Sunday, April 21, 2013

Commemorating Greg Palmer

I'm writing a post commemorating Greg Palmer five years after his passing because I am writing a 'Memorial' page to add to my blog and I want a reference that tells the reader a little about Sensei Greg Palmer.

Greg started training with Jan de Jong in 1968. Of the instructors listed in Jan de Jong: The man, his school and his ju jitsu system, Greg is the fifth longest serving student of Jan de Jong. Greg passed away in November 2008, but not before leaving a significant legacy.

Greg loved jujutsu; he loved Jan de Jong; he loved the Jan de Jong Self Defence School; he loved his students; and he loved teaching jujutsu. His love was unconditional, but it was not always reciprocated. This is, however, a lesson that Greg continues to share with his students and friends (both of which merged into one as time passed) today. Love is not dependent upon reciprocation.

Greg was one of the best, if not the best, teachers in the school. That should come as no surprise because he was the only teacher in the school with professional teaching qualifications.

I've written before (in this and my Kojutsukan blog) about culture being the 'telling of stories around campfires' and how a strong culture retains and attracts members. Greg was culture personified. Greg was the school's principal story-teller. The stories were told during class, after class, at the pub after class, or at his home when he cooked Indonesian meals for those fortunate enough to share his company. I only know about the generation of instructors before my generation of instructors because Greg told me stories about them (e.g. Tony Chiffings, Peter Canavan, Rodney Miller, et al). This gave me a sense of belonging to something greater than the instruction being provided in the class that day or night.

I wrote in the previous post how I described Greg as being the school's Mr Miyagi from the movie, The Karate Kid. That was not a trite analogy. Greg had all the attributes of Mr Miyagi. He was technically experienced, knowledgeable and proficient. Greg did not possess an athlete physique, but he surprised many with his performance when executing his fighting skills. Greg didn't buy into the martial arts 'mystique' but he did live its realities. Greg was a true teacher. He cared. He cared about his students, about his fellow instructors, and about his Sensei. He was genuinely humble and appreciative. He was the best mentor at the school bar none, taking numerous 'lost souls' under his wing.

There is a grading in the Jan de Jong jujutsu shodan grads involving the use of the katana (Japanese samurai sword). Greg, being the professional teacher he was, lobbied to have an introductory grading inserted into the grading system to introduce the student to the use of the katana before they actually had to use it. He developed this grading and De Jong saw the logic and obvious teaching and developmental potential of such a grading and included it within his grading system. It is disappointing to hear that some who have succeeded Jan de Jong have since excised it from their grading systems.

I became involved with Greg when he invited me to be part of his team for his demonstration grading for nidan. It was the making (and possibly the undoing) of me. Jan de Jong always said, proudly, that Greg's demonstration was the best that any of his instructors had produced.

Sensei Greg Palmer, mentor and friend, is remembered by many to this day, and he continues to influence lives. As I proposed the toast on the night of Jan de Jong's commemoration: gone but not forgotten - ever.

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