Sunday, December 27, 2015

Vale Adrian Dobson Take Two

My previous post re Adrian's passing was written in haste. I have since received messages of condolence which reminded me how well regarded he was, so I thought I'd rewrite this tribute to Adrian.

Adrian Dobson passed 1.20 am 28 December 2015.

Adrian loved Jan de Jong and the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. One of the reasons I write this blog is to recognise and acknowledge those who pass who loved Jan de Jong and the school and who provided great service to both. The present school does not unfortunately.

Adrian commenced training in the mid 80s and continued until his passing. He was graded 1st kyu in jujutsu and green belt in aikido by Sensei John Langley. Adrian's highest grade may have been in jujutsu but his love was aikido. I suspect that was because of the esoteric nature of aiki.

Adrian was not a natural martial artist nor very graceful, however, Yoshiaki Unno would have regarded him highly because Adrian trained hard, often, and consistently.

Adrian assisted me in the teenager's class on Saturday mornings and took that responsibility seriously. His gentle and patient manner and his love of the art contribute to his being a well respected instructor.

Adrian was a loyal and generous person. He was the first to put his hand up to pay for Jan de Jong's memorial when he passed. Always there at any function. Never a bad word to say about anyone.

Adrian had his own dojo at his place of business. I trained with him/taught him at the dojo and would often come across him watching video of his early morning training sessions with Jan de Jong and his long-time training partner, Keith 'Keef' Hickey. He treasured those moments. He had hours upon hours of those videos.

Around his dojo were various treasured memorabilia of his martial arts journey. A photo of him, Keef, and Jan de Jong took pride of place. A print of a painting of Jan de Jong that I gave him was also present on the walls. I recently saw a photo of him performing kenjutsu on the internet but unfortunately cannot find it again. I did, however, send the link to Adrian. He also had a floor board he retrieved when 996 Hay Street, the home of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, closed.

Image result for adrian dobson martial artsAdrian also accompanied Jan de Jong on a number of his European teaching trips. On one of those trips, the two gents above, the one on the left being Adrian, decided to give each other a #1 clipper cut because they were ... bored. He took a shine to the use of the tonfa after receiving instruction from an Italian instructor in Germany we stayed with. The photo to the right is of Adrian being thrown by Maggie de Jong with Jan de Jong watching on while demonstrating in Sweden.

Adrian had many other interests outside of the martial arts. He competed in the Avon Decent some 20 odd times. Loved his paddling and rock climbing. He took me rock climbing once, not to a facility mind but straight to a rock face in a quarry. I forgot I have an issue with heights which I remembered half way up the rock face.

Loved his music playing the piano, then the flute and finally the saxaphone. He played an instrument each night. Read voraciously but mostly biographies. Also read, and unfortunately performed, poetry. His favourite being The Man from Snowy River.

Loved art and theatre. Sadly, he and Keef attended a sing-along theatre that put on The Sound of Music.

Vale Adrian.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Demo Bloopers 2

More memories. More bloopers.

Jan de Jong and I were preparing for a demonstration to be given at the end of a summer camp in Norway. He was going to demonstrate kusurigama techniques (see photo). We were practicing outside our hut one very cold morning (Australian ideas of summer and Norwegian ideas of summer are very different). I attacked with a downward strike with a katana (sword) and he ensnared said sword with the rope/chain and attack my neck with the blade of the kusurigama. I leaned away from said attack, to which De Jong admonished me and said that it didn't look good for the demonstration.

Fair enough. I attacked and didn't lean away despite all instincts for self-preservation. De Jong defended and attacked my neck ... blood started to trickle down my neck where De Jong had penetrated it with his weapon. 'THAT'S WHY I LEAN AWAY' I exclaimed. 'I thought you were going to lean away,' he explained.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Demo Bloopers

My previous post got me reminiscing. I remembered some of our demonstrations, and there were a lot of demonstrations, both domestically, nationally, and internationally.

I remember my first demonstration. Everybody was busy so myself and my training partner were to give the demonstration with Sensei Paul Connolly providing the initial guidance. He instructed us, orange belts at the time, to demonstrate unarmed defences against a bo (6'6" staff) ... even though we'd never used one before. Fair enough.

We'd trained jo and therefore could adapt to bo and did so quite well even if I do say so myself. I was attacking with the bo and my partner was defending. We'd gone through our routine and on the last attack-defence we both looked at each other ... nothing. We couldn't remember the attack or defence. We circled each other in the hope that one of us would remember, but nothing. In the end I just attacked with a roar and he defended with whatever.

