30 years of Zen Do Kai...Part 2

Interview in Blitz Magazine - Vol. 15 No.2
By Mark Castignini

Bob Jones has done an enormous amount of work for the martial arts, spreading his teachings from Australia all across the world.

In part two of our interview with the BJC founder, Blitz''s Mark Castagnini finds out just how far Bob Jones'' influence extends.

Bob Jones with his master Tino Ceberano

MC: There are many instructors who have questioned and criticised you in the past who now appear to be taking on some of the commercial ideals you employ. What do you say to those people?

BJ: Thank you, welcome aboard, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. How about that cover shot on Blitz a couple of years back when Tino Ceberano wore a red uniform and I wore the traditional white ...good one, eh! I would just like one dollar (plus GST) for every black belt I have imitated since 1965 that would be a bucket load of dollars. I have been guilty of imitating every technique I have ever seen that was not already in any one of my BJC systems.

Look, if anybody imitates me out there in the land of the martial arts and that helps you get X amount of new students if imitating me, creates any new clubs, then that''s more people being attracted to the martial arts ...then that''s good, eh?

In my new book, `Let the Good Times Roll'' you will find a story about a conversation that takes place on a long flight from some city to another (in fact you will find several of these in flight yarns). Bob Jones, Richard Norton, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are talking about this very subject concerned with music and martial arts.

Keith Richards gets all philosophical about how all musicians are imitators, that''s what drives creativity. That''s what develops new songs and new bands as in new techniques develop new dojos. According to Keith nothing on God''s earth is either new or original, everything''s a copy. Everyone of us are imitators according to Keith Richards.

MC: The security industry was once a very large facet of the BJC. Do you feel this prominence has diminished and if so, why?

BJ: The answer to this question is both yes and no. Many years ago I made a conscious decision due to some negative publicity to go full steam ahead with the expansion of the martial arts and move away from the security industry. This is the `Yes'' of the paradox.

The `No'' is the fact that black belts all over Australia kept working in security. In almost any city in Australia security personnel are wearing their BJC crosses on the inside of TShirts and jackets to avoid confrontation. Many black belts started their own companies and knowing they were all imitators, some of them were happy to pay a `concept commission''. Well, they were happy before our government imitated Europe''s GST.

During the last ten years security has been one of the major growth industries worldwide, this will double again during the next five years. Negotiations are currently under way for a mother company (Axiom Security) to marry all of these individuals back together under one banner by 2003 in a win/win situation for everybody. But I guess you already saw that coming...knowing my 8th degree is all about putting my world back into its correct constituents.

Security played a prominent role in the BJC

MC: Can you tell us how your training has evolved?

BJ: My training, after 35 years in the martial arts, has never been more exciting. All those seminars we talked about in the last issue, they have introduced so many ''new'' techniques. The scope now for crossstyle training is very exciting. Seems like every advanced rank in the BJC is getting really good ''at this'' and others are getting good ''at that'' and when they get together now on black belt workshop seminars, you can''t shut them up ...and that''s healthy for the BJC in general.

Probably my greatest challenge in training now is trying to work out where all these ''other style'' innovations fit into our Zen Do Kai forms (Katas) and what new technique fits in with what set of form movements…Once this ''Mnemonic Principle'' is accomplished the technique is set, locked in.

This way I can recall it at will and I won''t forget what seminar I saw it. Other than that I''m working up a new seminar to go out on the road to promote `Let the Good Times Roll''. It will be all about responsible self defence, plus it will feature how to use what, when, where of your techniques and avoid going to prison simply because you were protecting yourself!

This seminar is being compiled by Bryson Keenan (Gold Coast, ZDK), Trevor and Julie Rimmington (Sunshine Coast, ZDK), Peter Shannon (Vic, BJC Escrima Kali) Steve Nedelkos (Vic, ZDK Chief Instructor). Mick `Magic'' Marshal - WKA Ex World Champion) and Kevin Smith (Fighting Fit, stolen from Perth, WA).

I will take this seminar right around Australia in May/June. The seminar is open to all imitators of all styles and all are welcome. If you are at the seminar you will receive a copy of my book, signed by me. I''m looking forward to training with everyone."

Bob looking out for the Rolling Stones

MC: How do you maintain quality control over so many clubs and branches?

BJ: This is generally quite simple, as long as everyone abides by two very simple rules: communication and participation. To participate you have to do seminars. If not the cross?style training then the BJC `Train the Trainers'' seminars. Taking this information back to your students is the communication.

Once or twice a year (depending on numbers of students) we hold stage gradings, everyone comes together for these gradings.

I always try to make these days personally to keep my finger on the pulse, if I can''t there are always enough higher grades to check on lower grades. Most grading days and seminars are videotaped for the local area higher ranks to judge for themselves the standard of their area. When I am not present these videos are sent to head office. Between gradings, seminars, videos and our two simple rules of communication and participation, we have good quality control overall.

MC: The BJC has always been proud of the fact that you have had very few splinter groups given this what do you attribute the current Queensland situation? (Malcolm Anderson has recently broken away from the Corporation.)

BJ: Again your question has two parts. Of course 30 years without splinter groups has been something without monetary value, how can you put a price on loyalty. Zen Do Kai sticking together has been its strength, this has always given me great pride.

On a recent training camp (about a year ago), Patrick McCarthy had just finished a three hour weapons seminar for more than a hundred Zen Do Kai black belts. He and I were sitting together in the shade waiting for Richard Norton''s turn to take control. "You know Bob, travelling the world doing my seminars, I train so many different styles, nationalities, customs and different egos ...but in New Zealand and Australia when I teach Zen Do Kai students they are so accepting, so respectful. The unity of your black belts is so strong, there is nothing like it anywhere in the world. Zen Do Kai is so strong, you could never be harmed from without, you could only be harmed from within."

