Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tough Words About Prof. Wally Jay

A couple of weeks ago, we all received the bad news about the passing of Prof. Wally Jay (1917-2011). To many people, Prof. Jay had been an influential propagator of his own unique brand of self-defense. From his studies of Judo and Jujitsu in the 1940s in Hawaii, he discovered how his techniques could be improved by the application of what he called "two-way action". (He was quick and open to give most of the credit for this to his Judo Instructor, Ken Kawachi.) This is principally done by the torqueing of the wrist when one is off-balancing an opponent, or applying a joint locking maneuver. Prof. Jay originally called his method "small circle theory", but later named his system Small Circle Jujitsu™ declaring that, "It's no longer a theory, but a fact!"

During most of his life, Prof. Jay, through his own initiative and study, honed and refined his method of Judo and Jujitsu into what we know today. During the 1960s, it was his "breaking with tradition" that allowed his Judo team to take many championships. Through seminars, books and videos, he opened up his method to the world. Many martial artists (Bruce Lee among them) sought him out so that their own techniques could be improved by his methods. It didn't matter whether you did Karate, Judo, Filipino martial arts or whatever. Everyone came away with something of value from Prof. Jay. It is indeed a true statement that the rise of interest in Jujitsu throughout the decade of the 1990s is primarily due to his efforts. Indeed, all of the practitioners of sportive Jujitsu and mixed martial arts owe him a great debt of honor.

During this decade of the 1990s, Prof. Jay realized that people were beginning to use his teachings, and improperly calling it their own. In July of 1994, he asked me to assist him in registering the name "Small Circle Jujitsu" with United States Patent and Trademark Office which I did gladly. He later reregistered this mark in 2000. Regardless of this, there were sporadic occurrences of people illicitly using this name. (On one occasion, a well-known martial arts instructor bragged to me that HE was the one that filed the trademark for Prof. Jay. Obviously unaware of the actual facts, I courteously, but firmly corrected him on this.)

As late as 2010, Prof. Jay took legal action against specific violators with mixed results. He wrote on his website, "It has been brought to our attention from our trademark attorneys that someone has chosen to trademark Small Circle Jujitsu for himself.  I have sent registered letters asking him to remove his claim of trademark because Small Circle Jujitsu is already trademarked for the Jay Family.  He has refused to accept my registered letters – this is unacceptable and needs to be rectified.

Prof. Jay was the author of two popular books and many videos on his Jujitsu. Shortly after his passing, it was reported that one of his books was actually the idea of another person. Upon hearing this, his family was very upset and verified to this writer that the story was not true. While he was assisted by several people in the production of these books, it can be stated categorically that the content was original to Prof. Jay.

Throughout his life, Prof. Jay had affiliated himself with several martial arts organizations. From Prof. Okazaki's original Institute in Hawaii, to his own Small Circle Jujitsu organization, many people were attracted to these groups almost solely by his popularity. It is unfortunate that one organization took the action of removing his name from their logo several years ago. Shortly after this happened, his wife Bernice told this writer, "He's not even dead yet and they're trying to take him off the patch." This was particularly distasteful of that organization.

As we prepare to memorialize Prof. Jay on Sunday, June 26, 2011, we all need to be mindful that many of the things we have learned in Jujitsu are directly attributable to him. We need to be honest about where these things came from and how we attained them. After the passing of many great martial art teachers, there have been those who came out of the woodwork and made claims that were simply untrue. To say you were a student of Prof. Jay requires some scrutiny. Did you regularly, on a weekly basis, for many years attend classes at his dojo in Alameda? On the other hand, did your instruction come from attending seasonal seminars in various places around the world? If you are in the former category, it can be rightfully said that you were a true student of Prof. Wally Jay. If you're in the latter category, you are fortunate for the experience but you should not attribute more than what you have. In addition, we all need to be mindful that Prof. Jay's signature on a diploma does not necessarily mean that he was your instructor or even knew how skillful you are. In many cases, he only did this as a witness on the certificate. Likewise, having your photograph taken with him at a camp or a convention does not necessarily imply any special relationship.

What I have shared here are indeed, tough words and may be seen as inappropriate at this time. I disagree, and indeed I was asked to write this by his family. Sometimes after a great teacher has passed away, false claims are made. As Prof. Jay often said, "If you let a lie go for long enough, it becomes the truth." Too many times, we remain silent so as not to make waves and rock the boat. I hope the reader of this will honor Prof. Wally Jay's memory by steadfastly maintaining the truth.

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