Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Real Deal

You meet a lot of 'masters' and 'grandmasters' and other bullshit if you stick around martial arts long enough. Most of them are about 10% skill and 90% ego. A few are really charismatic and have amassed a set of parlor tricks and a couterie of syncophants who obligingly fall on command... some are so deep into the games that they have come to believe in them.

I'm not writing about them. Not today. I want to write about two of the old dragons.

If you are deeply into the martial arts, you know of Jon Bluming. During the time when Donn Draeger was making the first deep western inroads into understanding the Japanes martial traditions, Bluming was his roommate. The Japanese called Bluming "The Beast of Amsterdam" and he was probably the primary reason that non-Japanese were not allowed to compete in Japanese judo tournaments for some time.

I met Bluming sensei in Seattle. His seminar was to be the first time on the mat for me since my knee surgery and it was the day after I'd shot someone. There was a lot in my head and I felt very much the 'realist' in a group of 'artists'.

Bluming is a rude, crude, fearless, outspoken old bastard. He is a bundle of scars and broken bones held together with tape and wraps for horse legs. He's tough and funny and hard and serious... and going on the mat for him is like going home, the one place where everything makes sense.

He was describing his favorite strike, the shotei and said, "I don't punch with my fist anymore because when you hit some guy with your fist and you fracture his skull and tear his ear off and you're waiting in a cold-assed jail cell for hours to find out if he's going to die and what the police are going to charge you with, well, you really wish you'd just hit him with the shotei, which just does the internal damage." At that moment I knew I could learn from him.

He rolled with everyone who wanted and he tapped most of them, this 70+ year old Korean war veteran. His doctor told him to stay out of training, but he couldn't. Keeping him off the mat would be like keeping a fish out of water. A big fish. A big, smart, old, mean fish.

The other one is a sweet, soft-spoken old man who has made a science of pain. Wally Jay founder of Small Circle jujitsu was never a national champion in his youth, but he had the mind to train champions and he did. He worked out principles of physics and efficiency and he centered his personal style around fingerlocks. My god it hurts!

He originally taught Small Circle as something you could add into any art and make it better. My own style is woefully lacking in restraint techniques and SCJJ filled the gap nicely. It is the best thing I've ever found for getting cuffs on a threat... it has grown since then with additions from Wing Tsun and others, moving to a more complete art.

At seventy years+, each of these men will roll with you. They don't need any big spiel or psychological set-up to make their stuff work. Their students are not chosen by how suggestible they are and they have no use for syncophants or yes-men. They want people with heart.

"Pain makes believers"- Wally Jay

"For me it is OK for I am very very busy all those basterds want to have a
seminar now that I am 70 years old ."- Jon Bluming (from an e-mail)

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