Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jan de Jong pt 16

This blog was initially established to inform the public of my work on the science behind the tactics and techniques of the martial arts, and to hopefully generate some interest in my work. For the past couple of months, that mission has deviated a little with the story of Jan de Jong and his school of thought. This blog was also a means by which to improve my writing skills: 'If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot' (Stephan King). A pleasant, albeit unintended, consequence of this blog is that a former student of De Jong's from the 1950s has contacted me and provided me with tales and photos of his time with him. He has given his kind and generous permission for me to share these with you.

Jan was a good teacher very enthusiastic, and always explaining the meaning of what he was teaching.

Harry Hartman trained with De Jong from 1954 to 1958. He emigrated to Australia from Holland in 1954, and was put in contact with De Jong by another Dutch immigrant. He returned to Holland in 1958 and lost contact with De Jong shortly thereafter. Nearly 50 years later, here he is fondly reminiscing with me about his time with De Jong. He kept photographs, his membership booklet, and various badges all these years. Harry contacted me after seeing the photo to the right that was including in a previous blog. He corrected me (thank you Harry) in that the photograph was taken at the Edgehill Street, Scarborough dojo and not the 870 Hay Street, Perth dojo. Harry is the person on the right executing the technique; De Jong is centre back.

Dear John, I met Jan deJong in 1954. He than lived at 17 Edgehill Street. We used to practice in the 'sleepout' of the house wich was a long and narrow space with a brick wall on one side and timber and hardboard on the other. Every Monday at 8pm we had class with the team of students. After lessons we were invited into the house to drink ice tea. Jan's wife used to make our suits and belts by hand and on the sewing machine. With our team we gave various demonstrations all over Perth. Some of the photographs made at City Beach were used to show between pictures in theatres like 'The Ambassadors' to promote our school. I remember the 'sleepout' in Edgehill Street where photographs were taken, came loose from the main building due to the bumps made by the students thrown on the mat. Later Jan moved to the suburb Innaloo and the school to the Swan River Rowing Club where we had plenty of space. Training nights: Mon.- Wed.- Thurs.at 8pm.
Hans de Jong started jujutsu in 1955. He told me of students being thrown over balconies and partially through walls at the 'sleepout dojo'. Not only were the uniforms and belts handmade, so was the mat, as you will see in the photographs. Harry's reference to theatres concerns advertising at cinemas between movies to promote the school (Ju-Jutsu-Kan), in provincial Perth where everything associated with the school had to be handmade by his wife. De Jong was a true trail blazer.

While Harry talks of belts, they were not used as symbols of rank. In these days, at Ju-Jutsu-Kan, they used badges. There were only four grades - red, yellow, white, and green - as Harry's grading record to the right shows. Later on, and I don't know when, the Jan de Jong jujutsu kyu system was yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, black and white, black. Then the mon system was introduced at the front end of the kyu system, with the final mon grading being red. White as an actual grade? White belt is usually used as a belt for someone who is an absolute novice and has not undergone any grades. This becomes interesting when you understand when the kyu/dan system was introduced by Jigoro Kano and when the coloured belt system was introduced for the kyu grades, often incorrectly attributed to Kano. I'll explore this issue in my next blog.

I tried to find out if De Jong was using the shinken shobu no kata format back in those days. Harry wrote that no grading sheets were available and expanded with the following:
On training sessions it went as follows. Jan asked for instance: 'what would you do if somebody attacked you diving head forward to your stomach. He than showed us what to do. We,Jan and I,entered the mat and I had to perform the attack and Jan showed step by step what to do. Then every student in turn did the attack and defence until all knew how to perform. This was the procedure of all the different throws and locks and grips. At the exams the students got on the mat and did not know what attack was coming. Sometimes it was surprising and we had lots of laughs.
Only 10 students trained at the sleepout dojo, all of them male. Females joined the class when the dojo was relocated to the Swan River Rowing Club, and the class expanded. Harry remembers the time De Jong put both feet through the floor into the river when landing in a bridefall (demonstrated in the photo to the right taken at the 'sleepout' dojo); and he remembers the subsequent discussion concerning the advisability of using mats.

Harry was 19 when he emigrated to Perth and joined De Jong's school. He lived in Rotterdam during WWII, as did De Jong, and shared some of his experiences of this terrible time with me, as did De Jong. Their first-hand stories bring a poignancy to what would otherwise be a history lesson or the setting of a movie or a novel. They both remember the 'Hunger Winter' (see blog concerning De Jong's war years) when 20,000 Dutch died from starvation and exposure in the last few months of the war. Harry wrote, 'You'll never forget'. De Jong didn't.

