Monday, March 2, 2015

Promotional video for Essential Jo

I've prepared this short sampler video for promoting my new text "Essential Jo".

Please share.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Friday, February 27, 2015

My first text book "Essential Jo" is published

If you've been wondering where I've been for last month or so, I have been working at a somewhat furious pace in the background on one of my long-sought after goals.  And now I've finally achieved it:
After 6 years of toil and struggle, my first martial textbook, "Essential Jo" has finally been published!

The book is intended as a complete instructional manual on practical, as well as sophisticated and elegant, techniques using the jo.  For those who don't know, the jo is the Japanese 4-foot staff, originally taught with the ken (sword) in the samurai arts.

As far as I can tell, Essential Jo is the most comprehensive text on the subject to date, offering a course of study from white through to black belt in the "Way of the Jo" (jodo).

The book features over 900 professional black and white photographs accompanied by clear, detailed textual explanations.

While it is intended primarily for students with experience in weapons arts, particularly jodo, the book can also be used by beginners for home study.

I think the art of jodo makes an excellent addition to any martial art system.  I believe karateka, internal and external gong fu practitioners, Filipino martial artists and Western sword/stick artists alike will be able to co-opt this self-contained course of study into their curricula - and I have prepared the text accordingly, following the syllabus we use at the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts.

At the core of our jo method are a series of 20 basic techniques called “suburi”. We have retained these from aikijo (the jo method of the art of aikido) as we find them to be a comprehensive catalogue of the different deflections, strikes and sweeps that one can make using the jo.

A detailed performance of the first 5 suburi or basic jo techniques

Added to this are 9 “kumijo” (literally “an encounter with jos”) – 2 person combat drills that apply the suburi in a dynamic, effective environment. These drills are modeled on traditional kumijo from various schools but are, in the end, my own creation. They are the result of almost 30 years of martial training, combining the features of the arts to which I refer above, and many other armed and unarmed disciplines.

Importantly, unlike many other 2 person drills taught in relation to the jo and other weapons, the drills “loop”: that is to say, they can be practised continuously without end. The practical result of this is that in each drill both sides use the same sequence. The sequences are also short (between 6 to 10 movements), making them easy to learn.

The “looping” nature of these drills is not just a means of facilitating inculcation. Nor is it merely matter of learning/teaching convenience. Rather, each move has been carefully thought through so that it provides the most logical and economic answer to the attack you are facing. The drill then provides your partner with the best answer to your counter. And so it goes. Like the game of “rock, paper, scissors”, these drills cycle through the optimum responses to various attacks, “grooving” effective, reflexive responses which utilize “wu-wei” – the Daoist concept of “no unnecessary action” or the “line of least resistance”.

The 9 kumijo provide what I feel are a comprehensive set of jo skills. It is my experience that when you’ve well and truly inculcated these drills into your reflexive response, you will have an answer to virtually every type and angle of attack.

A sample of the 9 kumijo of the muidokan system

I first started writing the text in 2009 and Lucia Ondrusova took about 2/3 of the pictures in that year.  Lucia also took the cover photo on location at a monastery I was training at in Taiwan in 2011.  My brother took the remaining paired photographs with Lucia offering advice via Skype in that same year.

Then followed the arduous process of liaising with publishers.  I had two very positive initial reactions from big publishing houses and both got me to go through to the very final stages, only to tell me at the 11th hour that they had reconsidered.  It would have been nice if they hadn't strung me along for two years apiece!  (I had been asked by both publishing houses to do reviews of their publications and I would have thought that the courtesy of promptness on their part was the least I could expect, but it seems not!)

Whichever way it goes, the book is finally published and available for purchase - through my publishing house Pikkeljig Press and via Amazon shortly.  It will be available in Barnes and Nobel, Book Depository and other major bookstores starting in 6-8 weeks time, although from experience with my fiction book "The Mirror Image of Sound" (which actually features some martial arts too - or at least some fighting anyway!) the cost through other outlets is greater.

I'd like to thank my student, training partner and life-long friend Jeff Cosgrove.  He has all my respect and more as both a martial artist and wonderful human being.

