Thursday, January 11, 2018

Jan de Jong's Unique Why Gradings

I'm finalising my first book on the science behind fighting techniques and am working on the front end (preface and introduction) and the back end (conclusion). I've found that a citation from Gracie and Gracie's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Practice expresses the mission of the book:

In virtually all the martial arts, black belt denotes the highest level of achievement. ... By the time the student attains a black belt his knowledge and skill are of the highest class. In addition, his depth of knowledge makes him a fully qualified teacher. Rather than merely knowing how to perform the moves, the black belt is expected to know why a given move works. That is, he understands the biomechanical principles that underlie the move. The principles of leverage, of body control and mechanics. This deeper knowledge makes him a far better teacher than someone who merely recounts a series of moves. Moreover, such knowledge allows him to invent new moves and combination and so develop a more personalised jiu-jitsu. (Gracie and Gracie 2001, 17) (emphasis in original)

While the expectation that black belts are fully qualified teachers that know why a technique works in addition to knowing how to perform it is laudable, it is definitely not realised in practice or the martial arts literature.

This is another unique feature of the teachings of Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan. He uniquely attempted to operationalise Gracie and Gracie's expectations of black belts by including gradings in Ikkyu (1st Kyu; assistant instructor) and yudansha (black belt) gradings that examine the candidates knowledge of why a technique works. This included theory grades where candidates are quizzed on the theory of techniques. There are grades where candidates are required to demonstrate specified techniques and answer theory questions pertaining to those techniques and their variations; thus fulfilling both of Gracie and Gracie's requirements of a black belt. There is also teaching examinations where the candidate is assessed on, among other things, their knowledge of the theory of techniques.

The problem with these gradings, and why de Jong's goal is not realised in these gradings, is that the body of knowledge associated with why techniques work does not currently exist. My book sets out to start to fill the void that is that body of knowledge.

Having said that, it takes nothing away from de Jong's unique fledgling efforts in realising Gracie and Gracie's expectations of black belts.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu International

The jujutsu taught by Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan was referred to as Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu (THR) jujutsu. De Jong began the internationalisation of his teachings in the early 1980s when he started conducting seminars throughout Western Europe and Australia.

De Jong’s jujutsu grading syllabus is one of, if not the most extensive martial arts grading syllabuses I have ever seen. The aim of the yudansha (black belt) portion of his jujutsu grading syllabus is not only to develop proficient (world-class) practitioners but also to produce proficient (world-class) instructors. To this end, the yudansha grades contain numerous parts that are specifically aimed at producing said proficient (world-class) jujutsu instructors.

Towards the end of his life, De Jong often discussed his ideas of developing two yudansha streams with me. He was never impulsive when it came to developing or changing his grading systems (he also developed aikido and pencak silat grading systems) and he used me as a sounding board for the development of his ideas about a dual-streamed yudansha grading syllabus. De Jong passed away (April 2003) before he could realise his ideas in this regard.

The impetus for De Jong’s dual-stream syllabus was the fact that certain individuals would never teach nor want to teach the jujutsu that they were so proficient in. Why subject those jujutsuka to the instructor-oriented gradings when they would never teach jujutsu? Why deny them the opportunity of grading shodan (1st Dan) if they did not have the opportunity to assist instructing classes (one of the grading requirements)?

Sensei Daniel Newcombe 5th Dan Tsustumi Hozan Ryu Jujutsu and 1st Dan Shotokan Karate (see right) is the driving force behind Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu International (THRI). Newcombe was introduced to De Jong’s jujutsu in 1986 and has been teaching THR jujutsu since 1996 and continues to train under De Jong’s son, Shihan Hans de Jong 8th Dan. Following Jan De Jong’s passing, Newcombe established Colosseum Martial Arts, of which he is the principal, and then THRI.

THRI was established in 2015 by Newcombe and Sensei Wim Mallens (see below), Principal Tadashii-do Karate ne Jiu Jitsu based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, with Hans de Jong being appointed Patron of the organisation. Mallens has a long association with the De Jong family being the first to host a De Jong seminar in Holland when De Jong was denied that opportunity because he did not belong to any Dutch judo or jujutsu organisation. Mallens continued to host De Jong seminars annually for two decades.

THRI is a non-profit organisation formed to provide a forum and framework for the preservation of the original THR jujutsu system, techniques, method of instruction and standard of Jan de Jong and Hans de Jong. Other goals of THRI are to restructure and modernise the original THR gradings, standardise teaching practices for greater consistency in practitioner and instructor standards, provide pathways for clubs and Instructions to affiliate with THRI and introduce the grading and assessment framework within their own teachings.