Then there was the time that we were demonstrating nunchaku techniques at a Dutch festival in Perth where Shihan Jan de Jong was the patron. Our nunchaku techniques involve ensnaring to execute all manner of techniques rather than just striking. The very first defence ensnared my wrist and brought it back behind me to cause me to fall to the ground (a takedown technique). As the nunchaku passed my face, one end hit my nose and broke it.

I laid on the ground, snorted out blood clots from my nose, jumped up and attacked again to be once again dispatched with. This happened for the entire demo. I made sure that my attacks were directed so that I would not land on the blood clots I was snorting on the ground and that it would be fast and furious so that there was no time for blood to be seen on my face or uniform.

At the end of the demo, we bowed and walked towards our group, and then my nose cascaded with blood. We were arranged in front of the St John Ambulance display, and when they saw me walking towards them they stopped clapping and guided me into the ambulance for attention.

Then there was the time in Sweden where Sensei Maggie de Jong and I were going to demonstrate kenjutsu (sword art) techniques. When we were demonstrating, Maggie attacked and I defended. I was training third dan at that stage, Maggie was first dan. I was super fast, Maggie was not. I had defended well in advance of Maggie's attack resulting in her sword slicing through the top of my left pointer finger. There was so much blood that when I was at the toilet basin, the blood was coming out of the joints in the pipes. There is now permanent nerve damage to the top of that finger.

Lesson to learn from that experience. Speed is nothing, timing is everything.

There was also the time that Maggie and myself were practicing for a demo in Java, Indonesia at a motel. I got the slightest of grazes in the practice session. We gave the demo in a dried rice paddy field in the country, a scene that could have taken place in an Asian marital arts movie. A day later I had a high fever, sweating, and couldn't straighten my leg. Jan de Jong took one look at the red line running from my groin to my leg and drove me to a hospital in Semarang where I was diagnosed with blood poisoning. Apparently a day later would have been a day too late.

Then there was the Norway jujutsu summer camp. At the end of the week, all of the instructors at the camp were to put on demonstrations. Our team was comprised of Jan de Jong, Maggie, myself, and a Danish instructor who is a good friend of ours. I was to attack ... for everyone. As they announced who was to demonstrate it would be Jan de Jong and John Coles, Maggie de Jong and John Coles, Danish fellow and John Coles. Every group of defences, I was attacking. Maggie did this magnificent foot sweep with a jo that had me upside down and doing a 360 before landing on my head. Jan de Jong was demonstrating jo techniques and missed the initial catch but made up for it when he took me down and applied the jo to my throat ... damaging one of the cartilages in my throat. For six months there was this clicking sound in my throat when I swallowed.

I was suppose to have two groups of defences to demonstrate with the Danish chappy attacking. Jan de Jong some how forgot those groups and so nobody got to see if I could actually defend myself or not. Insult to injury I'd say.

The generation before me also had their stories. A demo at the WACA had one female student have a knife plunged into her leg but carried on as if nothing had happened. Another person, who will remain nameless but who is a police officer, was handcuffed by Jan de Jong only for them to find that they had forgotten to bring the key along with them. This police officer jujutska was taken home handcuffed.

Oh God, the memories come flooding back. De Jong would demonstrate the use of the short stick, a baton, where it is initially held in a concealed position. A use of the baton from that position is to flick it to the attackers groin when they are attacking. For the first and only time in my jujutsu life, I wore a groin guard on that European tour. De Jong flicked and it made contact with my groin guard with an audible noise. I reacted with a bit of a flinch and the audience went 'ooo ahh'. De Jong, ever the showman, warmed to this idea and the hits got progressively harder with the same audience reaction. One day in Holland, I attacked, De Jong flicked, no audible noise ... other than my groans as I lay on the ground with my knees around my ears grabbing my groin. I had forgotten to wear the groin guard. De Jong stood over me and said, 'You forgot to wear your protection today man.' No shit Sherlock.

And there was the same time at the same dojo where De Jong was explaining his lesson in Dutch and looked at me for an attack that he had just described. I DON'T SPEAK DUTCH. He was looking insistent and not wishing to embarrass him, I attacked ... with whatever attack I chose. The next thing I knew I was on the flat of my back with De Jong standing over me asking me why I attacked like that. 'BECAUSE I DON'T SPEAK DUTCH.' He laughed and explained to the audience, in Dutch, what had just happened and they all laughed as well. Very funny.

We did many demos, there were many people that did many demos, and I'm sure they all have their own stories. So many stories.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Hilary Swank Moment

Hilary Swank was a guest at this year's Melbourne Cup, the 'race that stops a nation.' She also stars in the fourth of the The Karate Kid franchise - The Next Karate Kid - which was on television just recently.

In that movie, Mr Miyagi was teaching her karate and included an exercise where she was blind folded and had to avoid swinging bags. She then used that skill in a fight when the opponent blinded her by throwing mud into her eyes.

