Monday, July 25, 2011

'Beginnings' by Michael Parry

The following is an extract from the first chapter of a book that Michael Parry was proposing to write on Jan de Jong (see previous blog).



A little over 300 kilometres north west of Kuala Lumpur, along a twisting road which winds itself lazily towards Malaysia's hill country, sits Taiping, a little town off the tourist track.

...

In October 1979, when the skies over Malaysia were heavy with impending rain, Jan de Jong and his wife Margaret were heading in the direction of Taiping. It wasn't actually their destination that hot and oppressive day. De Jong wasn't really sure precisely where he was going, but he was confident he was heading in the right direction.

His aim was a meeting with Meor Abdul Rahman, supreme head instructor of the Malaysian self-defence system known as Silat Seni Gayong. He knew that Rahman, a very fit man in his sixties, lived in Perak State, though the exact location was still a mystery to De Jong as he motored north.

De Jong is not the sort to meander on a journey. 'I like to travel fairly fast. I don't like turning back. If I am too late to stop at an eating place I might see at the last minute, I'd rather drive on a little slower and stop at the next place.'

When Margaret spotted a roadside settlement some distance out of Ipoh, her husband, foot to the floor, was well past the ramshackle huts by the time he had been told it might be a good place to take refreshments. De Jong put on the brakes and, contrary to his normal instincts, turned the car and headed back.

Cool drink in hand, De Jong wandered around the stalls, a scattering of lean-tos offering an assortment of arts and crafts. In one, he noticed a copper engraving on the wall. It was a reproduction of a picture he had seen before, a photo of Abdul Rahman with a leading member of the Malaysian Government.

The stall-holder, impressed with a visitor showing some knowledge of his compatriots, was happy to inform De Jong that the revered martial arts instructor lived in the village of Air Kuning, or Yellow Water, a little settlement on the outskirts of Taiping. To get there was easy, he explained, one merely had to take the dust road to the right, just before Taiping.

Back in the car, proceeding with that confident air of an experienced driver, De Jong missed the turning to Air Kuning but, to the amazement of his wife, continued into Taiping. As he sought out a rest house, Margaret asked him why, after taking the trouble to establish just where Abdul Rahman lived, he had driven past. The expense of the entire exercise was worrying her practical mind.

'I told her not to worry,' De Jong remembers. 'I knew subconsciously that I was doing the right thing without even thinking about it.'

It is not the easiest thing for a European to get into government rest houses. They are used a lot by travelling civil servants, but De Jong's knowledge of the language opened another door and he was soon enjoying a siesta. Later the De Jongs went for a meal, climbing to the first floor restaurant with its fine view of the lake garden.

The restaurant was almost empty and the waiter, happy to talk with a European who could converse easy in his own tongue, asked De Jong what he was doing in Taiping. 'I'm going to Air Kuning,' he was told. 'But why?' asked the waiter. 'Because I want to see Meor Abdul Rahman,' replied De Jong.

'Well, sir,' said the waiter, 'he is sitting here beside you.'

Turning, De Jong was amazed to see a little silver-haired man at an adjoining table looking at him with a pleased, though somewhat incredulous, expression. 'It is Allah's wish that we should meet,' he told De Jong, embracing him as an old friend. The Malaysian then explained that he had not visited the rest house for years and had only come that day for a business meeting.

It was the beginning of firm friendship, a fruitful one for De Jong who later became the first European to be awarded a certificate in Silate Seni Gayong from the skillful old master of the art.

So why should a man, who rarely deviates from his journey, turn around on a country road and then, fully instructed about his destination, choose to ignore those directions - and yet still reach his goal?

If you can follow De Jong's explanation, you are on your way to understanding the principles and philosophy of jujutsu.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Beginnings'


Michael Parry was a journalist with the Daily News 'back in the day'. He wrote the following in a memo:
Now I am writing a book about Jan de Jong and the philosophy of jujutsu and I want to be sure I DO NOT miss any stories to do with Shihan de Jong. This is where you can help. Think of any dealings that you have had with him and whether there is a story to be told. You may think it is a bit of a non-event, ... but I may find it fits into the overall picture I am drawing. Alternatively I would like to hear how jujutsu has affected your life, your attitude, your general day to day living. I want contributions big and small. How have you benefited from jujutsu? How has Jan de Jong influenced your life? Perhaps your few sentences will add up to much more when added to another's view of things. I would like to hear from ANYONE who feels there is a story to be told. Please contact me ... evenings or, if you like, at the Daily News ... or by writing to the address above. I look forward to hearing from you. Or we could meet: ... Don't let me miss out on your favourite Jan de Jong story.

