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 (

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.

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