Bob Jones and Richard Norton in the early days

Around about ten years ago (perhaps a little longer), on a training camp in Perth sitting in the shade, Rod Stroud said to me: "You now chief, this thing about Malcolm Anderson being number one, Billy Manne being number two and Rod Stroud being number three ...well could you do me a favour and not ever make me number one, I''m the kinda guy who always needs to be climbing up the mountain. I''d be better off if I was about number 20, that way I would be less conspicuous and I''d be better at doing my job protecting the style. You''re the founder, you''re the only real number one, you''re the one on top of the mountain. Us black belts shouldn''t have any bloody numbers."

One year later I''m not sure if Patrick was giving me a compliment or a warning. Ten years later and Rod will be right, there will be no bloody numbers.

The second part of the question asks me to "attribute the current Queensland situation", if I did that I''d be setting myself up as the judge and a wise spiritual advisor once told me never to do that. The fact of the matter is, for whatever reasons, Malcolm Anderson has decided to go his own way to break away and do his own thing separate from me. Like any family breakdown it is often the child who suffers, in this situation it is the blackbelts and their students whose loyalties become divided. Worse still, they may not even be informed.

That wise man also once said, "Good leaders lead by good example", that''s what I''ve always done and plan to continue doing in the future. Remember whatever decisions we make in life, if it doesn''t kill you it makes you stronger. All Queensland blackbelts and all Queensland students do have the choice to stay with Zen Do Kai with me as their leader if they wish to make that choice.

The third thing that wise man taught me "If you want respect you have to first give respect." Malcolm Anderson, I respect your decision and I wish you well. Perhaps you could return that same respect to me. Go your own way with your own name. When I chose to take my own direction, I respected my master, Tino Ceberano and his system of Goju Kai. Today, 30 years down the path, Tino and I are the best of friends, we have each other''s respect. Perhaps you and I can go our separate ways and still remain friends?

MC: Finally Bob, new Government legislation has banned all martial arts weapons. What are your thoughts on the use of martial arts weaponry and this current ban?

BJ: Those bloody idiots, can''t they get anything right! I didn''t make that statement simply to grab your attention (but I''m glad it worked), it''s just that the topic of martial arts, government and legislation frustrates me.

Years ago I got a phone call from Inspector Stephen Frost.

"Hello, is that Bob Jones. My name is Inspector Frost. Of course you don''t know me but I''ve heard a lot about you. I''ve been given the job to head up a committee to go about some form of legislation for bouncers. Now I know absolutely nothing about bouncers and you invented the word, therefore I would really appreciate it of you could come to some meetings and and help me put this legislation together. I''m also going to ask Dave Hedgcock and a few other people in the industry and see if we can bowl this legislation thing over asap. "

"What seems to be the problem with bouncers?" I asked at the first meeting I ever attended.

"Well Bob, you know they always seem to be punching people and of course this can''t be tolerated. At first we thought ban the bloody bouncers and then we thought, no, that would be bloody stupid."

Four years of meetings like that and presto! Legislation for bouncers says ''If a bouncer punches anyone yesterday, today or tomorrow, he/she will be out of a job for ten years no exceptions to the rule!

Now in Australia I also invented the words `Martial Arts Freestyle'', `Kickboxing'' and `Thai Boxing''. But no one from any government body has ever, not in 35 years, rang me and asked me what I thought about any of these things.

Although there was one time they invited me to a meeting and I started to ask, "What seems to be the problem with..."

Just then a member of the martial arts board of Victoria screamed at me in front of about 30 black belts from as many different styles..."Shut up you don''t have a voice here."

At least Inspector Frost let me ask questions. I remember back around 1985, Canberra was going to ban all martial arts weapons.

Our BJC barrister, Mr Peter Rowe (six degree blackbelt) and myself flew to Canberra for a Monday 10.30am meeting.

Prior to the meeting I went to the Canberra base hospital and did some research on causes of injuries. Then at the meeting the first question I asked was, "What seems to be the problem with martial arts weapons?"

The woman and the other three male Government representatives all looked down at their files and flummoxed through their notes, then had a look at one another''s notes. I felt someone should break the silence so I offered:

"I called into your hospital early this morning and told reception about the meeting and could they supply me with any stats on types of injuries. The duty nurse told me they had 28 injuries in casualty on Saturday from all of the rugby matches played in the ACT. She said there was nothing unusual about this number, except two young teenagers had their necks broken. Two females had been admitted due to assault and rape and there was a bouncer in a serious condition due to being beaten with a baseball bat. I asked if during the weekend or during recent times they had any stats on martial arts injuries regarding the use of weapons. She said she did not know of any, if there were any it was not enough to show up as any sort of statistic. By the way I also picked up a copy of this morning''s Canberra paper here''s the story about the young kids with their necks broken."

The meeting pretty much felt flat after this, particularly when I suggested we could discuss the possibility of banning baseball bats. They must have added to their notes for this matter to be reviewed again in the year 2000, because here we are again, talking about banning martial arts weapons fifteen years later.

For 30 years, since 1970, I have taught every one of my blackbelts the art of weaponry and they perform with weapons for 4th degree blackbelt (average time for this rank in training is 12-15 years). But I suppose if they ban our martial arts weapons, and even of they did ban baseball bats, I guess my 4th dans will use golf clubs at gradings.

MC: Thank you Bob for your time.

In the next issue Bob Jones talks about the emergence and evolution of kickboxing and Muay Thai in Australia., the K-1 concept and the future of martial arts. Don''t miss the third and final instalment as we celebrate Bob''s 30 years in the martial arts industry. His book "Let the Good Times Roll" will be available shortly.