Monday, May 30, 2011

Ave atque vale Wally Jay

Ave atque vale is latin for hail and farewell. Wally Jay, internationally renown jujutsu master, passed away on 29 May 2011. He was 93. A good innings by anyone's standard, and a quality innings at that.

I had the good fortune of meeting Wally Jay. The photograph above is of Wally Jay and myself at the end of a seminar he conducted in England in the early 1990s.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the cognitive sciences suggesting that the core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. While I may not have learnt a lot about jujutsu from Jay's seminar, I did take a great deal away from the experience through the identification of similarities and differences.

Wally Jay and Jan de Jong were similar in that they had a great depth of knowledge and experience in the martial arts. They were similar in that they were held in great esteem, not only for their knowledge and experience, but also for their compassion and humility. They both treated the beginner and the advanced student equally. They both had a genuine love of teaching.

Wally Jay and Jan de Jong were different from so many others in the martial arts for the very same reasons they were similar to each other. While humility and compassion are often stated as being 'destinations' that martial arts training is suppose to lead us to, many obviously fail to complete the journey. Wally Jay and Jan de Jong stood out from the crowd because they were genuinely compassionate and humble. They genuinely had a love of teaching, and didn't do it for egotistical, status, or for financial reasons.

Wally Jay and Jan de Jong are good examples of 'best practice' that we could all benefit from by comparing ourselves against and identifying similarities and differences in order to become better people.

After Wally Jay's seminar, I consciously compared his efforts to those of Jan de Jong in order to reap the benefits of the lessons the comparision promised. Wally Jay conducted world tours. Jan de Jong conducted tours of Western Europe and Australia. What was the reason for the difference in the geographic scope of their tours? One of the reasons is that Wally Jay published a couple of books on his jujutsu. They are not big books, and they are not great books. They did have a relative uniqueness in that there were not many books published on jujutsu at that time. They also had a relative uniqueness in that some thought had gone into the theory behind the tactics and techniques of his 'small circle theory'. Most, then and now, simply teach a collection of tactics and techniques. Jigoro Kano's development of Kodokan Judo is the 'poster child' for the benefits that theory offers the martial arts. Wally Jay developed his small circle theory that defined his jujutsu. Jan de Jong taught his tactics by dividing them into three phases (albeit unwittingly): bodymovement-unbalancing-technique.

Jan de Jong did not publish any books. Not for the want of my urging let me tell you. He felt that people would not 'need' him if they had a book of his. And he did love his teaching, particularly teaching in Europe. I could not change his mind with regards to publishing a how-to book on his jujutsu. It has to be noted however, that the last time I saw Jan de Jong, he expressed an interest in my work in writing a how-to book on his jujutsu and wanted to contribute to the project. I believe that if he had published a how-to book on his jujutsu, he would have been conducting world tours, just like Wally Jay.

While I was living in London in the early 1990s, I was invited to headline a seminar celebrating a significant milestone in the school of Wim Mallens in Rotterdam, Holland. I had been to many seminars in England and Europe. I'd assisted Jan de Jong on many seminars in England, Europe and Australia. I'd been teaching in Australia since 1985. But I knew I could still learn something by identifying the similarities and differences between teaching/seminar methods.

One thing I learnt was that Wally Jay and Jan de Jong had a 'hook'. People went away from their seminars feeling as though it was time and money well spent. They taught a relatively unique technique that could be 'mastered' during the seminar and the effects/benefits were demonstrably obvious. Wally Jay did it with finger techniques. Apply a force to someone's fingers to move them towards, but not beyond, their range of motion and pain is experienced by that person forcing them to 'tap off'. Jan de Jong did the same, but with a unique twist (pun intended). He taught, among other things, yoko tekubi hineri (side wrist twist). Some refer to it as a 'z' wrist twist. There is a subtly to the technique that once known and applied increases the effectiveness of the technique (the pain experienced) by an appreciable magnitude. Demonstrate the technique and the seminar participants do a reasonable facsimile with mediocre results. Demonstrate the subtle aspect, and wow! People are dropping like flies.

It's a seminar technique. It's something I learnt from Wally Jay and Jan de Jong. It's something I learnt by identifying the similarities and differences between Wally Jay and Jan de Jong, and other martial arts 'masters'.

Ave atque vale Wally Jay. And a belated ave atque vale to Jan de Jong. Giants, upon whose shoulders I strive to stand.

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