Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The White Mouse

In previous blogs I've been telling the story of the Dutch 'girl with the red hair'. An inspirational female Dutch resistance fighter. We in Australia have our own Hannie Schaft. She is Nancy Wake.

Wake died in August of last year. She died as Australia's most decorated WWII heroine. She died in England, not Australia. The newspaper article today suggests 'Australia pays tribute to Nancy Wake' (http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/national/13216512/australia-pays-tribute-to-nancy-wake/); too little, too late.

In her biography, Peter Fitzsimmons writes that she wanted to leave Australia and spend her remaining years in Britain or France.
'I only want one room,' she told her second biographer at their first meeting, 'a bathroom and a small kitchen, anywhere over there. The people of Port Macquarie have been wonderful to me, as have most individual Australians I've met, but I just feel the need to go to where I am appreciated.'

An example of the 'appreciation' she receives in France is that when she is wearing the rossette of her Officer de Legion d'Honneur, all the gendarmes salute her, and even stop the traffic so she may cross the road. The Australian Government recently made contact to see if she would accept having her achievements acknowledged by their awarding her an Australian medal, but she knocked them back outright.

'No,' she says flatly. 'The last time there was a suggestion of that I told the government they could stick their medals where the monkey stuck his nuts. The think is if they gave me a medal now, it wouldn't be given with love so I don't want anything from them.'
As well as the Legion d'Honneur, Wake was awarded Britain's George Medal and the US Medal of Freedom. But despite the international recognition, it took 60 years for Australia to honour her service, awarding her the Companion of the Order of Australia in 2004.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard today described Ms Wake as a person of exceptional courage whose action saved hundreds of lives. 'Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end,' Ms Gillard said. 'Today our nation honours a truly remarkable individual whose selfless valour and tenacity will never be forgotten. Nancy Wake will remain an abiding inspiration to generations of Australians.'
It took the Australian government sixty years to 'pay tribute' to our most decorated service woman. Nancy Wake may have had a point. Once again the representative of the people, the government, failed to represent the people in a sincere fashion.

In reference to her ability to elude capture, the Gestapo called Wake the 'White Mouse.' By 1943, she was the Gestapo's most wanted person, with a 5 million-franc price on her head.

'A little powder and a little drink on the way, and I'd pass their (German) posts and wink and say, "Do you want to search me?" God, what a flirtatious little bastard I was.'
On the night of 29–30 April 1944 she was parachuted into the Auvergne, becoming a liaison between London and the local maquis group headed by Captain Henri Tardivat. Upon discovering her tangled in a tree, Captain Tardivat greeted her remarking, 'I hope that all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year,' to which she replied, 'Don’t give me that French shit.'
She was often less than welcomed by the partisans when she first made contact, as they could not believe that they had been sent 'une femme'; they simply refused to treat her with respect. She decided to teach them respect. She would engage the partisan leaders in drinking contests, and when she was the 'last man' left standing at dawn - and she always was - they would look at her with new eyes.
One evening Wake was dining with friends in the reopened British Officers Club in Paris when she got into a blue - not for the first or last time - with an uppity waiter. This waiter thought he had won the confrontation by saying he would much prefer to serve the Germans than the likes of her and her noisy friends.

She reflected on this for perhaps half a second before leaping to her feet and knocking him senseless with a right hook. As she recounted, as soon as another alarmed waiter rushed to his fallen colleague with a glass of brandy, she grabbed it, drained it in two seconds, said 'Merci', and walked on out the door. That was Nancy Wake.
Nancy Wake was the Australian that we Australians like to think we are.

She became instrumental in recruiting more members and making the maquis groups into a formidable force, roughly 7,500 strong. She also led attacks on German installations and the local Gestapo HQ in Montlu├žon.

At one point Wake discovered that her men were protecting a girl that was a German spy. They did not have the heart to kill her in cold blood, but Wake did. She said after that it was war, and she had no regrets about the incident.

From April 1944 to the liberation of France, her 7,000 maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1,400 casualties, while taking only 100 themselves. Her French companions, especially Tardivat, praised her fighting spirit, amply demonstrated when she killed an SS sentry with her bare hands to prevent him from raising the alarm during a raid.