I'd like to thank Lucia and my brother Nenad for all their wonderful work in taking the photographs for the book.

I also want to especially thank Nenad and his wife Tania for the use of their marvelous centre and, more than anything, for their unflagging support, encouragement and belief over the years.

I want to thank my cousin Branko for posing with me in some of the pictures, Jeff Mann for proof-reading and my mentor, teacher, friend and adopted "kume" James Sumarac for his teaching, guidance, energy and positivism.

Last, but not least, I must (as always) thank my wonderful wife Maureen who has never stopped believing in me and my projects.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Classic uraken knockout in MMA!

Some of you will recall my article back in 2010: "Uraken: karate's greatest folly?" in which I discussed the relative usefulness of the uraken - the backfist of karate.

Over the years I'd heard many opinions on the worth of this technique - mostly disparaging ones.

I'm heartened to see that my opinion of the uraken wasn't misplaced.  Paul Felder's knockout of Danny Castillo use of this very technique at UFC 182 on January 3 was, as it turns out, a classic execution - albeit in the context of a spin.  It even used a snap-back at the elbow (rather than a swinging follow-through)!

And it had a devastating effect.

At first it was suggested by many that the technique was a hammer fist.  Or was intended as a hammer fist.  But, thanks to the work of my friend Noah Legel, the gif below demonstrates that it was indeed a pretty standard uraken as taught in karate - right down to the wrist extension at the end (see the picture above and my uraken example below) which presents the knuckles as a striking surface, rather than the back of the hand (as I discuss in my previous article).

Note the way Castillo is knocked out by a "shock" that doesn't move him much  - rather than a pushing force (ie. a technique that looks relatively "weak" was used, yet produced a determinative result).

And I like the way he pulls back his other hand to his hip at the moment of the strike.  But no one chambers at the hip, do they...?

Lastly, I love the way Paul Felder used a classic ashibo kake uke to deflect the roundhouse kick.  So many great examples of traditional karate in one short clip.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

One million pageviews!

I am happy to announce that as of yesterday, this blog had officially passed the 1 million pageviews mark!

My sincere thanks to all my readers for helping me achieve this milestone.  When I first started blogging I never dreamt that I would garner more than the occasional read of my lengthy, technical and detailed essays - especially on an internet where soundbites rule.  I've always worked on the basis that I would write what I wanted to write.  I'm heartened to find that being true to oneself doesn't always mean being not having your voice heard.

So here's to the next million - and happy new year!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A year of activity - and controversy...

A lazy year?

My regular readers will note that it hasn't exactly been a standard year for this blog.

I started off with two fairly meaty (I think anyway) articles in January relating to the karate maxim "karate ni sente nashi" ("there is no first strike in karate") and a fairly big post on traditional techniques in MMA in February.

But from that time until August I wrote almost nothing here - just a few "micro blogs".

Even my January and February posts hardly reflected my usual average of 4 or so large (at least 3,000 or so words) articles per month (something I've maintained since I started blogging in 2008).

So what happened?  A very busy year, is the answer:

Writing a novel in 3 months

Somewhat surprisingly (for me and others) I used the period of 24 December 2013 to 26 March 2014 to write a novel - The Mirror Image of Sound.  This was published in instalments in "real time" (on a blog dedicated to this project).

[Those who want a synopsis can read it here - it's ostensibly my "diary" for this period (of course, it isn't).]

Needless to say, I finished this exercise as planned, which I consider to be quite an achievement: 450,000 words (about 500 pages) in almost exactly 3 months.

While online readership of my fiction didn't exactly approach the levels I typically get with this blog, it did rise from virtually zero in the first weeks to hundreds by the end of the first month, to a thousand or so by the end of the second to around 17,000 readers by the end of the third.

I say that's quite good for someone who has no exposure as a writer of fiction!

The novel has since been published in print and in a Kindle version.  You can buy a copy from Amazon if you're interested (there is a little bit of martial arts in there - although my alter ego mostly gets beaten up!).

Anyway, if you bear in mind that I work a 10 hour day in my "day job", and that this was written principally between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am each night, you will get some idea why I wasn't blogging here quite so much...

So that took me up to the end of March.

