Having devoted more than three decades to martial arts, Doug Bailey has acquired a status that doesn't just give him a quiet sense of accomplishment but also enhances the values of a branch of discipline he had gravitated towards.
"It's a fantastic achievement for our club and a big milestone for Olivecrona Ju-Jutsu because I'm the highest graded person other than the founder himself," says Bailey who became a sixth dan (degree) black belt in Hastings a fortnight ago.
The 49-year-old emphasises it's a great reflection on the founder, Stenfinn Olivecrona, of Palmerston North.
"We look at grading differently than the rest of the martial arts world, too, so a lot of people who are graded see it as a target so they get all excited and jump up and down.
"We see the grade for what it is. That is, an indication by the instructor that a person achieved a certain level," he explains.
Bailey says it's simply an individual embarking on a journey from a room of 20 or so which, ultimately, he believes, speaks volumes of the instructor rather than the exponent of the Japanese Kawaishi judo. It's more a state of mind and attitude for the latter.
The finance company manager from Hastings, who spent the first decade studying the Olivecrona jiu jitsu methodology, has harboured a fascination with martial arts since his childhood days.
"It's just the best form of jiu jitsu that I've found learning and teaching," says the bloke who runs his gym at Norton Rd and has been teaching since 1992. "It's really very different from any other form of martial arts I've come across around the world."
The Olivecrona methodology is a principles-based teaching as opposed to a techniques-based one in championing self-defence in light "of the law and CCTV cameras everywhere".
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"Our response to fighting is based on thinking about principles rather than about techniques."
They embrace universal principles applicable to any given situation as opposed to thinking of an exact response to a specific attack that other martial arts disciplines tend to instil.
His first foray into martial arts began with karate in secondary school but found jiu jitsu and has never looked back.
"I've done other martial arts during that time but jiu jitsu has everything in it — you know, striking, grappling and ground fighting, joint locks and the whole lot."
Bailey founded the New Zealand Jiu Jitsu School of Self Defence (NZJJS) in 1995 with Michael Hickson, of Palmerston North. Kerry Young, of Hamilton, became a disciple two years later and, in that same year, Olivecrona amalgamated his ju-jutsu club with the school.
At its prime, NZJJS had clubs in Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Whanganui and Manawatu provinces but owing to work demands and retirements, it now has clubs in the Bay and Wellington. It was registered as an incorporated society in 1997.
NZJJS clubs were early participants of the Sport Ju-Jitsu NZ tournament circuit, with members competing with distinction from 1999. Eleven NZJJS members have represented New Zealand at World Games level.
In 2003, NZJJS instructors were among the founding members of the NZ Ju-Jitsu Federation. Bailey was federation chairman from its inception to 2008 and again from 2012 until this year.
All NZJJS instructors hold federation instructor qualifications and all black belts are recorded in the public register of ju-jitsu instructors and black belts.
Its instructors descend from Hans van Ess, who brought Kawaishi jiu jitsu to New Zealand from Holland in 1961. Van Ess trained predominantly under Jaap Nauwelaerts de Agé, who studied under Jean de Herdt, one of Mikinosuke Kawaishi's original French students, as well as the Budokwai's Gunji Koizumi and Kawaishi himself. He also trained under Gé Koning and the judo great, Anton Geesink.
Kawaishi Nihon Goshin Jutsu is a form of jiu jitsu Mikinosuke Kawaishi taught in Europe from 1928 until his death in 1969. Kawaishi attended Waseda University in Japan where he trained in judo and kendo.
Kawaishi jiu jitsu tends to place much influence on throwing and groundfighting techniques.
Olivecrona, a disciple of the Kawaishi system, had adapted his jiu jitsu to his work in the security industry. While the foundation techniques of Olivecrona are Kawaishi, they are taught in a different manner. Techniques are classed roughly into out-fighting, in-fighting and groundfighting, with an emphasis on close-contact clinch fighting.
Classes are dedicated to free-practice styles to enable students to hone their fighting skills. There is no curricula of kata techniques characteristic of traditional Kawaishi schools.
Tenth dan is the ultimate and is often awarded posthumously.
Ask Bailey how far he wants to take it, he umms and aahs before replying: "I just want to keep on going until I'm too old and broken to keep on going."
It's not lost on him that the art keeps him supple and active as well as offers a great creative outlet.
"That's the great thing about fighting from a principles point of view," he says, after finishing fifth at the World Games in 1992 (Argentina) and 1995 (NZ). "You can problem solve using a very small toolbox rather than using 500 dictated techniques — you just make it on the fly."
Bailey was also NZ team manager and head referee at Jersey in the Channel Islands in 2007, including the highlight of adjudicating the men's final. He has controlled more than 2000 matches to date and has received an outstanding award from the Kiwi federation.
"It's like being the referee in the Rugby World Cup final," says the instructor who was born in southern Hawke's Bay before pursuing a manufacturing jeweller's apprenticeship in Manawatu.