During a 1990s television interview, when asked what had happened to the sentry who spotted her, Wake simply drew her finger across her throat. 'They'd taught this judo-chop stuff with the flat of the hand at SOE, and I practised away at it. But this was the only time I used it - whack - and it killed him all right. I was really surprised.'
On another occasion, to replace codes her wireless operator had been forced to destroy in a German raid, Wake rode a bicycle for more than 500 miles (800 km) through several German checkpoints. During a German attack on another maquis group, Wake, along with two American officers, took command of a section whose leader had been killed. She directed the use of suppressive fire which facilitated the group's withdrawal without further losses.
Wake was particularly proud of her marathon ride: 'I got back and they said "how are you?" I cried. I couldn't stand up, I couldn't sit down. I couldn't do anything. I just cried.'
'She is the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts. Then, she is like five men,' one French colleague said of her
Women, take note.

In 2001, Wake left Australia for the last time and emigrated to London. She became a resident at the Stafford Hotel in St James's Place, near Piccadilly, formerly a British and American forces club during the war. She had been introduced to her first 'bloody good drink' there by the general manager at the time, Louis Burdet. He had also worked for the Resistance in Marseilles. In the mornings she would usually be found in the hotel bar, sipping her first gin and tonic of the day. She was welcomed at the hotel, celebrating her 90th birthday there, where the hotel owners absorbed most of the costs of her stay. In 2003, Wake chose to move to the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Service Men and Women in Richmond, London, where she remained until her death.
THE ashes of World War II resistance fighter Nancy Wake will be scattered over the French land she parachuted into to fight Nazis in 1944.
That says it all, doesn't it.

The heroine in Sebastian Faulks's 1999 novel Charlotte Gray is said to be based on Nancy Wake. Fittingly, the role in the movie of the novel was played by the brilliant Australian actor Cate Blanchett. She tells the story of the locals in France being involved in the movie, and how the older locals who had experienced the invasion during WWII where in tears when they saw the movie tanks and soldiers crossing the bridge into their town.

I am in awe of the people who resisted during WWII. These stories inform of a time in which Jan de Jong, a 21 year old 'boy' also resisted. Risking torture, injury, and death, for a greater good. I compare these people to us of today, none too favourably I have to confess.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind, and Spirit - Jan de Jong's Passing

Mike Clarke published Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind, and Spirit in 2011. It contains the following passage associated with Jan de Jong's passing, which I will comment on.
Some years ago, I had the privilege of meeting a master of jujutsu; his name was Jan de Jong.
Followers of the last couple of postings will be left in no doubt with regards to the esteem with which Clarke held De Jong.
He died in April 2003, and in many respects his death was nothing unusual. He was in this eighties and had lived through many difficult and challenging times. Fighting against the German occupation forces in his native Holland during the Second World War, as a youthful member of the Dutch Resistance Movement, gave him a particular slant on life and the best way to live it.
Readers of this blog will be acquainted with De Jong's WWII experience. As to the 'best way to live', I would suggest his experience gave him a way to live life, not necessarily the best way to live life. Does a sexual assault victim/survivor's experience give them a perspective that enables them to determine the best way to live life? It gives them a particular perspective on how to live a life, that is all. De Jong's compulsion to eat everything that was put in front of him born of near starvation during the Hunger Winter in 1945 in Holland could never be described as the best way to live. There are many paths, as the over used axiom goes.
When De Jong was diagnosed with a terminal condition, it came as a shock to everyone who knew him, especially his family. As you might expect, people close to him grew more and more sad as his health declined, and he entered hospital to receive what comfort the medical world could offer.
I'm not sure how much of a shock it came to everyone who knew him. I cannot say for sure how his family felt as I was estranged with them by that time. De Jong only entered hospital in the last few/couple of days before he passed away. Did people grow more and more sad as his health declined. I cannot speak for anyone else. All I can do is speak for myself. Someone who loved De Jong, who thought of him as more than the head instructor of a tradition/school in which he was emotionally invested. I thought of him as a very dear friend. Our relationship transended the Australian ultimate relationship of mateship. Was I sad as his health declined? Not really. You see, De Jong really did teach philosophy without being preachy or pious about it. He taught pragmatism; by whatever Eastern philosophical name you care to attribute to it. We all die, not everyone lives. De Jong lived, now he was going to die.
But for the man himself there was no sense of sadness, only acceptance.
Reinforcing my previous statement. Not once in all the times I saw him did he ever even utter a regretful or sorrowful word.
He spoke of having a wonderful life and of being blessed by his wife, his children, and his many long-time students, some of whom had trained with him for well over thirty years.
He didn't speak of those things to me, not when he was terminal and in his home. De Jong did the 'Tuesdays with Morrie' experience with me when I would take him to dinner and/or the movies and we'd sit in my car outside his house when I'd taken him home. Otherwise, De Jong was always, always looking to the future. The last time I saw him, three week before he passed away, he was giving me instructions on what I needed to work on to demonstrate to the pencak silat instructors class, and he wanted to contribute to the how-to book I was writing on the jujutsu that he taught. Reflection was not a very big feature of De Jong's, unless it was to inform the future.

