Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Perfect Storm

Sensei Ross Taylor (right) is a highly respected aikidoka in Perth who has established his own aikido school. Sensei Taylor posted a message on Facebook yesterday commemorating the sixth anniversary of the passing of his instructor, Yoshiaki Unno.

Sensei Taylor's post gave me cause to consider the set of circumstances that had to come together in order for him to develop a passion for aikido which led to his founding of his school. It included colonialism, two wars, the force of nature, climate, language, politics, scarce resources, immigration, a dysfunctional relationship, and a 20 year old man who, in 1940, wanted to become a pilot.

The 20yo man was Jan de Jong and he lived in the Dutch colony of Indonesia pre-1940. In 1940 he travelled to Holland to fulfill his ambition of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately he got caught up in WWII, which fortunately meant he had to turn to teaching jujutsu in order to earn money and survive.

The end of WWII saw nature impose a harsher winter than normal on Holland. This winter came to be known as the 'Hunger Winter' because of the deprivations the occupation and the weather imposed on the Dutch.

In order to escape the deprivations of Holland at that time, De Jong returned to equatorial Indonesia. He returned to a nation which was violently struggling for independence.

After 10 years of war (WWII followed by the Indonesian War of Independence), De Jong decided to relocate to a more peaceful environment. His Hunger Winter experience disinclined him to consider the northern hemisphere, so the options were reduced to Argentina, South Africa, and Australia. Argentina was rejected on language grounds; South Africa was rejected on political grounds (apartheid); so through the process of elimination Australia was chosen. Perth was selected because of its proximity to Indonesia.

In Perth, De Jong started teaching work colleagues jujutsu during their breaks and after work which led to his founding of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. This would eventually become his full-time occupation.

I have argued throughout this blog that De Jong developed his jujutsu system. He would tell us that the Dutch would think him insane because he would always run to his apartment during an air raid to retrieve his suitcase of martial arts books which he would take with him to the shelter. I now appreciate that this was in no way a collector's idiosyncrasy. These books were the source of his continued professional development. De Jong was the epitome of a life long commitment to continuous improvement.

In Perth, De Jong became involved with Phillipe Boiron who introduced him to Minoru Mochizuki's Yoseikan Budo. In 1969, aged 48, De Jong travelled to Japan to continue his professional development by training under Mochizuki.

Wishing to continue his professional development, De Jong petitioned Mochizuki to send an instructor to Perth to teach in his school. Mochizuki sent Yoshiaki Unno.

Unno teaching for De Jong was always going to end in tears. Unno held the grades of 7th dan aikido, 7th dan karate, 6th dan kobudo (weapons), 4th dan bojutsu and 2nd dan judo. He also taught kenjutsu. At that time, De Jong was only graded 3rd dan jujutsu and 1st dan aikido (in addition to his pencak silat qualification). The inevitable happened and Unno left the employ of De Jong to establish his own school.

One of Unno's many students was Ross Taylor who then went on to found his own school. Quite amazing. But I suppose it is just one amazing story of many associated with people's involvement in the martial arts.

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