Saturday, January 28, 2012


Anyone who was ever involved with Jan de Jong for any length of time has a story to tell about him. He was that sort of character. I asked Harry Hartman, a former student that has featured quite often in previous blogs, if he had any stories about De Jong, and if he'd be OK with me sharing them. He did, and he is.
Any story I share with you about Jan you can use and share with whoever you like.

I remember me attacking Jan with a sword and I holding back, afraid to slice his skull. He just stepped aside and said: 'the meaning is to hit me,not to wave it [the sword] like a flag.' The same story when we used a bludgeon.'Don't hold back,the thing is made for hitting' Jan himself never held back.
That most definitely sounds like De Jong.

I remember seeing him in his 70s or maybe 80s, demonstrating kusurigama (sickle and chain) defences against a katana (sword). The katana was wielded by Robert Hymus, a senior instructor of De Jong's who was very 'warrior-like' in his approach to martial arts. What you saw was this 'old guy' with an inferior weapon 'stalking' a fitter, younger, aggressive, trained warrior armed with a sword, who was slowly retreating through the sheer will that was De Jong.

Hymus tells the tale of a session he had with De Jong when preparing for the knife vs unarmed free fighting shodan grading. He, the younger, fitter, aggressive, trained warrior was armed with the knife; and De Jong was unarmed. Straight out of the blocks, De Jong kicks Hymus' hand and the knife ricochets off the ceiling. Hymus is confounded: 'You've always instructed us never to kick when confronted with a knife. Why did you do that?' De Jong explains: 'Because I could.'

De Jong and myself were doing some training for a demonstration at a Norway summer camp (though their idea of summer and mine are quite different). He was armed with the kusurigama, and this time I was the katana wielding adversary. I'd attack with a downwards strike, which he would sidestep while ensnaring the blade with the chain and attacking the side of my neck with the sickle. I'd lean to the side a little, which De Jong was unhappy about. He explained that it didn't look good. So, using sheer willpower to overcome my sense of self preservation, I attacked and did not lean to the side. I then felt a trickle of blood running down my neck. 'That's why I lean to the side', I exclaimed. 'That time I thought you were going to lean to the side', De Jong explained.

Oh, and who can forget De Jong's massages? De Jong is a qualified physiotherapist. In my formative training years, an inexperienced student took me across his bended knee so that my back went from convex to concave in milliseconds. De Jong took me into the instructors changeroom which had a massage table. 'Dear God in heaven', I thought, 'what have I ever done to you to deserve this.' His massage could be legally classified as assault. However, he might of thought he was one hell of a masseuse because when he asked if the injury is feeling better I'm quite sure that 100% of his 'patent's' would have enthusiastically replied in the affirmative (simply to avoid any further punishment).
The way he threw you on the mat!! One day we did a demo at an institution for juvenile delinquents. Outside the building on the grass we demonstrated some throws and locks. Some smartaleck reckoned he could free himself out of a certain lock and make a counter attack, so Jan invited him to try. Can you imagine what happened?
Hymus tells the story when De Jong went to instruct the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) that the troopers were not all that convinced about this 'old guy' telling them what to do. So, the very first trooper looked to put this old guy in his place, much to his personal distress. Needless to say, respect was paid following that painful demonstration.
Once we did a demo in a dancehall.Jan asked me to attack him [any attack] So I dived [with a yell] forward aming for his legs,the next thing that happened I landed between chairs and tables.I still remembered that the other day.
We were conducting a seminar in Holland once and De Jong was explaining something to the participants - in Dutch. I don't speak Dutch. He then turned and faced me to demonstrate a technique that he had been talking to the participants about - in Dutch. I had no idea what attack he wanted, let alone what defence he was going to demonstrate. He gestured his impatience, so, I figured, what the hell. I rushed forward with a high punch, and promptly found myself on my back looking up at De Jong, who asked: 'Why did you try and hit me?' 'Because I don't speak Dutch', I explained. He then laughed and shared the story with the seminar participants, who also laughed at my expense. This is part and parcel of being an uke, so I'm told.

De Jong was never aloof. I recall a seminar in Aalborg, Denmark, where one particular instructor was celebrating some milestone. The head instructor approached De Jong for his help in a particular tradition. De Jong 'decided' to teach handcuffing techniques in the next session, with the aforementioned instructor being accepted as the willing volunteer. When De Jong had handcuffed the aforementioned instructor, he stepped aside while the other instructors took the handcuffed instructor outside and pelted him with pepper. Some strange Danish tradition, so I'm told.

Much like the Gammel Dansk (Old Danish) tradition. Gammel Dansk is a Danish alcoholic beverage. Our host informed us that a Danish tradition is to start the day with a shot of Gammel Dansk. I hate spirits. So, I knocked the shot back in one take, and my displeasure was evident in my face - much to our host's amusement. He then informed me/us that I had to have another shot otherwise I would be walking around in circles because only one leg had been filled. I can see a certain logic in the argument, but ...

I always loved the story about De Jong grading Peter Clarke his wakizashi grading for third dan. Now Peter is the consummate martial artist. At the end of the grading, De Jong congratulates Peter for passing the grading, but, he explained he had to fail him for the first technique because it wasn't the right defence. Peter was confused: 'What do you mean? That's the defence you taught us.' 'Yes, I know,' said De Jong, 'but I taught you the wrong technique.' ... De Jong could afford to do those sorts of things in gradings because it was never ever a question of whether a candidate would pass with his instructors, it was only a matter of by how much.

If anyone has a story to share and wouldn't mind sharing it with the world, please write to me.

1 comment:

  1. I remember once when I'd been at the school for only about a year telling the boss I wanted him to teach me to climb the walls like Jackie Chan. He said, 'Get married, Mademoiselle, you'll be climbing the walls in no time".

    From a facebook comment.