Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Master Judo Coach/Instructor, Founder of Small Circle Jujitsu™, Author and President of Organizations Professor Wally Jay, internationally recognized martial arts legend, head instructor of the Island Judo Club in Alameda and Founder of Small Circle Jujitsu™ passed away peacefully Sunday morning in Redwood City, California after having suffered a stroke four days earlier. Born Wah Leong Jay in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii to Tim Chang and Albert Yat Jay on June 15th 1917, the third of six siblings: Mew Quon Ho; Mew Yung Chu; Alfred Jay of Honolulu; Elsie Sniffen and John Jay. A long-time resident of Alameda, California, Wally was 93 years old.
He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Bernice Jay, his children Alberta Jay of Alameda, Alan Jay (Pam) of Alameda, Antoinette Mussells (Jim) of Orinda, Leon Jay (Sandra) of Epsom Downs, England, hanai’d daughter Winona Purdum (John) of London, Ohio, fifteen grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and many thousands of students/friends worldwide.
He began his training in the fighting arts when he studied boxing at the age of 11 under Billy Mitchell. Later he trained in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu under Juan Gomez, and also Judo under Hawaiian Judo champion Ken Kawachi. In 1948 Wally and his wife Bernice were each awarded Menkyo Kaiden (Certificate of Mastery) by Seishiro Okazaki, founder of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu in Hawaii.
In 1950, Wally and Bernice moved to Alameda, California. Wally built a small gym behind his house on Eagle Avenue. The Island Judo Jujitsu Club was born. This tiny, legendary gym was to produce many national judo champions over the next several decades.
This was the start of his martial arts career proper that would propel him to national and international acclaim. Wally’s unassuming, down-to-earth personality put all who met him at ease. His always encouraging, open-minded positivity allowed even the most inhibited of students to blossom and fulfill their potential. A natural, easy, non-stressful and empowering style of teaching was the trademark of his genius. Every student was “Champ”. Every student felt good about what they were accomplishing. Many of his students were destined to become notable martial arts practitioners and teachers in their own right. Countless students became his close, life-long friends.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Island Judo Jujitsu Club formed competitive teams that toured the United States, including Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. The exposure to other places and cultures were great experiences for many, many students. The competitive touring usually included a number of parents and siblings as well as the competitors themselves. It was during this period that Wally became widely recognized on a national level for his very successful touring teams as well as his many junior and high school national champions.
Wherever Wally and his teams went, he would seek out other martial arts practitioners. Early friendships were made with Willy Cahill, George Harris, Gene LaBelle, Jack LaLane and Jimmy Lee. In 1962, while en-route to Vancouver with a judo team, he sought out an unknown young kung fu teacher in the basement of a Seattle church named Bruce Lee. They were to become close friends and later, when Bruce and Linda moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, they would train together and exchange techniques and martial concepts. Some called Wally Bruce’s teacher, but he said we taught each other, and in truth Wally’s role was as mentor, friend and collaborator.
The list of the martial arts notables with whom Wally collaborated, or who he befriended or mentored is too long to include here: in the early 1960’s, he found Jim Bregman, the first American Olympic Judo Medalist, living at that time in a small apartment in the Bronx and they became close; then there was Frank Hatashita of Toronto, Canada; and Ed Parker of Hawaii, one of the most notable American martial artists of the last century, himself another promoter of Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto’s teacher and of course, Elvis’ also.
In 1972, at the age of 55, having retired from the U.S. Postal Service, Wally, not satisfied with his many martial arts and life accomplishments, returned to education, going on to earn his B.A. degree from Sonoma State College. Once ‘retired’ his work-rate would have exhausted a man half his age – his workshops and seminars took him to 36 countries spread amongst: New Zealand; Australia; Africa; Europe; Asia; Central and South America and all over North America. In 1985, he was a special guest of the Chinese government as captain of a ten-man American Martial Arts team, composed of other notable teachers, the first to be invited to China, called The Friendship Tour. He demonstrated at the Dai Nippon Butokuden (the ‘Mecca’ of ancient and traditional martial arts in Japan) in Kyoto, on Emperor’s Day April 29th in 1992.
Although Professor Jay, as he was later known, acquired the rank of 6th degree in Judo, and served as president of the United States Judo Association, he attained his greatest recognition as a Jujitsu expert. He attained the rank of 10th degree black belt (the highest possible) in Jujitsu. During his nearly eight decades in the arts he was awarded the American Jujitsu Institute Outstanding Coach of the Year in 1963-64; he was the Co-Founder and President of Jujitsu America; the Founder and President of the Kamaina Hawaiian Club; inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ of Black Belt Magazine (arguably the world’s leading martial arts magazine for the last 50 years) for Judo in 1969, for Jujitsu in 1980, and as ‘Man of the Year’ in 1990. He was named by Inside Kung Fu magazine as “One of the Most Influential Martial Artists of All Times.” He has been featured in numerous national and international magazines and books. Amongst his many accolades was his listing in ‘Who’s Who in Martial Arts’ in 1977 and 1985, and in 2006 he was honored by induction into the ‘Black Belt Museum Hall of Fame’.
His friends and contemporaries included: Prof. Tony Gonzales; Prof. Sig Kufferath; Prof. Lee Eichelberger, Prof. Chow Hoon; Grandmaster Ed Parker; Willy Cahill, Grandmaster Remy Presas; Si-gung Bruce Lee; Guro Dan Inosanto; and Prof. Don Jacob. He authored 2 books “Dynamic Jujitsu”, and “Small Circle Jujitsu”™, wrote the foreword for Bruce Lee’s first book “Gung Fu the Philosophical Art”, and created a series of instructional videos.
Of all his accomplishments he is best known for his quick wit and corny jokes, his ability to see beyond the faults of others and find the best in them. He was deeply loved as a person, coach and mentor, by family, friends and generations of martial artists. A friend said of him, “Prof. Wally had an extraordinary quality of ‘grace’; he had an innate natural dignity, combined with enormous good humor and a respect for others, that just made everyone he met want to be a better man or woman in order to live up to the faith he seemed to have in them. The martial arts world has lost one of its brightest ever lights, but the world is richer for the humanity he brought into it.” His son, Professor Leon Jay of England continues his legacy as head of Small Circle Jujitsu™.