The photo to the right is included just because its a wonderful photo. It looks like Harry is now on the recieving end of what looks like a painful technique. Note his face is firmly planted against the wall of the sleepout dojo. Harry is generously sending me the originals of all the photos and his other memorabilia to me. Thank you Harry for sharing your tales and memorabilia with me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jan de Jong Pt 15 - Grades - Attracting or Weeding Out Students

I received the following comment on my blog concerning the Jan de Jong jutsu dan grades:
Interesting, and extensive. I'm most interested in the fact that you needed to develop a deeper understanding, essentially 'on your own'. This truly separates those who just go through the motions and who practice by rote. From your experiences, do you think the extensive grading systems and curriculum attracted students to study long term or did it weed out many, like you said, "by attrition". How many long term students would normally be found training? Interesting stuff.

Firstly, thank you for reading my blogs 'Journeyman'. Secondly, this comment really got me thinking.

The previous blogs demonstrate that the Jan de Jong jujutsu grading system is indeed, extensive. Black and white belt/first kyu is base camp at Everest that is the dan grades. Did the extensiveness of the grading system attract or dissuade students from studying long term? After much thought, I honestly cannot answer that question. Maybe there were those who were put off by the length of the grading system. If there were, I didn't know them. I can only share my experience with you.

I was accused of chasing gradings and chasing belts in my first few years with the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. Why not? From the time I enrolled at the Jan de school, I graded every time gradings were held; that is, every three months. As soon as I'd successfully completed one grading, I'd go to the counter, buy my new belt, and ask for the next grading sheet. As others were leaving the school that day, I'd be sitting on a bench reading my next grading.

But my focus was never on getting a particular grade or belt. My focus was on the grading I was doing. I saw the gradings as a directed form of learning. For whatever reason, when I first enrolled at the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, I attended two lessons a day, six days a week, and then did more training outside the classes. I wanted to learn and I wanted to improve. I was a real Pavlov dog in that I could see myself improving every time I stepped onto the mats, and that was like crack cocaine to me. I vividly recall the time I suddenly realised I was going to get a black belt. It never occurred to me that I would, and it definitely was not my goal. My instructors had black belts, not me.

I have a confession to make. The only reason I completed second and third dan was because Greg Palmer (pictured above), one of my instructors who was also a mentor and eventually a good friend, had a long held dream to complete the grading system. The other instructors progressing through the second and third dan grades did not include him in their journey, so, in what I still consider to be one of the best achievements in my life, I trained with him so he could realise that dream. In the process, I became only the fifth person to complete Jan de Jong's jujutsu grading system.

Numbers can be misleading. Why were there only 21 people graded shodan by De Jong? Was this a deliberate weeding out process? I'd suggest not. Part of the answer lies with the extensiveness of the system. Life and other activities compete for the years that are required to obtain a black belt from De Jong. But another factor may have been, as I have been arguing, that he had to develop his dan grades, and given his relative isolation he didn't have too much to reference to assist him.

Numbers can be misleading. It became a bit of folklore that it takes a minimum of 10 years to get a black belt in De Jong's jujutsu. Rob Hymus did it in seven. But then he was working as an instructor at the school full-time, and, this was when the shodan gradings were first introduced. I was on track to match Hymus' achievement, even though I had to grade three more grades (mon grades) than he did. I wasn't working at the school full-time but my training schedule bordered on the fanatical. Then the Australian right of passage that is backpacking through Europe and my professional career intervened. I graded shodan in just under 10 years. But the length of time others took to achieve their black belt is distorted by the fact there were no black belt gradings at that time. Others simply trained for decades without bothering to do gradings as the training at the school was never focused solely on gradings.

'Weeding out'. It has been suggested, half-joking half-not, that De Jong scheduled the jujutsu instructors class on Friday nights to test the commitment of his instructors. Friday night is socialising/drinks night in Australian working society. Other than that, there was no attempt to weed anyone out. De Jong, I would suggest, did not include gradings to deliberately lengthen the grading process. He did not have some artificially high standard to be attained in order to weed anyone out (even though some of the senior instructors did try and impose them at times; a story for another time). It is my opinion that De Jong developed a grading system that he thought provided his students with knowledge, particularly at the mon and dan levels. The challenge for the instructors now teaching is, I'd suggest, can we modify the grading system so the same knowledge and the same standard is achieved but in less time.

Returning to the original question, I don't know what influence the extensiveness of the grading system had on the long term study by students. I suspect for those who did study long term, it had no influence one way or another. The others, if there were others, I never knew them. What I do know however, is, if you study the gradings rather than merely complete them, there is a great deal of knowledge to be gained.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jan de Jong Pt 14 - The Mon Grades

Jan de Jong introduced the mon system at the front end of his grading system in 1978. I am of the opinion that this is the pinnacle of the Jan de Jong school of thought.

