Monday, December 6, 2010

Jan de Jong Pt 6.1 - Mochizuki Similarities

Recall from the last blog that I suggested there were similarities between Jan de Jong and Minoru Mochizuki which enabled me to recognise the latter when first seen on the cover of Fighting Arts International. While researching that blog I came across an article written by Patrick Auge entitled 'Remembering Minoru Mochizuki Sensei' and posted online at (or in) the Aikido Journal ( This rememberance of Mochizuki responated with me with regards to De Jong which I thought would form the basis of this blog which shows a little more of the man.
At the dojo, his door would always be open. He would often sit at a small table next to the entrance. That table was always covered with pens, pencils, dictionaries, newspaper clippings, and manuscripts. Above the table on the wall was a large world map. That area was where he did most of his reading and writing. He even ate breakfast there. Kancho Sensei used to get up early and prepare his breakfast himself. His favorite breakfast consisted of bread, butter, jam, and cafĂ© au lait (milk coffee), which he would quietly eat at that table, as he faced toward the sunrise. Then he would wash dishes – something he always insisted on doing by himself – and he would read the newspaper. When the mail came in, he would open it, call one of us if any translation was needed, and reply immediately.
De Jong had a small brick building down the end of his garden which was his private dojo. The flooring was carpet covered mats on concrete with naked brick walls and weapon racks and some memorabilia on the wall. A small, old leather punching bag was suspended in one corner (I never saw anyone actually use it in all the time I spent in that room).

De Jong's table and chair sat facing the door on the opposite side of the room. He had this collapsible card table (though I never saw it collapsed) which had covered with whatever he was working on or had left there from the past, or the grading sheets when we conducted gradings there. He sat on a collapsible wooden chair observing and instructing when training or grading. The photo at the top of this blog is De Jong at said table when Greg Palmer and myself were doing a third dan grading. The photo right is Palmer being congratulated for completing his third gradings and being awarded sandan (I still had a couple of gradings to complete if memory serves). Note the weapon racks and the clock on the wall. The clock was important because training was often conducted early in the morning and the trainees needed to keep an eye on the time as De Jong (and frequently the trainees) would lose track of time.

The dojo was not all that large, so, when we had to do any free-fighting gradings there was no room to hide. You had no choice but to stand your ground. A good method of training as I now appreciate. De Jong was not big on being overly formal (a trait he suggested he shared with Mochizuki). I recall one grading I was doing when my partner and I were joined by De Jong's great dane, Sasha. She had been observing proceedings from the doorway and decided it looked like fun so came bounding in to join us. Sacha's technique was very effective.

That reminds me of sword grading for shodan which I did with Darryl Cook (teaching the Melville branch of Jan de Jong Martial Arts and Fitness as the school was renamed after De Jong died). The grading was a kata demonstrating the relationship between sword techniques and unarmed techniques. It was conducted in quite a formal manner with opening and closing ceremonies, etc. I remember assuming jodan kamae where my sword was raised above my head - only to feel that I had pierced a lemon hanging on a branch above my head. Then there was one of the unarmed techniques where Darryl projected me into a nest of pot plants. As I rolled to one knee and faced Darryl, I'm not sure what the dirt and uprooted plants hanging off me did for the formality of the grading. The most testing part of that grading though, was to not deviate from the prescribed actions as a good-old Australian fly kept on trying to get up my nose.Seriously, do the Japanese have to put up with these sorts of distractions?

With regards to the 'table was always covered with pens, pencils, dictionaries, newspaper clippings, and manuscripts. Above the table on the wall was a large world map. That area was where he did most of his reading and writing.' That was De Jong's table in his study. It was always strewn with books, magazines, and papers. He didn't have a map of the world on the wall because he had no wall to hang it. He was surrounded on three sides by floor to wall book shelves filled to overflowing with martial arts books. The other wall had an old cabinet in which very old jujutsu books were held behind glass doors. There was one pillar which was free, but it was taken up with kris (Indonesian traditional bladed weapon) De Jong had collected, and a replica uzi if I remember correctly. He also had a computer on his table, though not one of the thin screens that are used today. This is where you would find De Jong most times when he was home. I've sat on the other side of his desk for many hours discussing this, that or the other related to martial arts, his school, or his European teaching trips ... and later, his life which has formed the basis for this biographical blog.
Often Mochizuki Sensei would stay after practice to give more specific instruction. At a large seminar in Europe, while most other teachers left eagerly to go shopping and sightseeing, he continued teaching. He later explained to us: "I may be dead tomorrow, so there is no time to waste!'
While De Jong may not have said those words, that was his attitude. This was particularly evident when he was teaching in Europe. He didn't want to waste any time when teaching could be done. He particularly enjoyed teaching less experienced people which he often received letters suggesting his attention to them was greatly appreciated, and not the norm with many other teachers.
Living close to Kancho Sensei was like living on total groundlessness. If one expected a definite, secure answer to a question, the Yoseikan wasn’t the place for that. Many students left because they could not take that kind of pressure; they couldn’t learn to function beyond their zones of comfort. One of my teachers told me soon after I arrived at the dojo: "Train yourself to not be surprised!" which I translated into: "Be prepared to expect the unexpected!"
Many people would get frustrated with De Jong because of what they perceived to be obtuse answers to their questions. It wasn't that he was deliberately obtuse, and he did not speak in abstract psudo-philosophical terms which some attempt to feign depth and wisdom. It's just that he was not bound by the limitations often imposed by the question. It was an art in itself to understand, at times, what De Jong was thinking or focused on when he was explaining something or instructing.


  1. Brings back good memories of training in the small private dojo with De Jong sitting at the small folding table in the corner giving instructions and not missing anything.Sometimes this was after a nice breakfast and good discussion at their house. Good memories for sure!

  2. I've been enjoying all the posts about De Jong's life and martial arts. Fascinating stuff. It's always interesting to learn about those who through thick and thin have basically lived a martial arts existence. The story of De Jong's life and training would make a excellent movie.

    You were lucky to have learned from, and spent time with, such a dedicated and talented martial artist. Clearly he was also a good friend. This type of individual is hard to find. So I am happy for you for the time you got to spend with him, and sad for you for your loss.

    Thanks for giving a peek into an amazing life, man, and martial artist.

  3. Peter - definetly good memories.

    Jman - glad you're finding the Jan de Jong story interesting. The exotic/adventurous nature of the early part of his life definetly lends itself to a book or a movie I agree. I was lucky to have been associated with him, and yes, we did become very good friends. I appreciate your sympathies for my/our loss. I adopt an attitude, fostered by De Jong, which is expressed in the Dr Suess quote: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.


Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.