Creating comprehensive web resources

The next 4 months were largely devoted to a gargantuan project of developing two new websites for our martial arts school - The Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts in Perth, Western Australia.

Basically I created two new websites - a public one: and a students' only resource website (the latter comprises 169 separate pages with about 400 embedded videos).

The flash video below goes through the websites and gives some idea of what they contain.  (Please note that the video might take a while to load.)

August catch-up

I returned to this blog with a burst of activity in August - 8 blog posts including some big ones, eg: "Why traditional martial arts punch to the chest" and "Avoiding the clinch: more on civilian defence grappling".

In September I was also privileged to be one of the instructors at the annual IAOMAS conference, which was heaps of fun and, for me as a student participant, informative.

Europe trip

From late September to the end of October I was quiet on the blogging front (although I did find time to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge and write a surprisingly controversial article about it).

There was a good reason for the lull in these months: I was in Europe, taking my family on a well-earned holiday.

When I returned in late October I had just enough time to write a (fairly popular) piece on a potential Chinese ancestor to tensho kata.

In that month I also published a number of "micro" posts; posts that were commenced earlier this year but never really completed or expanded.

As a result you'll see a number of short posts in the months of March through to July.  These typically comprise a video shot during the relevant month (I was still training and teaching throughout these periods) and little else.

Because the posts cover a variety of important topics, I hope to revisit them more fully in the future (eg. my discussion about the "C" back in the internal arts).

Countdown to the end of the year

From November onwards I knuckled down to "make up" for the relative lack of activity earlier in the year.  I can honestly say I've been burning the candle at both ends (not unlike my writing of The Mirror Image of Sound).

In this time I canvassed a number of important topics, in particular I tried to:
Somehow I also managed to write a surprising amount about Ed Parker's kenpo: see "What did Ed Parker study?", "Why good basics matter", "Cross stepping: power and pitfall" (which wasn't originally going to refer to Parker at all) and "Parker's hand postures".

The cost of reckless writing

In doing all of the above I seem to have succeeded in putting a lot of people off side; I've had a record number of complaints and some quite angry feedback - from irritated karateka who feel I'm trying to "improve" their art, scathing internal artists who felt I was unqualified to speak on their subject, disaffected ninjas who disliked my take on a particular godan test, and offended American kenpoists who took me to task for my criticism of Ed Parker.

I thank you all for your feedback as it all makes for a better blog.  In particular I want to thank those who have supported me despite my missteps.

In respect of the latter, the most difficult (and important) realisation for me lately has been the cost of writing in my usual "stream of consciousness" style.  I know I've been a little too reckless in what I've been posting.  This has resulted in me offending a few people unfairly and needlessly.  This has included a few good friends.

I acknowledge that I shouldn't have done this.  All I can usefully say (other than offer a sincere apology) is that I have learned from this experience.  Disagreement is one thing.  Rudeness and callousness is another.  The latter are not really excusable.

Some positives

Despite my sense of regret surrounding some of my martial writing, I do note that it has been a year of at least some sort of achievement.

For a start, I've written around 150,000 words on this blog in just this year.

Obviously a high word count alone isn't really indicative of anything, but I hope some of this has been informative to others.  I certainly wrote it with that aspiration.  I am heartened to have heard from at least a few people who say that it has been of use to them (and to have received a few donations - thank you).

In June I was very humbled to receive a "Golden Shuto" award from Official Karate Magazine for "Outstanding scholarship online" (thanks again to Dragan Malesic and Colin Wee).

I also note that this blog has hit a record number of page views, running just short of the 1 million mark, a record monthly total of just under 40,000 pageviews and a record daily total of 2922 page views (on the night I published "The 7 signs of a martial personality cult").  I was hoping to reach that 1 million pageview goal by December 31st but I can see now it will elude me.  No matter - next year is another year. ;)

So forgive me if I take a break for a while.  I might not do any writing at all for a month or maybe two.  (I think I should really take a break!)  But as always, I'll be back.  I can't seem to help myself.

May you all have a safe, healthy, happy and fulfilling new year!

Yours in budo,


Copyright © 2014 Dejan Djurdjevic