Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Theory Grades

Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan appears to agree with Gracie and Gracie in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu: Theory and Practice when they suggest that a black belt denotes a depth of knowledge and skill that makes the yudansha (black belt holder)a fully qualified teacher. That in addition to knowing how to perform the techniques, yudansha should also know why a given technique works.

De Jong included theory grades in the dan grades of his jujutsu system. A typical question was, what are the forces involved in a tai gatame ude kujuki (body set arm breaking)? The grading candidates were required to verbally explain rather than physically demonstrate the answer.

De Jong had an intuitive understanding that forces explains the why of techniques, however, he nor the grading candidates did not have an understanding of forces. This meant that the answers to the question were often convoluted and included irrelevant details.

Forces cause the change in motion or shape of all things in the environment. A change in motion, which forces cause, refers to something starting, stopping, speeding up, slowing down, or changing direction. A change in shape, which forces cause, refers to deformation. Deformation of bodily tissues can cause pain or injury. All the techniques taught by all martial arts involve forces - forces are what makes them work.

The beauty of it all is that forces are easy for the layperson to understand and apply.

How would you go about answering the above question?

1. Identify all points of contact between the two parties. This is were forces can be applied.

2. Forces are a push or a pull. That is it! Determine at each point of contact whether the force being applied is a push or a pull.

3. Determine the direction of the push or pull.

4. Determine the relative magnitude of the push or pull.

5. Determine the objective of the combined forces - pushes and pulls. Are they designed to cause a change in motion or a change in shape?

That is how easy it is to explain every technique taught in any martial art.

With respect to #5 above, different objectives of a technique require forces to be applied in different directions and maybe with different magnitudes even though they have the same points of contact.

For example, kansetsu waza (joint techniques) are used for multiple purposes. The can be used to restrain, inflict pain, incapacitate, as a takedown or a throw. They have the same points of contact but the forces at those points of contact are applied in different directions to achieve different objectives.

Congratulations. You have just nailed your theory grading (even if your examiner is not up to speed on the concept of forces).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Was Jan de Jong a Leader?

I've had cause to consider the concept of leadership given I'm applying for jobs that require applicants to possess and be able to demonstrate their leadership abilities. This resulted in my researching, consulting and contemplating the issue, with the end result being an article that is being published in various publications.

Was Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan a leader?

The first question to ask is, what is a leader or leadership?

Leadership is many things, but its most striking quality is that it is an ambiguous concept. To paraphrase the father of stress research, Hans Selye, everybody knows what leadership, is but nobody really knows.

Leadership is often associated with inspiring other people. The question becomes, what is inspiration? To inspire is to fill another with the urge to do or feel something? Did De Jong fill us with the urge to do or feel something?

In an organisational setting, inspire is defined in the context of getting the job done. Leaders inspire their personnel to get the job done. In my article, I argue that the necessity for a leader to inspire their personnel to get the job done reflects poorly on the people, systems and structures of the organisation to get the job done.

Did De Jong inspire me to be better at my jujutsu? To progress in the grading system? To be a better teacher? No. I was self-motivated. Did he inspire my contemporaries or even my instructors? Probably not. They were also self-motivated.

Business guru Peter Drucker said that it is easy to identify leaders, they are the ones with followers. Did De Jong have followers? What are followers?

Followers are an adherent or devotee of a particular person, cause, or activity. De Jong definitely had followers. Many people, including myself, were devoted to the man. He definitely inspired loyalty.
Based on leaders being defined by followers, De Jong was a leader. We now need to reflect on those implications. Would we have continued with jujutsu with or without De Jong's leadership? I suspect we would have for a variety of reasons.
Did De Jong lead? De Jong did what he did because he enjoyed what he was doing. He had no vision, and vision is another attribute that is often used to define a leader. When De Jong passed away, all of the senior instructors went their own way to form their own schools. There was a devotion to him personally, not to the school nor to any vision.
This then leads to the interesting debate concerning creating followers for the sake of creating followers. Mahatma Ghandi created followers to liberate India. Creating followers with no vision ...?
This post is no condemnation of the man I was devoted to. Rather, it is a meditation on the concept of leadership and what it means to lead.