Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu Jujutsu - Style Over Substance - Response to a comment

I received the following comment to my previous blog titled 'Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu Jujutsu - Style Over Substance'. The comment deserves a response that is not hidden away in the comments section of this informal history of the 'School of Jan de Jong.'

This is a great subject and touches on some important matters - can you speak of the evidence linking Tsutsumi Masao to Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu, other than his name was Tsutsumi, quite a common name - for example he is not listed in the lineage shown in the BRD.
Thank you for your kind words and support.

In response to your question, there is no direct evidence linking De Jong's instructors, the Saito brothers, with the Tsutumi Hozan ryu tradition, nor the Tsutsumi tradition. In fact, they are two different schools, and there is no grading certificate issued by De Jong that refers to Tsutsumi Hozan, only Tsutsumi. There are many possible explanations for this anomaly, but they are only conjecture.

There is one instructor in particular who has to associate his background with a traditional warrior school. I find it fascinating to contemplate if it was ever definitevly proven that the Saito's were not part of the Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu tradition, what would that mean for him? Would he have to re-evaluate the very basis of his understanding of his combative methods?

When I've discussed these issues with said instructor, his explanation, verbally and in print, is that it is an 'oral tradition'. There is obviously an oral tradition phenomenon, but in this case I'd suggest it's possibly more an example of 'shoe horning'.

I have acquired a copy of your often referred to work Jan De Jong the man his school his jujitsu system - you yourself attempt to espouse this link, unsuccessfully. What helped change your mind?
You are absolutely correct, and I'll never back away from it. I do, in fact, espouse the link with Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu in the publication that I produced for Jan de Jong and the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. I reproduced the accepted, and propagated, version of the history of the school. I confirmed each and every sentence in that publication with Jan de Jong, and a number of senior instructors who were included in the editing process. In hindsight, I should have explained the basis for this historical version of the history of the jujutsu Jan de Jong was teaching. You live and learn, your knowledge expands, and your questioning of accepted doctrine develops and produces questions that lead to discovery.

What changed my mind? I haven't necessarily changed my mind, but more the way I accept the accepted doctrine. I don't reject the notion, but neither do I unquestioningly accept the orthodoxy (as is the norm in many martial arts schools, and despite the protestations otherwise, also in the Jan de Jong Self Defence School). If you are telling me we have an association with a historical tradition, (a) demonstrate it, and (b) demonstrate why it matters.

Associating one's self with a traditional school is a part of Japanese martial arts tradition. Hell, it's a part of Western culture as well. You gain credibility or prestige by associating yourself with something that has the perception of credibility or prestige. This can have different perceptual impacts. For instance, the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu fraternity might sneer at the association with a traditional Japanese martial arts tradition.

Given Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu is associated with kumi uchi, which involved grappling in armour, you could argue its teachings are largely irrelevant today, if those teachings followed tradition. 'The teachings evolved' - so how much value is invested in the origins in grappling in armour?

I wonder if de Jong actually made this link between tsutsumi hozan ryu and tsutsumi masao himself if other would be historians did it for him?

Maybe there was an insecurity element which was coped with by an association with a Japanese tradition - by either the Saitos or De Jong. Who knows? For me, this issue is a red herring, other than for the instructors who have to associate themselves with the Tsutsumi brand. Yes, I said 'brand'. After all, that is what it is.

I can mount a STRONG argument that De Jong developed the dan and mon grading system. I would also argue the same for the kyu system. It is a very good system. It has room for improvement, but that I put down to the 'fact' that it was a first attempt. I would suggest that it speaks volumes to the credit of De Jong that he developed this system. The instructors that the system produced are world class. That is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of many others throughout Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and various parts of Asia. In fact, I would suggest that to continue to suggest he was a 'librarian', simply transmitting wisdom develop by past masters seriously underestimates the contribution of De Jong; the insights of De Jong; the conceptual skills of De Jong. The continued association of De Jong with Tsutsumi does, in my opinion, a disservice to De Jong.

You could refer to 'conservatism' when discussing this issue. I discussed the idea of publishing a book with De Jong on many occasions. He didn't want to do so because, in his words, 'they wouldn't need me any more.' That is an obviously short sighted viewpoint, but, we have to respect it based on the environment that produced it. I tried to suggest, you do tours of Australia and Northern Western Europe. Wally Jay does tours of the WORLD. You have a school with over 1,000 students (at one time); Jay has always only had a very small school. Jay's reputation, his demand, was based on one (maybe two) small, very basic, books on jujutsu. Jay does not teach a 'system' - he teaches, in his books, a series of 'tricks'. The strength of De Jong's teachings was his systems approach. ... To this day I am still frustrated.