It has to be said, however, De Jong was very proud of his instructors. His jujutsu dan grades were and are oriented towards producing instructors, not necessarily practitioners. His dan grades are about 'training the trainer'. He spoke often of how proud he was of his instructors and their ability and knowledge to instruct.
He laughed and joked and made light of the finality of the event about to take place, and when it came, he stepped away from this world lightly as a butterfly lifting from a leaf.
Clarke nailed it with the laughing, joking, and making light of his shifting off this mortal coil, but the rest of the description is his own literary expansion. For me, it does not tend to be reflective of De Jong. He was a restless soul. If there is another existence after this, De Jong would not have drifted into it. Forget the butterfly, and despite machismo-oriented, he was no hawk, but he would have been some busy bird constantly flying about building something. He would have emerged from with existance with a desire to be active and to build.
He not only lived well, but he had the great personal courage to die well. He was aware of what was happening and faced it clearly, calmly, and with great dignity. As strange as it might seem to some, his example of being 'present' at his own death displayed a level of almost unimaginable gallantry that I find truly inspirational.
Now THAT is a sentiment I can stand behind. I'll buy that t-shirt. His final act in this world was an inspirational act. He lived, and died, by example.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Budo Masters: Paths to a Far Mountain

Michael Clarke published Budo Masters: Paths to a Far Mountain in 2000.

The publisher's note describes Budo Masters as being about some of the teachers who fashioned not only the scenes of martial arts which were being played out all over the world during the days of Roaring Silence (another of Clarke's books), and whose influence, now somewhat diminished by the passage of time, still continues to play a part in the present martial arts world.

Clarke provides the following description of Budo Masters on his blog:

Budo Masters is a series of nine interviews, just some I have conducted with notable sensei from different martial arts and backgrounds over the years. From Judo - Robin O'Tani, from Aikido - Seiichi Sugano, from Jututsu - Jan de Jong, from Kung fu - Tei Seiryu; and finally from karate there are interviews with Shoshin Nagamine, Eiichi Miyazato, Hirokazu Kanazawa and Tatsuo Suzuki, and Shigeru Kimura. Many of these men are no longer with us and so their words and opinions are even more worthy of consideration and preservation.
Too true, too true. That is the reason for this blog site. To preserve for posterity and to share the De Jong story.

De Jong is the only Caucasian budo master included in Budo Masters.

Much of the chapter on Jan de Jong is based on the Fighting Arts International article which was the subject of the previous blog.
With over sixty years of martial arts training behind him, that knowledge is extensive, as is his personal library of books and video tapes. I noticed also, for it was hard not to do so, that he still retains his enthusiasm; not only for jujutsu, but also for silat, and other martial arts.
De Jong's study, where you would most often find him when he was at home, was lined floor to ceiling with shelves filled with books. The magazines were stored in the adjoining room, and special books were kept in his bedroom. Seated in that room talking to De Jong, you felt embraced by this martial arts knowledge.

Dr Suess: 'Be awesome! Be a book nut!' De Jong was awesome.

Dr Suess: 'Remember me and smile, for it's better to forget than to remember me and cry.' A sentiment that echoes De Jong.

Clarke's observation concerning De Jong's enthusiasm for jujutsu and silat is accurate. The last time I saw De Jong, three weeks prior to his passing, he ended up demonstrating certain techniques he'd been thinking about, and gave me a sequence of silat moves he wanted me to study and demonstrate in the silat instructor's class. The last thing he said to me was that he was looking forward to seeing the work I'd done on the how-to book on his jujutsu. Being an elderly man, he would sometimes fall asleep while at the table talking, however, when the discussion turned to martial arts, he was always wide awake.

When describing aspects of the jujutsu methods he teaches, he refers to six types of blocks. He also refers to unbalancing methods which includes four types from four different hand grabs. Given the focus on theory to inform practice in the school, the six types of blocks were often referred to as unbalancing methods from moving attacks.

