Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jan de Jong pt 16

This blog was initially established to inform the public of my work on the science behind the tactics and techniques of the martial arts, and to hopefully generate some interest in my work. For the past couple of months, that mission has deviated a little with the story of Jan de Jong and his school of thought. This blog was also a means by which to improve my writing skills: 'If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot' (Stephan King). A pleasant, albeit unintended, consequence of this blog is that a former student of De Jong's from the 1950s has contacted me and provided me with tales and photos of his time with him. He has given his kind and generous permission for me to share these with you.

Jan was a good teacher very enthusiastic, and always explaining the meaning of what he was teaching.

Harry Hartman trained with De Jong from 1954 to 1958. He emigrated to Australia from Holland in 1954, and was put in contact with De Jong by another Dutch immigrant. He returned to Holland in 1958 and lost contact with De Jong shortly thereafter. Nearly 50 years later, here he is fondly reminiscing with me about his time with De Jong. He kept photographs, his membership booklet, and various badges all these years. Harry contacted me after seeing the photo to the right that was including in a previous blog. He corrected me (thank you Harry) in that the photograph was taken at the Edgehill Street, Scarborough dojo and not the 870 Hay Street, Perth dojo. Harry is the person on the right executing the technique; De Jong is centre back.

Dear John, I met Jan deJong in 1954. He than lived at 17 Edgehill Street. We used to practice in the 'sleepout' of the house wich was a long and narrow space with a brick wall on one side and timber and hardboard on the other. Every Monday at 8pm we had class with the team of students. After lessons we were invited into the house to drink ice tea. Jan's wife used to make our suits and belts by hand and on the sewing machine. With our team we gave various demonstrations all over Perth. Some of the photographs made at City Beach were used to show between pictures in theatres like 'The Ambassadors' to promote our school. I remember the 'sleepout' in Edgehill Street where photographs were taken, came loose from the main building due to the bumps made by the students thrown on the mat. Later Jan moved to the suburb Innaloo and the school to the Swan River Rowing Club where we had plenty of space. Training nights: Mon.- Wed.- 8pm.
Hans de Jong started jujutsu in 1955. He told me of students being thrown over balconies and partially through walls at the 'sleepout dojo'. Not only were the uniforms and belts handmade, so was the mat, as you will see in the photographs. Harry's reference to theatres concerns advertising at cinemas between movies to promote the school (Ju-Jutsu-Kan), in provincial Perth where everything associated with the school had to be handmade by his wife. De Jong was a true trail blazer.

While Harry talks of belts, they were not used as symbols of rank. In these days, at Ju-Jutsu-Kan, they used badges. There were only four grades - red, yellow, white, and green - as Harry's grading record to the right shows. Later on, and I don't know when, the Jan de Jong jujutsu kyu system was yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, black and white, black. Then the mon system was introduced at the front end of the kyu system, with the final mon grading being red. White as an actual grade? White belt is usually used as a belt for someone who is an absolute novice and has not undergone any grades. This becomes interesting when you understand when the kyu/dan system was introduced by Jigoro Kano and when the coloured belt system was introduced for the kyu grades, often incorrectly attributed to Kano. I'll explore this issue in my next blog.

I tried to find out if De Jong was using the shinken shobu no kata format back in those days. Harry wrote that no grading sheets were available and expanded with the following:
On training sessions it went as follows. Jan asked for instance: 'what would you do if somebody attacked you diving head forward to your stomach. He than showed us what to do. We,Jan and I,entered the mat and I had to perform the attack and Jan showed step by step what to do. Then every student in turn did the attack and defence until all knew how to perform. This was the procedure of all the different throws and locks and grips. At the exams the students got on the mat and did not know what attack was coming. Sometimes it was surprising and we had lots of laughs.
Only 10 students trained at the sleepout dojo, all of them male. Females joined the class when the dojo was relocated to the Swan River Rowing Club, and the class expanded. Harry remembers the time De Jong put both feet through the floor into the river when landing in a bridefall (demonstrated in the photo to the right taken at the 'sleepout' dojo); and he remembers the subsequent discussion concerning the advisability of using mats.

Harry was 19 when he emigrated to Perth and joined De Jong's school. He lived in Rotterdam during WWII, as did De Jong, and shared some of his experiences of this terrible time with me, as did De Jong. Their first-hand stories bring a poignancy to what would otherwise be a history lesson or the setting of a movie or a novel. They both remember the 'Hunger Winter' (see blog concerning De Jong's war years) when 20,000 Dutch died from starvation and exposure in the last few months of the war. Harry wrote, 'You'll never forget'. De Jong didn't.

The photo to the right is included just because its a wonderful photo. It looks like Harry is now on the recieving end of what looks like a painful technique. Note his face is firmly planted against the wall of the sleepout dojo. Harry is generously sending me the originals of all the photos and his other memorabilia to me. Thank you Harry for sharing your tales and memorabilia with me.

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