In an article written by Mike Clarke for Australasian Fighting Arts in 1991, De Jong provides the following answer to Clarke's question, 'Do you think that was a good idea, to change the system to suit the students?':

Yes. I know what you're saying, but you know you can learn all the time. And if the results are better one way than the other, why carry on in a way that gives poorer results? I'll give you an example. In 1978 a Major Greg Mawkes MBE asked me if I would go and teach the army self-defence. I said okay and soon afterwards found myself teaching members of the SAS and the Commandos. Shortly after I had started to to do this the Major and I had a discussion about things. He told me that he thought the method of fighting was really good and he was pleased with that. But he said the men were having some difficulty understanding it all. I said this was the usual way of things and that my students were the same. He then explained the army did not have unlimited time to spend on this and that what he needed was quick results.

So it was at this point I had to think things through and see what I could come up with. I looked at the usual way the army taught things and decided I would alter the way I was teaching and come more in line with the army way of doing things. Well, do you know, the people started to pick things up much faster then before, and they could do the techniques much better than before! So I had a talk with my instructors and said I thought that we should change things so that we were teaching everyone like this. And at that time we changed the way we taught the students. The techniques were the same, it was only the method of teaching them that was different. And since then things have been much better.
This answer speaks volumes for De Jong on so many levels.

Prior to the introduction of the mon grades, the first gradings were the kyu grades (see a previous blog). The kyu grades are specified defences against specified attacks, albeit graded in shinken shobu no kata format (see previous blogs). The mon gradings consist of eight grades. Students 12 years and under start at first mon, 13-15 years start at 3rd mon, and over 15 years at 9th kyu. The reference to kyu in the mon system reflects De Jong's conceptualisation that mons are for children and kyus are for adults, however, the ninth to seventh kyu grades are part of the mon system and adopt the mon format. Lets look at the final grading of the mon system, seventh kyu, as an example of this format.

Breakfalls (Ukemi Waza) - demonstrate specified breakfalls.
Wakai no Kata - demonstrate a kata De Jong designed to introduce punching, kicking, and blocking at this level.
Throwing techniques (Nage Waza) - demonstrate specified throwing techniques from specified attacks.
Bodymovements (Taisabaki) - demonstrate specified bodymovements.
Unbalancing (Kuzushi) - demonstrate specified unbalancing techniques from specified attacks.
Locking techniques (Kansetsu Waza) - demonstrate specified joint-locking or joint techniques from unspecified attacks.
Basic blocks and attacks (Uke and Atemi) - demonstrate specified blocks and punches from specified attacks.
Reflex (Shinken Shobu no Kata) - see previous blogs.

I'll speak from a jujutsu perspective, although, many of the observations are applicable to most other martial arts. A review of the jujutsu literature will quickly reveal that the art is taught as defences against attacks. As tricks, which is in fact how H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi describe each of their defences in The Complete Kano Jiu-Jitsu.

Gerry Carr, in Biomechanics for Coaches, advises breaking down sport skills into phases. This reduces the possibility (probability) of the student being overwhelmed by the complexity and speed of the skill they are trying to learn, and makes it much easier to look for errors in their performance. He suggests that many skills can be broken down into the following four phases: (1) Preparatory movement (set up) and mental set, (2) windup, (3) force-producing movements, and (4) follow-through (or recovery).

Masatoshi Nakayama, in the classic Dynamic Karate, is a rare example of a martial artist dividing his skills into phases. When discussing the height of stances, he explains that 'the form of a particular stance is different in the ready position from its form at the time a technique is applied. The form of the stance immediately after the technique has been applied again differs from the preceding two. There is a delicate change at each stage, although the form looks almost the same.' Interestingly, for me at least, this reflects the injury science division of the injury production process by William Haddon into pre-event/pre-injury, event/injury, and post-event/post-injury phases. This is included in my book on the application of injury science and pain to the martial arts tactics and techniques.

Jigoro Kano, of course, is very well known for his division of judo throwing skills into kuzushi-tsukuri-kake, unbalancing-fitting in-execution. Tadao Otaki and Donn F. Draeger, in Judo: Formal Techniques, suggest this division is not only used for throwing techniques but also for techniques used in 'grappling situations'. However, I've never seen it used outside of throwing techniques.

What is De Jong's division of his jujutsu's skills? Based on the mon grades it is taisabaki-kuzushi-waza, bodymovement-unbalancing-technique. He had difficulty in separating the three, particularly when I discussed this division with him when writing Jan de Jong: the man, his school, and his ju jitsu system for him. But they can be divided into these three tactical components for analytical purposes (I refer to them as tactics as the technique is the end part of the tactic). Even De Jong did not fully appreciate the insights he'd achieved and the power of those insights.

We were teaching in Sweden one year and De Jong asked me what he should teach. I said bodymovments. He was very much opposed to the idea based on the grounds that the seminar participants would be bored with this 'mundane' exercise. I argued my case, and as a reflection of De Jong, he did teach bodymovements (albeit at the speed of light). At the end of the seminar we ended up with approximately ten instructors/black belt students requesting private lessons. Not in any of the techniques we'd taught, but in the bodymovements. They could see the uniqueness of this approach and the power of the division of tactics.