In this way, Newcombe and Mallens are realising De Jong’s vision and are extending it further.

Another initiative introduced by Newcombe within the THRI syllabus is the separation of the weapons grades in the yudansha grades into a separate stream. In this way, those not engaged in the THRI jujutsu grading stream can obtain training and qualifications in the use of various weapons.

Newcombe has also tackled a dilemma that De Jong grappled with without coming to a resolution before he passed away. That dilemma was the transitioning of jujutsu yudansha in other systems into the THR (now THRI) system without compromising the high standards associated with THR/THRI. Newcombe has developed a bridging course that culminates in the awarding of a THRI shodan grade. Higher THRI yudansha grades are contingent on completing the instructor-stream grades which ensures that the candidate is familiar with the rest of the THRI syllabus.

The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques
Gracie and Gracie in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Technique (2001) suggest that by the time a student attains a black belt their knowledge and skill are of the highest class and that their depth of knowledge makes them a fully qualified teacher. Further, they suggest that ‘rather than merely knowing how to perform the moves, the black belt is expected to know why a given move works. That is, he [or she] understands the biomechanical principles that underlie the move’ (emphasis in the original). While the expectation that black belts are expected to know why a given move works in addition to how to perform the move is laudable, it is definitely not realised if the martial arts literature is anything to go by.

De Jong’s original instructor-oriented gradings which THRI has isolated in a separate stream of gradings is a greater step towards realising Gracie and Gracie’s expectations that yudansha are qualified teachers, however, they can still be improved upon in order to realise Gracie and Gracie’s expectation that yudansha know the why in addition to the how of jujutsu techniques.

I am very excited by Newcombe’s THRI grading syllabus approach as it demonstrates the utility of the science that I have developed for a book that I have tentatively titled, The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques. The theory that I have developed provides the biomechanical (and other) understanding of all techniques taught by all fighting activities and relates it to practice in a meaningful way.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Classifying Uke Waza - He Was Onto Something

I am currently finalising a book on the science behind fighting techniques. After attempting to edit the chapter on blocking techniques I found I had to research, reflect, and re-write the chapter because it wasn't up to standard with the rest of the chapters in terms of technical content and challenging the orthodoxy of martial arts theory.

Blocking techniques - simple enough subject you would think, but not so as it turns out. When you review the martial arts literature and listen to various instruction, you see the conceptualisation of blocking techniques is riddled with inconsistencies if not down-right inaccuracies. I won't go through them all here as it takes an entire chapter in my book to explore them, however, I will focus on Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan's classification of blocking techniques.

Before that, we need to establish the basis of any exploration of the concept of blocking techniques. Here I turn to Wikipedia:

In martial arts, blocking is the act of stopping or deflecting an opponent's attack for the purpose of preventing injurious contact with the body.

Anyone familiar with my work might be wondering why I am starting off any exploration of blocking techniques with a reference to the relatively unauthoritative Wikipedia. The answer is because it is the only definition or explanation of martial arts blocking techniques that I can find that refers to the purpose of preventing injurious contact with the body from an attack.

The question becomes, are blocking techniques being used to prevent injurious contact with the body? An evasive body movement (Japanese: taisabaki) moves a person's body off the line of attack. If a blocking technique is used in conjunction with an EBM, the question always has to be asked as to the purpose of the blocking technique. After all, it's not to prevent injurious contact with the body from an attack because the EBM takes care of that problem.

This is a question that is particularly relevant to the teachings of De Jong (his jujutsu, aikido, and pencak silat) as his methods extensively emphasise EBMs. But it's also relevant to all martial arts. For instance, I refer to an instruction from a book by the karate master, Hirokazu Kanazawa, where he describes the use of a low block and taisabaki against chudan zuki (middle punch). What is the purpose of the low block because the taisabaki takes care of preventing injurious contact to the body from the chudan zuki?

There are answers to that question, however, it should always be asked nonetheless. Unfortunately it may reveal a lack of real understanding of the methods being taught and that they are simply taught rote fashion.

Blocking techniques in the martial arts are often distinguished between hard and soft, direct and indirect, arresting and deflection, etc. ... Are deflections blocks? Not according to the common place meaning of the term block, but as is so often the case, the martial arts appears to have extended the common place meaning of the term to include deflections as blocking techniques, although some still do distinguish between blocks and deflections.