Jan de Jong endorsed Parry's work with a hand written note saying he didn't like talking about himself and requesting help.

What ever happened to Micheal Parry? What ever happened to this project? Did he get some stories? This is one of the first questions that Tony Chiffings brought up when we began corresponding based on my interest in the story of the school of Jan de Jong. I never knew of this project. It was before my time, and, unfortunately, there was not a real sense of history about the school. Not until now that is.

If anyone can help in locating Michael Parry, I'd appreciate it. And like Michael Parry, if anyone would like to share their stories with me to possibly include in the Jan de Jong story that is this blog, again I and my readers would appreciate it.

One thing that Michael Parry wrote is echoed in a recent meeting over a coffee with another former instructor of De Jong's, Peter Canavan. This meeting was where Peter gave me two shopping bags full of documents from the past related to De Jong's school and which I am currently mining and analysing. One of these documents is Parry's memo and the draft of the first chapter of his book on De Jong. I'll share extracts from this chapter in later blogs. But one of the very first things that Peter said to me at our meeting was about how many lives De Jong had affected. It is true. I recall having an interview for a job at one of the top stockbroking firms in Perth, and the managing director told me he'd attended the school for a time when he found out I was an instructor there. I didn't get the job so I'm not sure if De Jong's influence was a positive or negative in that situation.

Well, first mission for my readers - find Michael Parry. Secondly, feel free to share stories with me for inclusion in the unofficial history of the school of Jan de Jong. The next blog will begin to share his draft first chapter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The school of Jan de Jong Blog

I've decided to write a blog dedicated to the school of Jan de Jong.

When I say the school of Jan de Jong, I refer to a school of thought rather than a physical place of teaching. Much the same way as the school of Rembrandt refers to a school of thought rather than a physical school. This is the Jan de Jong legacy. He didn't just teach a martial art or martial arts. He taught a way of thinking about the martial arts.

I initially wrote a blog under the title of Kojutsukan. It was written to introduce the public to the work I was doing in using science to understand and study the tactics and techniques taught by the martial arts and used in violence generally. Given my association with De Jong, I received many requests for more information on the man himself. I'd already drafted a chapter on the school of Jan de Jong in my originally conceived how-to book on Jan de Jong jujutsu, so, a little more research and I posted what I'd written.

What I posted was met with quite an amazing response. Not the least of which was that I was considered the unofficial historian of De Jong and his school of thought. Other's considered him and his school of thought important enough to contact me and contribute what they had to this story.

My writing was not met with universal approval. A member of the De Jong's family took exception to some of what I'd written. I attempted to appease their concerns by amending some of what I'd written, but for whatever reason I did not amend the description of a particular photograph that described it as being taken at the 860 Hay Street dojo. This is what Mr de Jong had told me and so I was going to stick with it until proven otherwise. As it turns out, there was an unintended wonderful consequence to this action.

Harry Hartman saw this photograph and contacted me to correct me. Harry trained under De Jong from 1954 to 1958. He obviously loved his time with De Jong and felt compelled to contact me. We have since commenced a correspondence, which I treasure. He generously forwarded me photographs and other documents of his time with De Jong. They have shed some light on the past and the development of the school of Jan de Jong.

Two former senior instructors of the school, before my senior instructors, have since given me two shopping bags (ecologically friendly of course) full of documents that I am in the process of studying. They gave them to me because they consider De Jong and his school of thought important, and, it would appear that I am the only one to take the history of De Jong and his school of thought serious enough to actually study.

So, this blog is about De Jong and his school of thought. It will disturb some, but it will also contribute to his legacy. Some may not want to hear what is written, but others will gain a greater appreciation for what De Jong developed. I believe he was no 'librarian'. He was not simply another person in a linage that passed on the same information. He did not simply pass on what he was taught. I believe he developed so much, including a way of looking at all martial arts, a systems approach to martial arts.

Anybody who wants to contribute to this project, please do. With great appreciation.

The first thing readers can do is, provide me with the contact details for Michael Parry. He was a journalist with the Daily News (Western Australia) who was writing a book on De Jong. I have a draft of his first chapter, which will be printed in this blog in the near future. A memo was circulated within the school for people to provide Parry with stories about De Jong, with De Jong's endorsement. What stories were told?