When unbalancing is considered from a biomechanical perspective, it's easy to see that three of the six types of blocks do not physically unbalance an opponent. When this anomaly was raised by myself with senior instructors, certain explanations were provided that attempted to fit practice with theory. These explanations were wrong. These explanations were (a) an exercise in shoehorning, and (b) a misunderstanding of the purpose of classifying blocks. The classification came out of De Jong's silat and was not a classification of unbalancing methods from moving attacks. This serves as a salutary tale where theory is used but does not inform practice; where it is misapplied.
The civilian population lived in fear of their lives, and even a trip to buy food could end in disaster. With no other obvious way open to him to make money, De Jong sensei started teaching jujutsu. After the first year he decided to open his own school and within a few months he had over 300 students enrolled. He never asked the Germans what they thought about this.
I recall De Jong making that comment on many occassions about not asking the Germans what they thought about his teaching jujutsu.

He told me of a time when he and a few friends were walking together and they were approached by some German soldiers. The soldiers were selecting a certain number of Dutch civilians to be executed in reprisal for a Resistance action. Two of the group were selected for execution, obviously not De Jong. When it is your time ... There was no reason the soldiers chose the other two and not De Jong. He showed me a newspaper clipping of the notice in which the execution of the ten people was announced, and for their various 'crimes.'
Back in 1955 I had ten students, but no mats to train on. One day I was demonstrating what we call a 'bridge fall' when both my legs crashed through the floor boards. That's when I definitely decided to get mats!
For a long time I taught only jujutsu. I did have a small number of students to whom I taught silat, but I did this only to maintain my own level of training. Nevertheless, I wasn't too keen to teach silat to westerners at that time. What I did was to wait and see if someone could apply himself really well to jujutsu. I looked to see if I could find people with really good character and attitude. If I found one I would ask him if he would like to study silat.
Each year he receives many requests from jujutsuka around the world by letter, fax and email. The demand is so high that De Jong sensei annually leaves Perth and embarks on a teaching tour around the world. Then he also teaches in other places in Australia, and given the size of the country this involves as much travelling as would a tour of Europe.
Clarke over extends his argument. De Jong's teaching tours were of Europe and not the world. I discussed this with De Jong after attending a number of seminars conducted by Wally Jay in London. Jay conducted world tours; De Jong conducted European tours. De Jong was the equal of Jay in every way. In fact I found, after analysing their seminars in preparation for my own to be presented in Rotterdam, Holland, that they used the same seminar technique to motivate the interest of the attendees, even though they didn't recognise the technique themselves.

Jay used a 'principle' (small circle theory); De Jong adopted a systems approach to understanding and studying his tactics, although he didn't understand he adopted a systems approach and the power of that approach. When I convinced him to adopt that approach in his seminars in southern Sweden one year, the level of interest in De Jong's teachings by instructors was unprecedented.

The difference between Jay and De Jong that explains why the former conducted world tours and the latter only European tours lays in the fact that the former published two books and the latter published none. Jay's two books, it has to be said, are nothing special, but they are publications nonetheless. They promote Jay and his teachings and lend credibility to those teachings. I tried to convince De Jong to publish any how-to book, but he always declined. He said that if they had a book they wouldn't need him. No matter how hard I tried to convince him that the exact opposite would be the case, he wouldn't be convinced.

Dr Suess: 'Oh, the places you'll go. The things you will see!' ... if only you'd have listened to me :).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Michael Clarke and Jan de Jong

Michael Clarke (not the Australian cricket captain) is a noted karateka and a published author. He's had articles published in magazines both in Australian and abroad, and has published a number of books, all to do with the martial arts.

Clarke writes a very informative and interesting blog titled Shinseidokan Dojo (shinseidokandojo.blogspot.com.au)

Remembering the past, but heading for the future - a conversation with jujitsu master Jan de Jong, 8th dan. Australasian Fighting Arts. 1991. 14(6): 11-16.
By anyone's standards Sensei Jan de Jong ... is an impressive man. Not because of his physical build or an overly forceful character, but because of his presence. he is an easy man to relax with and this is due, in part, to his age ... and the fact that he goes out of his way to make you feel welcome.
De Jong describes how he met Rienier Hulsk in Holland in 1940 which started his lifelong jujutsu teaching career.
At that time I was graded 3rd dan by my Sensei, Mr Saito, who lived back in Java. I really needed the money and so that's how I started teaching. Then after a year I decided I would open my own school and within a couple of months I had about 300 students!
Regarding the war:
De Jong: it's not a time I really like to talk about. Because war is such a stupid thing and it turns people into creatures that do the most horrible things to other human beings.
De Jong describes his response to a question posed by his pencak silat teacher, Suhadi:
'Why do you want to do silat? You're a white boy; you should be doing tennis or something like that.' I told him that it was my heart that wants to do silat. I had always been very interested in Indonesian art and the culture, and to me this was a part of that.
De Jong on training silat in Indonesia in late 1940s:
To me it was playing. Things then were not like it is now. You did not have the strict discipline that there is in martial arts classes today. But you know, I think that sometimes you can take discipline too far. For instance, I had a couple of English guys training with me once and they said how nice it was that they could actually talk to me. I asked them what they meant by that, and they told me that in England they could not talk to the Shihan directly unless he spoke to them. Now that's ridiculous, I think. In all the time I was in Japan training I never had rules like that to contend with. I think that's taking things too far.
I actually experienced this when I trained in England, and saw it evident in some instructors on various seminars we presented at in Europe. Not only were you not suppose to talk to the instructor on the mats, but also in the dojo generally, and even outside the dojo. I kid you not.

