Written in January 2004…..
It was a year ago that we last interviewed Dennis – and in Bob Sykes words “2003 has been the Dennis Jones year”. Writing the “Samurai on the Door” columns and working on a book with him has helped me to understand what makes him tick a little bit better. I think the most surprising quality about Dennis is his quiet manner. You only get to know anything about him in bits and pieces over a period of time and need a lot of perseverance and patience to get the whole picture.
Dennis is well qualified with a Batchelor of Science degree; an ONC and HNC in Building, a Fellow of the Institute of Carpenters and is a College Lecturer in Building and Civil Engineering. He is very well read in many subjects, including Philosophy and History, particularly appertaining to Martial Arts. He has an incredible knowledge of guns and shooting and with both his Father and brother having been in the SAS, a good working knowledge of Military strategies and fighting methods.
His first love however, is the Martial Arts and the development of the Human Being through their study. His deep historical study of the Martial Arts and practical experience on nightclub doors over 23 years, makes him a unique person with a highly unusual perspective.
I hope you get the opportunity to meet and train with Dennis in the forthcoming year and that you get the chance to delve into the rich tapestry that makes up his experience in life. Meanwhile I shall continue to work with him on the “Samurai on the Door” column and the book and offer you this interview for the MAI Yearbook…..
SR Talking to Bob Sykes the other day, he told me that the “Samurai on the Door” column is the most popular in the magazine! What do you think of that?
DJ Surprised in some respects and not in others Steve, I’ve studied and trained in the Martial Arts for nearly 30 years and “pressure tested” everything on the doors throughout that period of time. Many Instructors can only pass on their fighting knowledge second, third or fourth hand, or they may have competed or had a couple of street fights against non entities. I’ve used my techniques against all manner of fighters continuously over all those years, in all manner of situations and feel like I have a lot to say.
My driving passion has always been the Martial Arts and I’ve trained and thought about it every day without fail, often training in the dark and in the most inhospitable and unusual places….. knowing that extra repetition and mental affirmation could be the one that saves my life.
SR You’re a dark horse, we know you obtained your first Black Belt grade in Kyokushin all those years ago and that you obtained a teaching certificate in Wu style Tai Chi from Katherine Allen, but you’ve actually cross trained quite a lot over the years haven’t you?
DJ Probably the first person in my generation to talk about cross training was Bruce Lee, like most people training at that time, he was my hero, so I took his ideas on board. Working on the doors meant that I was looking to see what worked and styles and Martial Arts never really came into it, but yes, I trained in any club and with anybody that I thought might have something to offer.
I would like to make the point though, that the Traditional Martial Arts do have a lot to offer, they were formulated by people that had to fight to the death to survive, if they are passed down accurately all the strategies and techniques that I use are in there. The problem with many modern Martial Arts is that Instructors choose a technique because it looks good or sounds logical, but… test it in reality and it fails….
Take it from me; the very first time that you face a real opponent in the street, it will be like nothing you’ve ever encountered in the Dojo… unless you have a mentor that has that kind of experience teaching in your Dojo.
SR You’re also one of the most well read Martial Artists that I’ve met….
DJ (Laughs) I’ve read everything I could lay my hands on to do with the Martial Arts from about 1973 onwards, including all the obscure items, like the Times article on Mas Oyama’s first demonstration in 1960 in Madison Square Gardens, the first full contact championships when fighters like Aaron Banks were competing, when the legendary boxer Rocky Marciano trained in the Martial Arts and so on. I’m an avid collector of all Martial Arts documentation. I love to read all the old books containing pictures and documents referring to the old Chinese Boxers or in fact, anything to do with the Martial Arts.
SR You’ve read a lot of philosophy as well….
DJ Yeah…. Everything from the Upanishads, to the Bible…. I’m what you might call a “man watcher”, because that’s what I have to do on the door, nasty people are deceitful by nature and I have to be able interpret all the subtle signs of them trying to “get into my head” for my own safety.
SR You also have the longest list of letters after your name I’ve ever seen!
DJ I have taken the trouble to obtain qualifications because I’ve had to earn a living to be able to continue and finance my study of the Martial Arts. When I was younger I was told that I was stupid and felt that I had to prove that I wasn’t. I simply put the same work ethics that I learned in the Martial Arts into regular study.
I have a Batchelor of Science degree; an ONC and HNC in Building, a Fellow of the Institute of Carpenters and eventually became a College Lecturer in Building and Civil Engineering. This gave me a reasonable and honourable living and enough spare time to enable me to continue with my Martial Arts studies.
SR I think that it shows that you have the ability to develop yourself holistically and utilise your Martial Arts skills in all other areas of your life. Would you say that writing these articles has been cathartic for you?
DJ It has been extremely good for me. 23 years of conflict taught me a lot, if you can imagine all that Martial Arts study and I still felt doubt and fear, looking around at all the Instructors, Sensei and so called “Masters”, I couldn’t find anyone to really help. Bruce Lee said that a Master was a Martial Artists who had no “vague notions”, many of them sounded confident but I knew when put under pressure they would be Paper Tigers.