Another example of the utility of this approach. When living in London I attended Richard De Bordes pencak silat classes. Their pencak silat was very, very different (and highly recommended) to what I'd seen at De Jong's school. They didn't break their skills into phases of any description, however, I did. Even though they don't use the same bodymovements, nor unbalancing to any great extent, I could still apply this analytical approach to understand and study tactics taught in a relatively foreign martial art. I may not have been immediately proficient, but I knew what I was trying to do. I could practice the component parts of the tactic.

As a full-time instructor working at the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, I was engaged to teach more private lessons than any other instructor in the school. My approach in analysing and teaching techniques/tactics was taisabaki-kuzushi-waza. As Carr suggests, 'errors occurring during an early phase of a skill are bound to affect all the phases that follow. So when something goes wrong at the end of a skill, examine not only the last phase but also earlier phases to see if the root of the problem lies there.' I found that the vast majority of the corrections of a private lesson student's technique lie in the bodymovement. Fix the bodymovement and the unbalancing and technique took care of themselves. I suppose the students paid for my understanding of this methodology as much as they did in my expertise in executing these techniques.

Based on my study of the martial arts tactics and techniques, among other 'scientific' concepts and theories, for my book, I now divide the tactics of any martial art into kamae-taisabaki-kuzushi-waza, ready position-bodymovement-unbalancing-technique. This is a method of analysing the tactics, even when the tactic may not incorporate an element.

But breaking down a skill into phases is just analytical thinking. De Jong uniquely went beyond analytical thinking. Systems thinking has been described as the art of seeing the forest and the trees. According to Russell Ackoff, one of the founding fathers of the systems thinking movement, the difference between analytical and systems thinking is not that one analyses and the other doesn’t, but rather that systems thinking combines analysis with synthesis: analysis, taking things apart, and synthesis, putting things together and understanding how they work together. The fundamental assumption on which the systemic thinking concept is based is that everything is systemic. Everything interacts with (affects and is affected by) the things around it. This is not unlike the worldview adopted by many eastern philosophies.

De Jong broke his tactics down into their analytical elements in the mon grades. He would then teach exercises where the different elements were mixed. Different bodymovements were used with an unbalancing method to execute a technique. Different unbalancing methods were used with a bodymovement to execute a technique. Different techniques were executed using a bodymovement and unbalancing method. De Jong's 'thinking' evolved into systems thinking that was reflected in his mon grades.

One (nameless) instructor who now has is own school has dispensed with the mon grades. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. The mon grades have a degree of circularity that was influenced by Minoru Mochizuki's teachings. The kyu grades are more linear and direct, possibly reflecting the Saito brother's original approach. I would argue in favour of not going back to teaching 'tricks' but rather to embrace the systems thinking approach that De Jong adopted, even though he was unaware of it. It has to be said, the De Jong grading system is not seamless. The mon grades prepare the student for the dan grades more than they do the kyu grades. Having said that, they provide the student with the analytical and systems mindset to understand and study the 'tricks' in the kyu grades.

I've found a lot can be learnt from studing De Jong's grading system than simply studying the gradings. Even before I discovered the concept of systems thinking, I knew there was a more holistic approach being taught by De Jong. He wasn't just teaching a martial art, he was teaching a martial arts system. As Ackoff said: 'System is more than just a concept. It is an intellectual way of life, a worldview, a concept of the nature of reality and how to investigate it – a weltanschauung.'

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Was Taught By Experts

This is a quicky. I'm a fan of Paul Kelly, and this song is so applicable to my martial arts experience. I've always intended to use the lyrics as a preface or introduction to any book I write. Enjoy.

This is also a heads up. I've so many things to write that I have to restrain myself from doing so on a daily basis. The next blog is on Jan de Jong's mon gradings, what I consider to be the zenith of his school of thought. In order to understand the importance of this insight it is necessary to understand systems thinking.

Also, I've been contacted by one of De Jong's first students in Australia. We are now corresponding. Oh so much interesting historical/evolutionary information, including photos.

And then of course, there is the fact I've been contacted by a biomechanics professor from a university in Canada who has expressed an interest in co-authoring a book with me. This was after I contacted him, based on reading his book on biomechanics, and asking certain questions with regards to injury science and martial arts tactics and techniques. He expressed his interest based on my questions, which he suggested would come from someone who had completed a biomechanics undergraduate degree. That is a huge boost for my confidence given I'm self taught.

Stay tuned followers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jan de Jong Pt 13 - The Dan Grades

The photograph to the right was taken circa 2000. From left to right are Peter Clarke, Jan de Jong, Robert Hymus, and Paul Connolly. I may be wrong but I think the photograph was taken around the time of their completion of sandan (third dan), the final technical grading in De Jong's jujutsu grading system. Like my MBA (Master of Business Administration), I'd characterise De Jong's grading system, particularly the dan (black belt) grades, as a 'war of attrition' rather than as being particularly difficult.