I had my Hilary Swank moment with my Mr Miyagi, Sensei Greg Palmer.

I was training with two partners after class one night. I was blind-folded and had to defend against attacks which my two partners initiated. It has to be said that punching and kicking attacks were prohibited.

Greg was watching and after a while asked me, blind-folded, and my two partners to walk around the dojo in a random fashion. Greg then instructed us to stop and asked me to point to where my two partners were ... by name.

Intuition time. So I tried to feel something, see something in my mind, ... nothing. I had absolutely no idea. Stupid bloody exercise, but I pointed when each name was called out nonetheless. When I took my blind-fold off, I found that I had pointed directly at Marcus (my regular training partner) and I was five degrees off the other person (now known as the other person).

I was astounded.

We performed the exercise again, and once again I tried to feel or see something in my mind, but nothing. But each time, without fail, I pointed directly at Marcus and was five degrees off the other guy.

Towards the end, as we were walking in random patterns around the mats, I turned and Greg asked why I turned. I said that there was a wall in front of me. Sure enough, there was a wall in front of me.

The final time, we walked randomly around the dojo before Greg instructed us to stop. He asked me to point to Marcus. I did. He asked me to point to the other guy. I did. He then asked me to point to the nearest wall. I did. And then he asked me to estimate the distance between me and those three objects. I did.

I was spot on with Marcus. Five degrees and a short distance off with the other guy. And spot on with the wall.

I never questioned it. Never tried to understand it. And I never repeated it again in case it didn't work again.

That was my Hilary Swank moment with my own Mr Miyagi, Sensei Greg Palmer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jan de Jong's Leaky Bucket

Recent news articles gave me cause to reflect on a strategy that I employed to save the Jan de Jong Self Defence School from closing.

I was working full-time in administration and as an instructor at the JDJSDS in the mid-90s whilst I undertook an MBA at the University of Western Australia. Jan de Jong informed me that he would have to close the doors of the school as it had been losing money for a number of years. Apart from my natural reluctance to concede defeat, I was also not about to lose my beloved school without a fight.

Sun Tzu in The Art of War advocates knowing your enemy before you engage them, so, I got to know my enemy by researching whatever data I could get my hands on. What I found was that every key performance indicator that I could access had declined consistently since the late 1970s early 1980s. All my graphs headed south.

An interesting result arising out of this research was a pattern associated with enrolments. They peaked in January/February and declined thereafter, which you'd expect, but they would spike once again in July/August, which I still cannot explain. The mid-year spike was slightly less in numbers than the beginning of the year and would fall off for the rest of the year. I cannot believe that the mid-year spike is associated with the end of the financial year. I cannot imagine that someone thinks, 'Oh. End of financial year, must enrol in martial arts.' No New Financial Year resolutions.

Rather than employing the traditional strategy of marketing in order to acquire new students, I decided to employ the leaky bucket strategy to retain students, which paradoxical also had the benefit of acquiring new students.

The leaky bucket strategy uses a leaky bucket as a metaphor for an organisation. You keep pouring water in but it keeps on leaking out through the holes. In order to fill the bucket, you either have to pour in more water (acquire more students) or plug the holes (retain students). I chose the latter, which in this case also provided the former, and it was cost effective.

How do you retain students? After years of talking to older members and instructors, I realised it wasn't the quality of instruction nor the quality of the martial arts that was the factor that produced loyalty in this school. They told stories about their time at the school not what they learnt. Stories around the camp fire is what culture is made up of. Culture - that was what keeps people at the school. Culture is what makes them ambassadors, sales people, for the school. Culture - telling stories around camp fires.

A year ago, a news article was printed how Wallace, the coach of the Bulldogs, got ex-players to come into the club and talk to the current players about the history of the club. Last week, the Swans celebrated their 10th year anniversary of winning the premiership. The then coach, Roos, talked about how he got ex-players to come into the club and talk to the current players about the history of the club. In both instances, they found that the players were invigorated by that history and felt a part of something bigger than just the team on the day. They felt commitment and loyalty.

De Jong had been travelling to Europe for an annual teaching tour since 1980. There was a positive correlation between these annual teaching tours and the decline in all of the school's KPIs, and so I concluded that because he'd refocused his interest on to those tours that it had trickled down to his instructors and then on to the students.

I got De Jong to refocus his attention back on to the school. To engage with the instructors not only about his European tours but also about their classes, their students. I got him to visit branches - there were students at the branches that didn't even know that the Jan de Jong in the Jan de Jong Self Defence School was a person alive today and teaching. The instructors re-engaged, which in turn engaged the students.