Working on the magazine and our forthcoming book has helped me to frame what I’ve learned and experienced and will inevitably help others. Martial Arts practitioners usually have opinions on what will and won’t work in a street confrontation and I choose not to comment on that… what I will tell the readers is what REALLY happens from my own direct experience….. the truth….. as it is…. what I’ve seen – and what I’ve felt.
What I can also say is that I can identify many common denominators in the old Martial Arts texts that I can relate to. The writers had to fight to survive and had the knowledge we still require; much of it was unfortunately lost enroute to us. I was awestruck watching old footage of people like Kano, Ueshiba and Oyama because you can see the capability in their movement and the determination and resolve in their eyes.
SR The book that we’re working on, doesn’t fit in to the “Hard Bastards” genre, it’s more about the alchemy that takes place in a human being who studies Martial Arts in the same way that we do. It’s more a Martial Arts or “Lifestyle” type book and contains a structured way of approaching the internal alchemy that takes place, irrespective of whether the reader trains in a Martial Art….
DJ That’s right. The stories that we use, such as those in our column, are designed to illustrate a point from practical experience and make learning a more pleasurable and memorable experience because of the illustrations that we use.
SR Violence seems to permeate throughout society and today, wherever you look, the can see the effect it has on our lives. What would you say is the difference between a violent person and a Martial Artist?
Violence is easy; it’s used by criminals all the time. Most are not even particularly good at it; they just make sure that the odds are in their favour. There’s no human development in learning violence. I’m interested in courage, bravery and a developed human being. Peace is earned. We have to earn the right to live in peace by keeping violent criminals at bay. We don’t have to become like them. That’s what the articles and book are all about and I think that most Martial Artists would agree with me.
Criminals will get into a victim’s head first, then they’ll isolate that person from support by using money, wealth and especially influence. Then they will use violence on the victim, three or four handed, maybe knee capping him with a baseball bat, using a weapon on his face, breaking his arms, or perhaps even murdering him. Often it’s just business and there’s nothing brave in that. Remember, being a criminal is a way of life; it’s not the “way” of Martial Arts. A Martial Artist will always have the “righteous objective” that we’ve discussed in previous articles and would never start the violence.
Our path is not to become unevenly yoked to them.
SR What do you mean by “unevenly yoked”?
DJ What I mean is, they control you by getting you to do things for them, I mentioned in the December article that if you were the manager of a nightclub you could be targeted by the dealers and if you were a weak person they would seduce you into getting a drug habit so that they had a hold over you and you would be “unevenly yoked” to them. You become dependent on them and they are able to make decisions that could affect you in a negative way. I can say that I’m not “unevenly yoked” to anyone. I’m not involved in any type of drugs or criminality.
SR Bob Sykes mentioned that 2003 was the “Dennis Jones Year” and apart from the magazine articles, you’ve taught and lectured to the Shi Kon Dan grades, taught on the Medway International Summer Course to a host of International Martial Artists and you’re coming with me to the Czech Republic to teach Presidential Bodyguards, Special Services and Police Self Defence Instructors. Bob has asked you to teach on his Super Seminar and you’re working with me on the book. You’ve also opened a club in Maidstone Kent. A busy year to say the least!
DJ That’s right! I’m not used to being high profile. In my trade it pays to be the opposite. I’m grateful for the help that both you and Bob have given me and I’ve had to work hard to find words to express what I’ve done naturally over all these years! With my close circle of friends and students, I’ve generally used what we call the “vernacular” to explain the principles. Techniques were developed and refined through the encounters that I had, I didn’t need to explain them in Martial Art terms. With the Shi Kon method of analysis and principles, that which I found difficult to explain previously fits in perfectly!
SR I think one of the reasons that we got on so well instantly, was the fact that we could both recognise the principles behind what each other was doing.
DJ That’s right. In my club I’m teaching the Shi Kon syllabus because it’s efficient and works well. When I first met you, from your reputation I thought that you were a traditional Japanese style Martial Artist. What amazed me was, when we started talking I realised that you had a system that fused Japanese and Chinese Martial Arts into a practical set of principles. Although you teach traditional Wado Ryu and Yang Family Tai Chi, the underlying principles are still the same.
I was also amazed by the fact that you had no ego towards me and that we could talk openly and freely about Martial Arts, self defence and philosophy without either of us becoming defensive.
SR In our photo shoot you look perfectly at home with a Katana and Jo staff…
DJ Yeah I have a natural affinity to the Samurai and their weapons I know that you have trained in both for decades yourself – I find the Samurai ideals very zenic and noble. Even though I’m half Chinese my mind rests very comfortably with their principles.
SR With the huge response we’ve had to the articles and courses the readers are continually asking about the book and future courses, what are your plans for 2004?
DJ To continue with the articles, complete the book, continue with the courses and grow my club. Most important for me is to tell it like it really is, no embellishments and no compromises.
SR Thank you Dennis.
DJ Thank you Steve.