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 :).

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