I agree - the notion that the ryuso of tsutsumi hozan ryu left takenouchi ryu to pursue a certain modern method of training for his students is ridiculous and shows a lack of understanding of koryu jujutsu.

There is one important note to raise here, that of transparency - if some teahcers still claim to teach tsutsumi hozan ryu, people are being mislead. Real koryu jujutsu is a cultural asset and the few teachers in Australia whom are qualified to teach it would have spent a long time pursuing this knowledge.
Obviously I do not disagree, to a degree. The statement about teaching Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu does need to be qualified, until definitive support is provided either way. But that would be the case in another world that is not the fantasy world of the martial arts.

Now I'll continue this stream of thought, and maybe paddle down a couple of tributaries inspired by this comment.

The Tsutsumi brand. Of course Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness (1) promotes the proposition that they teach Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu jujutsu. As does Hans de Jong Self Defence School (2), Indian Ocean Dojo (3), and South West Self Defence School (4).

#1 is the school that evolved out of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, headed by Paul Connolly and Maggie de Jong. To suggest it is the continuation of the same school would be correct, if, there had not been signifcant changes introduced (see below). The other schools were formed by former instructors of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School/Jan de Jong. #2 is the school formed by De Jong's son, the longest serving instructor within the De Jong tradition. #3 is Rob Hymus' school, and #4 is Jamie Francis' school he established in the south of Western Australia.

Debbie Clarke established Southern Cross Bujutsu which teaches Peter Clarke's Tsutsumi Jugo Ryu. He rebranded the style of jujutus he's teaching to refelect what he considers to be a significant change in method. Or simply to rebrand - see Friday's Legacies of the Sword for a discussion on this issue which has been around as long as there have been martial arts traditioins.

Based on received information, it would appear that a member of Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness has gone from 3rd kyu to 1st dan in approximately a year (confirmed by Youtube postings). Congratulations. Under De Jong's grading system, there are 18 seperate gradings to complete from 3rd kyu to 1st dan. Admitedly, they are not all physical grades. Simplistically, that is 1.5 grades per month. I did get Maggie de Jong through 5 or 6 dan grades in 4 or 5 weeks, but that was only because (a) she was already trained, (b) I trained her specifically for those gradings, and (c) I understood the difference between teaching and training.

The Jan de Jong Self Defence School produced very good teachers, but did not produce trainers. I had to learn that skill on my own, as I taught private pupils, then I extended that approach to my classes. However, 3rd kyu to 1st dan in a year without a 'coach' - that is seriously impressive under the De Jong system. That student would be the equivalent at least of Hymus and Clarke, which, based on Youtube vision, can not be supported.

If we work on the proposition that the very fast promotion of this individual is a compromise on the system or standards that De Jong introduced, how does that impact on the Tsutsumi brand? What does that say about the jujutsu taught by Hans, Paul, Peter, and Jamie? Nothing? Something? It is standard practice to change the name of your brand when it is assocatied with negative connetations. See WorldComs history.

What commitment do the individuals have to the common brand? You obviously cannot force an unrelated individual/organisation to comply with a particular standard. A standard that will refelect upon your product.

De Jong did not understand this issue. He agreed that another school could refer to their teachings as Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu. They had been significantly influenced by De Jong's teachings, but they had not adopted his grading system, and hence his teachings wholesale. Forever in a day, the product of that system will be representative of De Jong's school. You only have to look at Pat Harrington's The Principles of Jujitsu to see that it is preserved for posterity that that school is now a continuation/inheritor of the De Jong/Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu tradition. We need an astrix in the diagram.

The commentor that motivated this blog referred to 'transparency'. I'm all for transperecny. Let's examine what we provide as support for our teachings. End of line, if De Jong's teachings are not based on a centuries old Japanese tradition, is that better or worse? I think you know my opinion.


  1. So what is the future for De Jong Jujutsu then?

  2. Good question. The future of 'Jan de Jong Jujutsu' is enormously bright. There are currently five schools teaching the jujutsu taught by JDJ. The late Graham Dunn's school has been significantly influenced by JDJ's teachings. Hans de Jong and Peter Clarke, seperately, regularly teach in Europe at different schools upon request. HDJ is a patron and adviser to at least one other Autralian school. PC has branches on the west and east coast of Australia and has either a branch or an affiliation with a Swedish school. The system, and it is a system rather than a collection of 'tricks' or techniques, is unique, comprehensive, and effective. I would argue that its association with any historical tradition is irrelevant. It's existence neither enhances nor detracts from the value of JDJ jujutsu.