Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jan de Jong Pt 20 - Jan de Jong Self Defence School: Towards 2000

Jenny Armstrong wrote an article that was published in Blitz magazine circa 1999 titled: 'Jan de Jong Self Defence School: Towards 2000'. She provides, in my opinion, one of the best descriptions of Jan de Jong.
It is soon evident that while martial arts may be his (most-valuable) 'hobby', as he will describe it, a variety of topics hold an interest for him. He has a keen and probing mind, yet open to life's new experiences. Although in his seventies, Jan de Jong has an iron firm hand-shake and the mental engagement of a much younger person. His appearance is like that of a sturdy unquailable, colonial gentleman - wearing a button-up top in a life-essence red, his grey beard adds a distinguished frame to his face; his eyes are attentive and sharp.

Yet there is none of the pompousness that the word 'colonial' tends to evoke. Rather there is a tendency for laughter, a certain irreverence even, which makes him instantly likable.
Armstrong nailed it. She also writes that 'immediately on meeting him he is easy to talk to.' Too true. I recall a letter De Jong once showed me. It was written by a young mudansha ('one without a black belt';kyu-level practitioner) who had attended one of his seminars in Europe. The letter expressed the author's surprise and gratitude that De Jong had paid him personal attention during the seminar. De Jong paid mudansha and yudansha (black belt holder) the same amount of respect and attention.

De Jong had a way with people, but not in a manipulative or self-serving way. There wasn't a person on a grading day, the student or the guests they invited, that didn't feel special and appreciated. De Jong paid as much attention, if not more, to the guests the student had invited. The comments directed toward the student at the end of the grading were often for the benefit of the student's invited guests.
Other possible applications of jujutsu techniques fascinate him, as does any phenomena or new technique he feels may be added to jujutsu to make it stronger (he describes himself as a postage stamp collector, collecting new techniques).
De Jong's reference to himself as a 'postage stamp collector collecting new technique' can, I believe, be found in his grading system, if not the grading system itself, as I've argued in previous blogs.

Armstrong wrote of my role as uke (receiver) to De Jong's tori (taker):
His explanation of the concept is enforced by demonstrations on his (apparently) hapless instructor John Coles. Fortunately, John is aware of the techniques and seemed to know what to expect (a rather painful demonstration of a wrist-lock had earlier given me a decent appreciation for his methods and I was happy for him to demonstrate on John and not me).
Recall Armstrong's reference to 'iron firm hand-shake'. A student of De Jong's in Holland during WWII, Kees van Deijk, also remembered De Jong's grip when he wrote to me in 2004: 'I knew Jan during the years 1944-1947. The first thing that struck me was that he was rather thin, but it appears that he was a strong person, in particular his hands/fingers.'

I recall the 'hapless instructor John Coles' tapping-off before De Jong could apply the joint-locking technique he was proposing to demonstrate for the participants of his European seminar one year. De Jong was a little annoyed and asked me not to tap-off before he had applied the lock. I informed him I was tapping-off because his grip was crushing my hand. For the record, he didn't ease up on either his grip nor his expectation that I wouldn't tap-off before he'd applied the lock.

I will always remember the last time I saw De Jong. I visited him at home about three weeks before he passed away on 5 April 2003. I was shocked to see the ravages that cancer had exacted upon this once vital man. He was skin and bone. We chatted, as we often did, and the conversation turned to jujutsu, as it often did. As soon as the conversation turned to jujutsu, he propped himself up into a sitting position on the couch he had been lying on. He thrust his emaciated arm in direction and instructed me to grab it. Feeling more than a little self conscious, I grasped his forearm. No sooner had I done so than he had adroitly disengaged my grip and applied a lock. I wasn’t surprised at the skill, that was a given, even under these circumstances. What I was astonished at was the strength of the grip of this man who was quite obviously being ravaged by this horrible disease. This was still the grip that could force me to tap-off from the pain of the grip alone. This was still the grip that Armstrong referred to as, and found it sufficiently memorable to remark upon, an 'iron firm hand-shake'. This was the same grip that Van Deijk remembered from more than 50 years previous, being applied by a 'rather thin [person], but it appeared that he was a strong person, in particular his hands/fingers.' His grip, for me, has come to represent his life force. Forever strong, and unreliant upon the physical limitations of the human body.

The last thing De Jong gave me was a series of photocopied images he'd pasted together to form a series of moves. He wanted me to study and demonstrate them at the pencak silat instructor's class. The last thing he asked me to do was to bring him what I'd written on my then proposed how-to book on his jujutsu because he wanted to contribute to it. His mind was still active, and he was still working on his martial arts right up until his death. His body may not have been up to the task, but that didn't stop him.

Through writing these blogs I've had the opportunity of studying the 'school of Jan de Jong'. This study has been revealing, and it has led me to a greater appreciation of De Jong's legacy. It provided the wonderful opportunity of making contact with students from De Jong's past, like Van Deijk and Harry Hartman. This led to their generous donation of their photographs taken during those times (including De Jong as a boy scout in pre-WWII Indonesia).

Writing these blogs provided me with the opportunity of discovering a copy of the Jan de Jong: the man, his school, and his ju jitsu system booklet that I wrote for De Jong, in which he wrote: 'Thanks for all your help! Jan de Jong OAM, 9th dan'. This booklet was a self-published affair and was sold by the De Jong organisation throughout Australia and Northern Europe. The content forms the base for much of the content on the Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness website, albeit unattributed.

I think I'll leave the story here. However, the story will be updated from time to time I'm sure. I'll sign off the Jan de Jong story with Van Deijk's words:
Now that I'm writing (typing) I see Jan before me (often with his smile), who gave me jujutsu lessons, which formed a part of my character in my life. I will never forget him!

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