Hymus can rightfully be said to be the first shodan De Jong graded in his jujutsu. He was awarded this grade in the very late 1970s. De Jong emigrated to Australia in 1952 and it was more than 20 years before he graded anyone shodan. Why so long? Given the calibre of Tony Chiffings, Warwick Jaggard, Peter Canavan, and other instructors, it could not have been because of the lack of commitment or proficiency.

De Jong visited Europe for the first time since WWII in the late 70s. While there he had the opportunity of visiting various jujutsu schools and comparing the standard of his mudansha (kyu grade holder) instructors with the European yudansha (dan grade holder) instructors. In 1978 he accepted the position of Australian representative for the World Ju Jitsu Federation (WJJF). In 1982 he would return to Europe with a team of his instructors to attend and compete in a WJJF seminar and teach at various other European schools. Is the timing of the awarding of dan grades coincidental? Please don't get me wrong, these instructors are world standard. What I am suggesting is that maybe De Jong wasn't aware they were world standard because he'd been teaching in what has been described as the 'most isolated capital in the world', and without the benefit of the 'information highway'. He had no basis for comparison.

Why weren't the previous instructors graded shodan? I'm of the growing opinion that a major part of the reason may be because he didn't have any dan grades, at least any of significance. A contentious opinion, and one I am prepared to be corrected on. Is it a coincidence that the dan grades, which have more than a 'wiff' of Minoru Mochizuki's teachings, were taught for the first time just after Yoshiaki Unno (see a previous blog) had trained with, and taught for, De Jong for two years? This influence becomes even more evident when he developed and introduced the mon grades (see next blog).

De Jong was justifiably proud of his instructors. He's quoted in a number of articles expressing his pride in connection with the compliments he received domestically, nationally, and internationally about their quality. In the last few years of his life he toyed with the idea of listing the gradings that were required to be completed to be awarded a dan grade to indicate what is required to become a yudansha in his school.

Shodan (1st dan) - 9 parts: revision, practical part 1 and 2, kentai ichi no kata (kata of sword body agreement) and suwari waza no kata (kata kneeling down), shiai (contest), oral theory and terminology, history essay, teaching, and examining.

Nidan (2nd dan) - 9 parts: revision, demonstration, practical, hantachi waza no kata (kata one standing one kneeling) and kentai ichi no kata, defences with short stick and defences against jo (short staff), pressure points, shiai, oral theory, essay on topic approved by De Jong.

Sandan (3rd dan) - 12 parts: revision, demonstration, taisabaki no kata (kata of bodymovements), theory grading with sacrifice throws and takedown techniques, kodachi no kata (kata of short sword), hoju jutsu (art of tying), arresting techniques, searching and handcuffing, jo and tobitanbo (jumping stick), manriki-gusari (weighted chain), shiai, and project assigned by De Jong.

Mochizuki's teachings influence can be seen most evidently in the kentai ichi no kata which is also taught by Mochizuki. However, De Jong would not appear to have simply adopted it wholesale. No. It appears he used it as a template and modified it based on his own experience and purposes. The suwari waza no kata is seen in Kodokan Judo. When I raised this issue with some of the senior instructors (not De Jong), the suggestion was that maybe this was one of the contributions to Jigoro Kano's teachings provided by Tsutsumi Hozan ryu (the jujutsu style De Jong's instructors told him they were teaching). A member of the Tsutsumi family is credited with assisting in the development of Kano's teachings. That is a possible explanation. Another is that De Jong adopted it and included it within his grading system to fulfil a particular requirement of his.

There appears to be some gradings that are repeated. They are not. The revision gradings and certain others are not a simple exercise of demonstrating things previously done. No. The candidate has to demonstrate their understanding of principles, tactics, and techniques, and 'flesh out' the outlined grading. For instance, the taisabaki no kata requires the candidate to demonstrate a specified number of variations of the five basic bodymovements taught within the system. Up until this grading only the five basic bodymovements had been specifically identified within the grading system.

These dan grades definetly have a focus on knowledge and understanding, and not just proficiency. There is a major element in these gradings to produce high quality, world class instructors. Not everyone would become, or wants to become, an instructor. De Jong recognised this, along with the extensive requirements of the grading system, and was toying with the idea of having two different 'types' of black belts. One complete and one a modified version for those who would not teach. He didn't resolve the problems associated with implementing this idea before he died.

These gradings formed the basis for the dan grading system developed for and used by the Australian Ju Jitsu Association (AJJA). I confess I do not know if this system is still being employed by the AJJA, but, the format or content of the dan grades, and not the specific tactics and techniques of De Jong's jujutsu, formed the base for the AJJA dan grading system. I know there are other schools/systems in Australia and Europe that have 'improved' their dan grading systems by referring to De Jong's.

According to Greg Palmer, there are only 21 people who have been graded shodan in De Jong's jujutsu. The first, Hymus, and the last Jamie Francis. Both instructors are now principals of their own schools. It is Francis' (and my) intention that he will be No. 6 to have completed sandan within the De Jong jujutsu grading system.

