I still teach almost every day. I have to travel around a lot too. Each year I am asked to go to different places like New Zealand, Europe, Scandinavia and places like that. Also, each year I go all around Australia, Adelaide, Sydney, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Darwin. I sometimes go to Alice Springs and to Groote Eylandt Island off the north coast where a mining company has a big jujutsu club. So I am kept very busy at all times of the year. (Interview with De Jong by Mike Clarke published in Australasian Fighting Arts, Aug/Sept 1991)De Jong first accepted invitations to teach overseas in 1982. Since then, he has conducted seminars in Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Holland, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the USA (in addition to teaching throughout Australia).
Following the first very successful tour in 1982, the 'European tours' became an annual event until ill-health forced De Jong to refrain from travelling in 1999. He would spend between six and twelve weeks travelling throughout Europe each year, teaching for different schools, instructors, and organisations. The seminars ranged from a few hours to week long camps. He would be accompanied by some of his instructors and later by instructors from other schools in Australia or Europe. Maggie De Jong (De Jong's daughter) assisted him on many of these tours, and I suspect I am the instructor with the second highest number of tours.
De Jong tried to accommodate as many invitations as possible, however, that was not always logistically possible. There were scheduling challenges involving seminars at different dates in different towns and cities in different countries for different people and organisations. De Jong would spend months organising these tours himself. The transportation around Europe involved hiring a car or van and partaking of a 'road trip'. Everyone who accompanied De Jong have their own stories concerning these road trips.
The trip has had quite an impact on my life. ... The trip has helped me to see that the road to mastery of jujutsu is long and unending. ... Between training/teaching sessions in various places, there were the funny occurrences that come part and parcelled with any fun trip. The first of these memorable experiences was that of being a passenger in the car driven by Shihan de Jong. I won't go into too much detail, but suffice to say that, he didn't get his nickname 'Leadfoot Shihan' by mistake! Our first demonstration was held in Helsingborg, Sweden. I must say it was an awesome sight to see approximately 600 jujutsuans under one roof. (Interview with Sam Gervasi, principal of his own school in Victoria, in Ju-Jitsu Australasia 1990)The photo to right was taken on one of the European tours circa 1995. De Jong is demonstrating the use of the kusurigama against a katana. I'm pretty sure the photograph was taken by Renate Sluiter who was/is an instructor of Hans Roos (Bara ryu jiu jitsu) in Holland. In the abovementioned book, they, along with Wim Pieck provided the following tribute (extract only):
With this letter I want to thank you again for teaching in the Netherlands. Once again you have proved to be a great master of jujutsu. I am proud to have hosted your seminars for the past five years. Since the first seminar, my students and I have admired you for your great skills and knowledge of jujutsu. I hope you teach us for many years to come. ... You teach us the correct use of the principles and how to apply them to techniques. Your tactical and technical lessons are of enormous value to us. I am sure that every time you teach us the quality of my, and my students jujutsu increases enormously.I never knew De Jong when he was at his physical peak so he may very well have been different in younger days, however, this photograph for me epitomises how De Jong approached combat. Not flashy, not flamboyant, but totally controlled and focused. He would continually stalk his opponent by creeping forward with complete concentration. His indomitable spirit was almost a physical presence. I recall seeing Robert Hymus, one of De Jong's senior instructors, being forced backwards when demonstrating the use of the same weapons, even though Hymus had the katana and was fitter and younger and had a pretty 'aggressive' (for want of a better word) attitude of his own.
I also recall demonstrating the same weapons with De Jong at a seminar in Norway. One morning we were practicing and I kept on leaning my head to one side as De Jong ensnared my sword blade with the rope and attacked my neck with the kusurigama blade. He told me not to do that as it didn't look good for the demonstration. Following my respected teacher's instructions, I resisted my evolved self preservation impulse and did not lean my head to the side. As the blood started to trickle down my neck I said, 'that is why I lean my head to the side'; to which he replied, 'I thought you were going to do it again'.
It's been said that weapons were not taught within most jujutsu systems in Europe prior to De Jong's demonstration of them in his team's 1982 demonstration at the World Ju Jitsu Federation conference, and his subsequent teaching of them since. Over the years he's demonstrated the use of the katana (sword), wakizashi (short sword), jo (short staff), tanbo (short stick - based on the Indonesian pencak silat use of the stick and adapted to jujutsu by De Jong), kusurigama (sickle with weighted chain/rope), manrikigusari (weighted chain) and hojo-jutsu (rope tying art).
The photograph to the right is De Jong demonstrating the use of the jo on, what one reporter described in her article as, 'the hapless John Coles'. Unfortunately, this is how many people might remember me, always the uke (receiver) never the tori (giver). Many times I'd be the only or senior student/instructor of De Jong's on these tours and would consequently be used to attack when demonstrating techniques. One especially memorable occassion was at the end of a week long summer camp in Norway where I was going to be given the opportunity of showing what I could do. The teachers at the seminar had to put on a demonstration and the De Jong team consisted of himself, Maggie, myself, and Soren Stiller Markussen.
The relationship with Soren is a very special one arising from De Jong's European tours. He was an instructor at the Aalborg Selvforsvar & Ju-jitsu Klub in Denmark (by the way guys, I need a new t-shirt as my other one has been worn so much it literally fell apart). De Jong had a strong relationship with the Aalborg and associated instructors and enjoyed visiting and teaching there nearly every year. There was one particular milestone event for one of the instructors and De Jong was asked if he would demonstrate handcuffing techniques on said instructor, ... and not release him so that the other instructors could take him outside and pound him with cinnamon (I think/hope). Some strange Danish/Aalborg custom I suppose. This appealed to De Jong's sense of fun and he gladly joined in.
Soren has visited Perth on numerous occassions spending up to three months at a time where he trained six days a week (that is not to say that there was not a lot of socialising and beach going to be had). Soren is an adopted member of the Jan de Jong jujutsu school in every sense of the word(s). He was (and I'm sure still is) a very fit, athletic, proficient, and dynamic practitioner. I was going to be given the opportunity of showing what I could do in full flight with the aid of Soren attacking. The commentator announced our demonstration: 'Jan de Jong demonstrating x with John Coles attacking'; 'Maggie de Jong demonstrating y with John Coles attacking'; 'Soren Markussen demonstrating z with John Coles attacking' ... and so on. Yes, I attacked for every single group, but, I was going to be given the opportunity of demonstrating what I could do ... or at least that was the plan. De Jong later explained that he forgot about my two groups. To add injury to insult, Maggie put me on my head on the floor boards with a magnificent jo technique that completely upended me, and De Jong injured one of the ribbed structures in my throat with a walking stick technique. For six months there was a clicking sound in my throat each time I swallowed.
This is the first of the blogs concerning De Jong's international experiences. I'll leave you with one further tribute from the first mentioned book, this time by Mike Wall, a long-time supporter of De Jong and his European tours:
He is a living legend ... Jan de Jong is one of the friendliest and most humble people I know in the world of martial arts. He always has time for a smile and a good joke ... few are the masters who have the experience and knowledge that he does. ... He can express details and philosophies which few other masters are able to and his visits are always one of the highlights of the year. ... If you have never met Jan de Jong you have missed one of the highlights of the year.