like a Momiyose Kyu.