The more I study De Jong's grading system - study it as opposed to simply grading it - I see the hand of 'intelligent design' by De Jong. Not just modifying his teachers' grading system, but developing it totally, or at least a major portion of it. If so, it is a grand achievement as he didn't have a lot of other grading systems to refer to. I would suggest it is one of De Jong's most outstanding legacies if, and only if, he had the type of hand in developing it as I have suggested.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Self-Created Suffering and Respect

My philosophical musings aimed at supplementing the physical aspects of the martial arts.

In The Art of Happiness: A Handbook For Living Howard C. Cutler augments the Dali Lama's views on leading a happier life by his own observations and commentary from the perspective of a Western psychiatrist. On the subject of 'self-created suffering', the Dali Lama has this to say:
So I think that to a large extent, whether you suffer depends on how you respond to a given situation. For example, say that you find out that someone is speaking badly of you behind your back. If you react to this knowledge that someone is speaking badly of you, this negativity, with a feeling of hurt or anger, then you yourself destroy your own peace of mind. Your pain is your own personal creation. On the other hand, if you refrain from reacting in a negative way, let the slander pass by you as if it were a silent wind passing behind your ears, you protect yourself from that feeling of hurt, that feeling of agony. So, although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation.
This is a very powerful message. It is also a very empowering message.

Change Your Reality, Change Your Life suggests to control what you can control and let go of the rest. The author includes in the list of things that you can control, your emotions, behaviour, circumstances, mind/thoughts/decisions; and the things you cannot control includes other people.

You can't control what other people say or do. You can control how you respond to what they say or do. Controlling how we respond is self control; a skill that does not come naturally for a lot of people and one that needs to be learnt.

Eleanor Roosevelt, a far wiser women then her Presidential husband, had this to say on the subject of self esteem:'No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.'

You can't control how other people regard you. You can control how you regard yourself, and how you regard others.

'I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can't be helped.' Frederick Peris.

Peris' quote reflects the Eastern philosophy of 'no expectations'. When our expectations are not met we often feel disappointed, angry, unhappy, frustrated, etc. Our expectations set the stage for our self-created suffering.

Recall from the previous blog the violent prisoner who wanted 'Pride. Dignity. Self-esteem.' and was prepared to 'kill every motherfucker in that cell block' in order to get it. He felt the officers were attempting to strip away his last shred of dignity and self-esteem by 'disrespecting him.'

The prisoner's self-esteem would appear to be dictated by how the officers treat or regard him. He's creating his own suffering be responding to something that is out of his control, the officer's feelings and actions. He's giving others permission to make himself feel inferior. He has expectations of other's that are not being met. The things that he can control appear to being driven by the things he cannot control. He is the living embodiment of self-created suffering.

Not taking offence to offensive remarks takes self-confidence and self-control. Not taking offence to offensive remarks made to ones close to you takes even more self-control. Adopting the Dali Lama's approach, they are only words. They only have meaning because we give them meaning. They are only offensive because we make them so. And, in any event, if someone is making offensive remarks about you or your close ones, how much value do you place on their opinion anyway.

With respect to respect (pun intended), we can only respect ourselves and respect others. What they do is up to them, but then we can try and manage how we respond to their actions.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I came across the 1960s classic To Sir, With Love today on television and it reminded me of an article I'd read concerning respect and violence.

The article is titled Shame, Guilt, and Violence, by James Gilligan published in Social Research 70:4 2003. Gilligan is a mental health professional that has worked within the prison and prison mental hospital system for 35 years at the time of writing the article. He introduces his article by sharing his experience concerning the responses he often received when he asked prisoners or mental patients why they assaulted or even killed someone. 'Time after time, they would reply, "because he disrespected me" or "he disrespected my visitor [or wife, mother, sister, girl-friend, daughter, etc]. In fact, they used that phrase so often that they abbreviated it into the slang phrase, "He dis'ed me."' (1149). Heard that phrase before?

Gilligan writes about a running battle between prison officers and a prisoner who would assault them and they would punish him. The more they punished him the more violent he became, and the more violent he became the more they punished him. They placed him in solitary confinement, deprived him of even the last few privileges and possessions a prison inmate has until there was no further punishment to which they could subject him without becoming subject to punishment themselves, and yet he continued to assault them whenever they opened his door. At that point the officers gave up and turned to Gilligan to assist them in understanding the situation that was only harming both parties to the conflict. Gilligan points out the same mutually self-defeating vicious cycle can be observed on a national and international scale and throughout history.

When Gilligan asked the prisoner 'What do you want so badly that you are willing to give up everything else in order to get it?', he astonished him by replying with perfect clarity and a kind of simple eloquence: 'Pride. Dignity. Self-esteem.' He added, 'And I'll kill every motherfucker in that cell block if I have to in order to get it.' He went on to describe how he felt the officers were attempting to strip away his last shred of dignity and self-esteem by 'disrespecting him', and said, 'I still have my pride and I won't let them take that away from me. If you ain't got pride, you got nothin.'.