I wrote a newsletter each, month, quarter? The newsletter told stories. Told stories of how revered and respected De Jong was world-wide. How this reflected on the instructors and students. Told stories of days gone by in the school. Personalities who were involved in the school.

I got photos and memorabilia put up on the walls of what became the member's lounge. These photos and memorabilia told stories. Told stories of a history; of something that was not solely a today experience.

I arranged for an annual day at Christmas where all the members from all the branches would get together. They would see they were part of something bigger than just a few people in a community hall once a week. I got the instructors to put on demonstrations of jujutsu, aikido, and pencak silat. The students never got to see their instructors 'do their stuff,' and in doing so it inspired them. It gave them something to talk about, which in turn would attract new students.

I remember the internationally acclaimed Sensei Joe Thambu attended one of those Christmas days.

This was a cost effective exercise, as the leaky bucket strategy is compared to the acquisition strategy. The De Jong's regularly paid a very large sum of money for a Yellow Pages advert and questioned the value of that 'investment.' I conducted a survey and found that it contributed ... the acquisition of one student. One! I'd calculated a 'life time' value to students which was around $600 which the $x thousands of dollar investment yielded. Not a good return on an investment.

I suggested that if they wanted to spend thousands of dollars on marketing, that they should do so by marketing internally. Spend the money on culturally enhancing activities. Like most small business owners, they were reluctant to pursue such an unorthodox strategy.

What was the result of my strategy? The school is open to this day.

The first year I was there the decline continued. The second year after I'd implemented the leaky bucket strategy focusing on culture, all of the KPIs plateaued. Plateaued for the first time in nearly two decades! The third year - all KPIs headed north. Student enrolments and length of stay increased. Students stayed longer and invited others to join. The leaky bucket strategy which focused on culture was a success.

Just as the Bulldogs and Swans coaches found at their AFL clubs.

This story has another element to it that I've come to appreciate as I search for an executive position today. There is a focus on leadership, leadership abilities and demonstrated leadership in organisational life today. A cult of leadership as I call it.

Was I a leader? Did I effect change by being a leader?

I effected change without acknowledgement nor recognition. De Jong was and is acknowledged as being a leader, however, he needed someone to push him in the right direction and without him knowing it or even 'buying into' the strategy. Does that make me a leader? Did I lead from behind? ... How will the gatekeepers to employment, the executive recruitment agents and HR people view this example of leadership, if it is an example of leadership?

Hopefully sharing this experience might help you save and/or grow your school, whether you are the principal or not.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WHFSC Grandmaster's Council: a compendium of the world's leading Grandmasters

Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan is included by the World Head of Family Sokeship Council in their book published in 2013 as one of the world's Grandmasters.

Many of the photographs featured in their book have been featured on this blog (consequently, I'm not sure if they accessed those photographs from this blog or elsewhere). One photograph I will draw your attention to is that presented to the right because it has a story of its own.

That photo was included in a post which incorrectly suggested the dojo was 870 Hay Street. In a quirk of fate, that photo was responsible for me connecting with a student of De Jong's from the 50s who then sent me various memorabilia from that time which I subsequently presented to Hans, De Jong's son, for his birthday.

Margaret de Jong, Jan's wife, contacted me with certain issues she had regarding my reporting of the 'Jan de Jong story.' I addressed the majority of her concerns, however, possibly in an act of defiance, I refused to change the description of that photo. As it turned out, Harry Hartman, the good looking young man to the right, the one executing the technique in the photo, contacted me to correct my description of the location of the dojo - and from there a friendship grew. See this post for more information of Harry's contribution to the Jan de Jong story on this blog.

I'm sure Harry is going to be chuffed that his image is now published in a book. At least he has an image published of him executing a technique; the vast majority of images available of me is being the one whom techniques are executed on.

The entry in the WHFSC book reflects the history of the jujutsu that De Jong taught that is popularly espoused. As my research has explained, there is no corroboration of that history other than that De Jong trained under the Saito brothers.

What do we know of the Saito brothers other than that they taught jujutsu in Semarang, Indonesia pre-WWII and that one was a photographer and the other a florist?

De Jong showed me a photographic book that featured a photo of Semarang, Indonesia that was attributed to a Saito around that time. There is another reference that may refer to the photographer Saito:

Many Japanese businessmen appeared on the scene in the years leading up to the Japanese invasion of Java. They were planted there on purpose to get ready for the forthcoming invasion. Our friendly Japanese photographer turned out to be a spy too. He was the most popular photographer in Semarang and he had taken several of our photos. While these people had been bowing and smiling at us, they had been preparing for our destruction!
Jan Ruff-O'Herne, 50 Years of Silence

There is also a photo included of the late, great, Sensei Ian Lloyd that I posted in a tribute to him. A timely reminder to remember those we've loved, lost, by have not forgotten.