A common distinction is between hard and soft blocks with hard blocks being described as meeting force with force and soft blocks being deflections. This delineation is often used to support an argument of the superiority of soft blocks over hard blocks, however, the concept of hard blocks is often erroneous. More often then not the classic high, middle, and low blocks of karate are used as examples of hard blocks. However, they do not oppose force with force directly. They are in fact deflections albeit using more force than is normally associated with the deflection classification. There are very few 'stopping blocks' taught in karate or most martial arts. Gracie and Danaher in Mastering Jujitsu demostrate true stopping blocks (and interestingly do not include any deflections at all).

However, there is a trick in understanding how Gracie and Danaher's 'absorption blocks' meet force with force. A trick that  is clarified in my chapter.

De Jong provided six classes of blocks in his classification: pushing, pulling, hard, brushing, grabbing, and empty.

When I was being taught jujutsu, I was told by my instructors that this classification refers to the unbalancing methods used against moving attacks. For the most part they were not being used to prevent injurious contact with the body from an attack because the extensive use of taisabaki in our jujutsu takes care of that problem. While I could see pushing, pulling, hard, and grabbing blocks as being unbalancing methods against moving attacks, I couldn't see how brushing blocks and empty blocks were unbalancing methods.

A brushing block refers to light contact with the opponent's attacking body part in the same direction as the attack. It is not a deflection which applies force at an angle to an opponent's attacking body part in order to cause it to move off its trajectory (when a taisabaki is being used it's not moving the attacking body part off the line of attack because the taisabaki moved the body off that line). How does that unbalance an opponent?

An empty block is no block at all. Taisabaki is used exclusively to move the body off the line of attack to prevent injurious contact with the body. How does no block at all unbalance an opponent?

I won't go into detail, however, if I received an answer to my questions at all it was 'shoehorned.' At attempt at using flawed theory to fit valid practice.

As it turns out, De Jong never intended his blocking techniques classification to be a system of unbalancing methods against moving attacks. He'd developed the classification to describe all the methods of dealing with an attack in his pencak silat. The jujutsu instructors' had appropriated the classification and misapplied it. The misapplication has to do with the unique classification of unbalancing methods from hand and body grabs that are included in De Jong's jujutsu grading system.

But De Jong was definitely onto something, which I now only fully appreciate given my work on blocking techniques for my chapter. Blocking techniques block but most blocking techniques taught in karate don't block. Deflections are technically not blocks. How can empty blocks be blocks? The answer lies in uke waza.

Uke waza is a Japanese term used to refer to blocking techniques, however, uke doesn't mean blocking. It means 'to receive.' What method is being used to receive an attack? Is it an uke waza with or without an EBM? If a technique is used in conjunction with an EBM, what is the purpose of that technique because it is not to prevent injurious contact with the body from the attack because the EBM takes care of that problem? This then returns us to the possibility that these uke waza being used without an EBM are being used for two purposes; to prevent injurious contact with the body from the attack and for some other purpose.

Uke waza refers to 'receiving techniques.'

Nakayama explores the purposes of blocking techniques in the classic Dynamic Karate (none of which refer to preventing injurious contact with the body from an attack). It is enlightening to use the above theory when analysing Nakayama's 'six possibilities in blocking.'

De Jong's six blocking techniques classification is in fact an example of a systematic approach to uke waza, which extends beyond blocking techniques. The insights this approach affords then needs to be used to cast an eye over the De Jong jujtsu grading system. This would be applying and extending the work started by De Jong.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two Sisters In The Resistance

I published previous posts about Hannie Schaft (the 'girl with the red hair') and the Oversteegen sisters and their involvement in the Dutch Resistance. Vice Netherlands published an interview with Freddie Oversteegen (right in 1945), the younger of the sisters, and refer to a new documentary on these extraordinary women who were only young girls when they fought during WWII: 'Two Sisters In The Resistance.' Let's hope we get to see it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Way of Kaizen

The Way of Kaizen is the title of my article published in this month's Blitz magazine. It is what I consider to be Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan's legacy. Would love to hear some feedback on the article.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Legacy of Jan de Jong

I have been informed by the editor of the national martial arts magazine, Blitz, that my article on the legacy of Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan will be published. Can you conceive what I consider De Jong's legacy to be? It won't be what you imagine but it will be far more influential than simple martial arts. It may even challenge 'professional's' understanding of a philosophy that they hold dear to themselves.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Adrian Dobson Photo

Paul Amyes, a former senior student of the former Jan de Jong Self Defence School, very generously granted me permission of sharing the photograph below of the late Adrian Dobson.