Respect is a word that is often used today, and in the past. It has taken on a particular significance in the 'gangsta' sub-culture and other similar sub-cultures in our society. These 'gangsta's' appear to hold respect in high regard, however, I'd argue that their regard is in respect (pun acknowledged) of receiving respect and not giving it.

Do you know what respect means? The Oxford Dictionary offers a number of definitions. The first - feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements - tends to reflect the idea that respect has to be earned. What happens if someone's abilities, qualities, or achievements are not all that admirable? What happens if you don't even know of the person's abilities, qualities, or achievements? What about the case where a person's abilities, qualities, or achievements are the very antithesis of admirable? Are these people undeserving of your respect?

The second meaning of respect by the dictionary is: due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. This is the respect that Sidney Poitier's character showed to his students. This is the respect that Jan de Jong and Greg Palmer showed me. This is the respect that De Jong and Palmer showed everyone they encountered. Even when the person acted in a 'disrespectful' manner or in a manner that popular convention would suggest unworthy of respect.

Respect should not be, but is often considered to be, reciprocal. In a Common Sense Guide: Working With Teens, the author refers to an answer to a question why teens show respect for some and not others as being, 'because they showed me respect'. The author then asks why should a teen have to earn respect? Why should anyone have to earn respect? The author suggests that respecting them at all times, even when disciplining them, will teach them respect. Not just the meaning of the word, but the true meaning of respect.

Logically, what a 'dumb-arse idea'. If I won't show you respect until you show me respect, and you won't show me respect until I show you respect, ...

De Jong explained that respect was not enforced by his instructors, the Saito brother. Respect was part and parcel of the culture at that time in that culture. Throughout his teaching career, aka his life, he never enforced respect in his classes. In fact, he would decry the fact that some schools/teachers would rigidly enforce 'respect' through their teaching methods. That is not true respect. De Jong showed respect for one and all, and thereby taught respect, whether he intended to or not. I saw Palmer 'disrespected' by some others within the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, and I had the instinctual urge to respond; but his self-esteem and his respect of others was not tied up with their respect of him. I recall a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that goes: 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent'. A wiser woman and who could be considered more deserving of your respect than her philandering presidential husband, Theodore. Palmer was a fair approximation for Poitier's character in To Sir, With Love within the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. He tried to teach me, and it would appear that he succeeded to some degree, something about the true nature of respect.

So, there is a lot to learn about respect and its effects on our behaviour. However, when applied to a potentially violent situation we should appreciate the influence of the perception of respect. We are not all as enlightened as us with respect to respect after this blog. By appearing to disrespect an individual we could be fueling a violent act. It may be irrational, we may not understand it, but nonetheless, we have to deal with a person's perceptions and the influence that their instinctive desire for 'respect' can have on their behaviour.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jan de Jong Pt 12 - The Kyu Grades

Recall from recent blogs that Jan de Jong's jujutsu grading system can be broken down into three sub systems - the mon system, kyu system, and dan system. Also recall that the kyu gradings were all that were available until the mid to late 70s. This blog will look at the kyu grades.

The kyu grades consist of six grades commencing at 6th kyu (yellow belt) and ending with 1st kyu (black and white belt). Sixth to 3rd kyu only have one grading whereas 2nd kyu has two parts and 1st kyu has seven parts. The 6th to 3rd kyu gradings use the shinken shobu no kata format as described in earlier blogs, with approximately 30 techniques apiece. Third kyu includes an additional section where five specified throwing and joint-locking techniques are required to be executed against a single handed strangle and double handed strangle separately. Additional pressure is added in that the attacks are continuous and executed by two attackers.

Second kyu is made up of two parts, one of which is shinken shobu no kata consisting of 31 techniques. In addition, it also has a section where 10 techniques have to be executed while blind folded (random attacks), four renko waza (changing techniques) demonstrated, and five joint-locking techniques demonstrated following a shoulder throw and a hand wheel separately conducted in the same format as described in the last section above.

There is evidence of 'intelligent design' when these shinken shobu no kata gradings are analysed. For instance, the tomoe nage (whirl throw or more commonly stomach throw) illustrated in the photograph above is first introduced in 6th kyu against a two handed strangle from the front. There is no follow up technique required and the candidate simple throws the attacker away. That is the first and last time they do not retain control of the attacker after the throw and apply a follow up techique (usually a joint-locking technique). In 4th kyu the defender continues to roll and finishes on top of the thrown attacker, and applies an arm lock. It is then included as one of the techniques required to be executed under pressure against a single handed and double handed strangle in 3rd kyu. In 2nd kyu a 'what-if' arises in that the defender sidesteps the initial technique and a side stomach throw is executed, and another what-if scenario is included in 1st kyu.

