Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jan de Jong Pt 11 - His Grading System Pt 1

How do you transmit your teachings if you develop a 'school of thought' (see Jan de Jong Pt 1 blog)? A common way within the martial arts is through 'forms' or 'kata'; what Karl Friday refers to as 'pattern practice' in Legacies of the Sword. Jan de Jong's 'school of thought' is transmitted via 'oral tradition' through the teachings of his former instructors, and through his grading system.

De Jong's jujutsu isn't big on kata. Well, not kata as is commonly conceived.

De Jong didn't base his teachings on a theory such as the 'small circle theory'. He didn't base his teachings on a tactical theory such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu which suggests that almost all fights end up on the ground. He didn't espouse a philosophy such as Bruce Lee in what he suggests nobody should refer to as Jeet Kune Do. De Jong's school of thought, and the evolution of his school of thought, can be seen within his grading system.

The De Jong grading system is one of the MOST comprehensive in the world. Following the introduction of the 'mon grades', there are 11 gradings (for an adult) before attempting the 1st kyu grading comprised of seven seperate gradings. Following that is nine separate gradings for shodan, nine separate gradings for nidan, and twelve separate gradings for sandan. All in all there are 49 separate gradings to complete in the technical gradings of De Jong's grading system. Practical, weapons, theory, teaching, history, terminology, first aid, projects - 49!

Only five people have completed the De Jong grading system: Peter Clarke, Robert Hymus, Paul Connelly, Greg Palmer, and myself. I prefer to think of myself as 'slip streaming' behind my instructors.

De Jong understood the extensiveness of his grading system. Towards the end of his life he was talking about including the gradings his instructors/students had to go through for their dan grades on their grading certificates. While I understood his intention, I had to disappoint him in explaining that nobody looks at anyone's certificates within the martial arts. He had to rely on the depth and breadth of knowledge his instructors possessed to express the quality of his grading system.

He was also contemplating having different 'degrees' of shodan in that not all that were at that level were going to become teachers. He was contemplating modifying his grading system to include different 'streams' - teachers and non-teachers. Unfortunately, I again had to disappoint him in explaining that within the martial arts, a black belt is considered a teacher without reference to their actual qualifications. It is unfortunate but it is also true.

A look at De Jong's grading system reveals a great deal about his school of thought, the evolution of that school of thought, and about the quality of his instructors. Consequently, this is part one of looking at his grading system. However, these blogs must be prefaced with the comment that these views may be controversial within the De Jong community.

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