We often liked to think we were immune to this way of thinking. Generally that was true, but not always. I recall a senior instructor instructing me not to question De Jong during an instructor's class. De Jong taught us very well. If what he was teaching went against the principles he taught us, I suggest it is disrespectful not to question the teaching.

De Jong demonstrating his lifelong love of food in his description of Perth when he emigrated in 1952:
Perth was not a big, modern city it is now. In fact, in many ways it was a backward place. ... Do you know I could not even get a Chinese meal in Perth at that time? Nor could I get an Indonesian meal either. There were three Italian restaurants and that was it!
De Jong explains that he originally didn't teach silat to the general public. Attendance to closed-door training sessions was by invitation only, and only after De Jong had determined the prospective student was of 'good character and attitude.' In the mid sixties there was a large demand for karate instruction, so he relented and advertised classes in the newspaper:
To my surprise, on the day of the classes there were queues of people all the way down the road. Many of the top karate people in Perth started with me around that time. Brian Mackie - who is with Goju Kai now - he stared with me at that time. Also Denis Purvis got to yellow belt in jujutsu before he left me and went his own way.
Mackie is director and chief instructor of the IKGA in Australia, 7th Dan Kyoshi Shihan, and has been teaching at the Karate Academy of Japan in Perth since 1966. Purvis went on to form the Denis Purvis Karate Academy. There was also Branco Bratich who is now Chief Instructor for Yoseikan Ryu Karate Australia.

De Jong explains how he changed the Indonesian way of teaching to fit the Australian culture. Clarke asks if De Jong thought it was a good idea to change the system to suit the students.
Yes, I know what you're saying, but you know you can learn all the time. And if the results are better one way than the other, why carry on in a way that gives poorer results? I'll give you an example. In 1978 a Major Greg Mawkes MBE asked me if I would go and teach the army self-defence. I said okay and soon afterwards found myself teaching members of the SAS and the Commandoes. Shortly after I had started to do this the Major and I had a discussion about things. He told me that he thought the method of fighting was really good and he was pleased with that. But he said the men were having some difficulty understanding it all. I said this was the usual way of things and that my students were the same. He then explained the army did not have unlimited time to spend on this and that what he needed was quick results.

So it was at that point I had to think things through and see what I cold come up with. I looked at the usual way the army taught things and decided I would alter the way I was teaching and come more in line with the army way of doing things. Well, do you know, the people started to pick things up much faster than before, and they could do the techniques much better than before! So I had a talk with my Instructors and said I thought that we should change things so that we were teaching everyone like this. And at that time we changed the way we taught the students. The techniques were still the same, it was only the method of teaching them that was different. And since then things have been much better.

A bit on Mawkes (not included in Clarke's article):
Major Mawkes (Retd) served in the Regular Army for 22½ years including two tours of Vietnam with 1 SAS Squadron. He was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to SAS in the 1982 New Year’s Honours list, specifically for establishing Australia’s military counter-terrorist capability.
De Jong's explanation is very telling. It shows that he was results oriented; results being defined in practical terms. It shows his leadership style was often consultative. It also shows his never ending quest for finding better ways to teach.

What's not included in the explanation is the influence of Mochizuki's Yoseikan in De Jong's army-inspired new way of teaching. What was this new way of teaching? As we've seen above, De Jong was not a fan for an 'army style' discipline way of teaching. No, what it was was to divide a tactic into phases in order to be able to better teach, learn, and analyse it. A very readable book on this approach is Gerry Carr's Sport Mechancis for Coaches. This division into phases can be seen in Mochizuki's Nihonden Jujutsu. You can check for yourself. A copy of this book is available for sale on ebay, for US$4,000.

The next few blogs will be devoted to Clarke's works on De Jong.