This progression can be seen to be common in these gradings. Simple execution of the technique followed by follow up techniques (usually joint-locking techniques) in later gradings and then what-if scenarios.

The second part of 2nd kyu is referred to as kime no kata (kata of agreement). It is a kata only in the sense that it is demonstration. Three different versions of each ukemi waza (breakfalling techniques), three different versions of kuzushi (unbalancing) from hand holds are required to demonstrated. Five of the basic nine joint-locking techniques are to be demonstrated against two attackers who attack at random with any applicable attack. Then Isutsu no Kata (Kata of Five) is required to be demonstrated. This kata is a true kata. The 'five' refers to the five basic taisabaki (bodymovements). Each of the bodymovements are demonstrated with a technique being executed from an 'inside' and 'outside' position relative to the attackers attacking limb.

In this grading we get a hint of Minoru Mochizuki's influence on De Jong. The unbalancing from the four basic hand holds are not seen until this grading. However, they are seen in Mochizuki's teachings. The bodymovements and techniques in Itsutsu no Kata are also seen in Mochizuki's teachings, although Mochizuki only includes one technique for o irimi senkai (major outer rotation) whereas De Jong completes the balance and includes two. These can all be seen in Mochizuki's Nihonden Jujutsu translated as 'Traditional Japanese Jujutsu'. I do not know when this grading was introduced, however, I am going to be given a complete set of the gradings by a senior instructor who was instructing at the school in the 60s and 70s, and I have been invited to discuss this grading and the development of the black and white gradings which he tantalisingly suggested he and his fellows put down on paper.

Second kyu also includes Wakai no Kata (New Kata) which De Jong developed himself. It is a one person kata designed to introduce more punching, blocking, and kicking skills to the student. The influence of pencak silat is evident in some of the moves which evade and set one up for a kick or other technique in such a smart way. I do marvel at pencak silat at times and they way their methods are designed to evade and position for an attack.

First kyu is an instructors grading. Part 1, kime no kata, is a revision grade where over 85 techniques are required to be demonstrated, all of which are taken from the previous grades. Part 2, shinken shobo no kata - >55 techniques, along with blindfold defences, and free fighting against two attackers. Part 3 is a grading designed by Greg Palmer and introduced by De Jong. First to 3rd dan include sword gradings, however, the basics of sword work (drawing, cutting, sheathing, etc) were never examined. As a logical progression, these basics are taught and examined prior to the student engaging in later sword gradings. This logical progression was obvious to Palmer who was a qualified teacher by profession. Part 4 is broken into two parts; the first being an oral history examination and the second an oral terminology examination on the Japanese terminology used in previous gradings. Part 5 is an oral examination of the technical aspects of the techniques taught to 5th kyu. Part 6 is a teaching examination where De Jong assesses the candidates teaching ability in a class of students up to 5th kyu. The final part is obtaining a first aid certificate. It has been suggested that the kime no kata now in 2nd kyu was originally in 1st kyu and was moved to introduce this 'systems approach' at an earlier stage.

When I came to form a view that Mochizuki's teachings significantly influenced De Jong's teachings, and that his mon and dan gradings systems reflected that, I questioned a couple of techniques in 6th kyu that utilised a circular unbalancing from a hand hold. This circular unbalancing is a feature of the unbalancing methods demonstrated in kime no kata in 2nd kyu. De Jong explained he'd replaced two original techniques with new techniques in an effort to introduce this type of, and emphasis on, unbalancing at an earlier stage in his grading system. Remember, this was prior to the mon system being introduced.

Firstly, the two replaced techniques involved disgengagement and not unbalancing. Secondly, these techniques made up a set of three that demonstrated a tactical imperative. The attack is with both hands holding the forearm of a defender, in a manner which would be common when attempting to prevent someone from drawing a sword. The original defences were simple disengagements which repositioned the defender to the right, left, or away from the front of the attacker. The set are beautiful and elegent as it takes into account any tactical situation imposed by a second attacker, surroundings, or different intent. In latter years, De Jong and Palmer were developing this tactical positioning approach to a greater degree.

The kyu gradings, as I hope I've demonstrated, reflect 'intelligent design' with logic and progression (which only becomes obvious when the grading system itself is studied). The 2nd kyu kime no kata introduces the 'systems approach' that comes to form De Jong's school of thought (see a previous blog). The 1st grading attends to both the practical fighting skills as well as starting to shape instructors. As focussed on in previous blogs, a requirement of the grading specifically addresses the duty of care issue that should be one of the highest priorities (but sadly is not in many instances) of all martial arts instructors. With Mochizuki's influence beginning to seep through (if my conclusions are correct), De Jong is seen to not simply be copying someone else to add content, but cherry picking 'things' to develop his instructors and his school of thought.

PS: Most of the above information is contained within Jan de Jong: the man, his school, and his ju jitsu system which may or may not be available through the now renamed Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness.