Owen County's Guardian Martial Arts Dojo Serves As Host Site For SCJ Summer Camp

Grandmaster of Small Circle Jujitsu Professor Leon Jay (left) uses a finger lock to remove a knife from the hand of Master Norm Johnson of Maui, Hawaii. Jay made a trip from London, England to the Little Flock Road dojo of Master Gary Cunningham last Saturday to teach a two-day camp in Small Circle Jujitsu. *

Professor Leon Jay, Grandmaster of Small Circle Jujitsu doesn’t exactly look to be in his 50’s, and he certainly doesn’t move like he’s 50. This was evident Saturday afternoon on the dojo floor of Guardian Martial Arts on Little Flock Road in rural South Eastern Owen County.

Professor Jay made a trip to Master Gary Cunningham’s personal dojo from London, England, but first made a pit stop in Long Island, New York, where he met up with several other martial arts masters. The reasoning for their visit to Guardian Martial Arts wasn’t just to catch up, but to train as part of the Professor Jay’s Small Circle Jujitsu 2009 Midwest Camp as nearly 100 martial artists were in attendance to learn from the very best.

“It was the first of its kind and the first camp here at Guardian Martial Arts. Most training camps are held at hotels and the “dojo” is a cleared out meeting room,” Cunningham explained. “The training floor here at Guardian Martial Arts is a dream for any practitioner who takes a throw or hard fall. Also, participants have the option of actually camping out on the grounds (which several people did). That not only saves a tremendous amount of money on hotel costs, but allows participants to enjoy the camaraderie and the peace and quiet of beautiful southern Indiana.”

Martial arts masters from all over the country and globe travelled to take part in the camp, including Master David Rhoades of Bloomington, Professor David Castoldi of Florida, Master David Quinonez of California, Grandmaster Will Higginbotham of Indianapolis, Norm Johnson of Maui, Hawaii and Master Ken Smith of Chicago.

“The turnout was tremendous and people came from all over North America, Hawaii and England. Now that we are “on the map”, next year we anticipate double the numbers,” Cunningham said. “Anyone is welcome to come to a camp. The training was spectacular. Professor Leon Jay is so awesome, you have to see him in action to believe your eyes. He is lightening fast and teaches effective self-defense techniques for people of any size. Professor David Castoldi has so many cool knife defense techniques that are easy for anyone to learn. Grandmaster Will Higginbotham can knock anyone out with just a touch. Master Ken Smith wields and defends from a stick like flowing water.”

Seeing the nearly finished product of Cunningham’s dojo, which he says is just 80 percent finished, Jay was impressed.”It’s fantastic and lovely over here this time of year, because it’s raining in England right now,” Jay said. “We know each other through martial arts. A few years ago when I was in Bloomington doing a seminar, he showed me this place here that he built, which is fantastic. It’s a fabulous venue and a great dojo to work in. We talked about this, it’s taken a few years to realize, and I’m impressed with what he’s done here. The mat space is terrific, it’s a great place for us to work out and share our ideas.”

The Instructors

Pictured in back, left to right; Master David Rhoades of Bloomington, Professor David Castoldi of Florida, Professor Leon Jay of London, England, Master David Quinonez of California, and Grandmaster Will Higginbotham of Indianapolis. Front row, left to right; Master Norm Johnson of Maui, Hawaii; Master Gary Cunningham of Spencer, and Master Ken Smith of Chicago. *

Jay spoke of the various martial artists in attendance and of his father, Professor and founder of Small Circle Jujitsu Grandmaster Wally Jay. “We have Dave Castoldi, who flew in from Florida, and Dave Quinonez is a world champion in Judo many times over. He came in from California, where my father’s home club is,” Jay explained. “My father was the creator of our system, Small Circle Jujisu. Back in the early ’60’s before Bruce Lee went to L.A., he used to come over to the house and train with Dad. In fact, if you look at Bruce Lee’s first book, Chinese Gung-Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self Defense, two Hawaiians did the forward for it; one of them was my dad and the other was Ed Parker and James Y. Lee. Bruce used to come over and wait for dad to come home from work. He’d come over and work out upstairs, he’d push the furniture around; my mom would make tea for he and Linda. I’m like six or seven years old. I’d come home and say ‘Hey Bruce, Hey kid,’ stuff like that. Dad was very forward thinking in what he does, and Bruce wanted to learn from the best, and so he did. When he moved from Seattle to Oakland, he lived about two miles away from us, so he would walk over with Jimmy Lee and be on the porch waiting for Dad to come home.”

Jay recalled the experience of having Bruce Lee around his home at a young age.
“It was great, because Bruce used to come back, and Dad would throw luaus to raise money for the Judo club, so we would have a couple thousand people at a time, and Bruce would come over and do demonstrations of the floating punch, the one-inch punch and all kinds of stuff,” Jay said. “You would just kind of go, ‘wow!’ It was amazing.”

Jay explained the concept of the art form created by his father. “The concept behind Small Circle Jujitsu is not how much you hurt the guy; it’s how little you have to hurt him to defend yourself and still control him as well,” Jay said. “That’s the hardest part. It’s easy to just smash the face, but liability is an issue as well and humanity.”

The hosts

Master Gary Cunningham, owner of Guardian Martial Arts, with best friend, Tracy. “She also happens to be the mother of our two wonderful children, Ryder and Tessa,” Cunningham explained. “Tracy was very helpful in running a smooth camp with almost 100 people in attendance. I couldn’t have done it without her. The camp was an absolute success.” *

Cunningham expressed the desire to continue holding additional training camps for various forms of martial arts in the future. Jay also hopes to make the camp an annual event.

“We also look forward to sponsoring camps for Ryukyu Kempo (Okinawan pressure point karate) and Modern Arnis (Filipino blend of Karate-jujitsu with emphasis on stick and knife defense). Actually, any organization that is looking for a beautiful facility to rent for a special occasion is welcome to inquire. I would like to once again thank Professor Leon Jay, all the instructors, all the participants, my students, and my family for helping make this camp such a huge success.”

Article by Michael Stanley
* Staff Photo by Michael Stanley

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