Interview with Sensei George Rego of Florida Jukido Jujitsu Academies (FJJA)
Property Type: Jukido
1. Who is the dojo’s founder and what prompted him/her to build the school? Is there any rich history behind its making?
I am the founder & chief instructor of our dojo, the Florida Jukido Jujitsu Academy (FJJA). I was prompted to establish our dojo from several different perspectives.
Firstly, there was a sense of obligation. The obligation was a welcome one and certainly a privilege – but certainly a sense of obligation. This sense of obligation is still one of my primary motivations for teaching these arts and expanding our organization. These arts and my sensei give me so much that there was really no way to repay what had been given. With this reality, there were only two things I felt I could do to genuinely repay the beautiful gift that had been given to me. One was to continue to be loyal to my sensei and continue to strive to become the best martial artist I could become, and secondly was to “pass forward” the arts to a new generation to the very best of my abilities. In lieu of being able to pay “back” what was given – I “pay it forward.”
Additionally, I was asked by my sensei, Shihan Paul Arel – the founder of our art – to head the effort for expanding our art and our organization into a region that didn’t have any exposure to our system. Given his confidence in me to build our art & organization from scratch in this region, it gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do most – pass on the arts I love so much. At that point, I relocated to Palm Coast, Florida and established the Florida Jukido Jujitsu Academy as the regional headquarters & representative of our organization, the International Kokondo Association (IKA), and its honbu dojo (World HQ).
2. What forms of Japanese martial arts do you teach in your school? Can you please share with us the history behind them?
At the Florida Jukido Jujitsu Academy, we teach the traditional arts of Jukido Jujitsu & Kokondo Karate. We also compliment our training, at more advanced levels, with Kobudo or the use of traditional weapons – with the special focus on bo, jo, sai, and tonfa. Both Jukido Jujitsu & Kokondo Karate are jointly referred to as simply “Kokondo.” The International Kokondo Association (IKA) governs these arts worldwide. Jukido Jujitsu and Kokondo Karate are considered ‘sister’ arts within the IKA. Kokondo loosely translates to mean “The Way of the Past & Present.” This is to indicate that these arts draw from the lessons & principles of classical systems but apply them to modern day applications. As such we aren’t a “classical” school or koryu – but we are a school that follows the traditions and spirit of authentic Japanese martial arts.
Although we teach both of the Kokondo arts at our dojo, we focus more heavily on Jukido Jujitsu. Jukido is a Japanese style of Jujitsu founded by Shihan Paul Arel in 1959. It is traditional in the sense that Jukido’s techniques are drawn from many of the oldest Bugei ryu (martial arts styles/traditions), as well numerous modern Budo styles. Jukido is based extensively on Sanzyuryu Jujitsu. The techniques of Kokondo Karate, Aikijitsu, Kodokan Judo, other jujitsu styles, as well as traditional kobudo are also included in the Jukido formula.
From a purely technical perspective, Jukido Jujitsu falls into the “jutsu” category of traditional Japanese martial arts because the absolute effectiveness of techniques in realistic self-defense scenarios is considered to be far more important than how well a technique does under the rules and regulations of competition. In fact, in Kokondo techniques, effectiveness in sport is never even considered. The Jukido student learns self-defense from a “jutsu” perspective with appropriate response and absolute success as the goals. From a philosophical perspective, Jukido is unquestionably a martial arts system that is dedicated to the ideals of real budo.
As one can see, Kokondo is truly unique in that it is both budo and bujutsu. From a technical perspective, it is bujutsu, with the emphasis being on absolutely effective techniques for self-defense based on appropriate response. From a philosophical and dojo relations point of view, we lean on the budo perspective. Thus the name “Jukido Jujitsu” accurately reflects both “do” and “jutsu.” In Kokondo, we strive to practice bujutsu and live budo.
3. What are the principles and concepts that you uphold and try to instill in your students?
At our dojo and within the IKA, we focus on an updated perspective on the samurai code of Bushido. We apply these ancient warrior concepts into the mode of modern society. The seven codes of Bushido are as follows:
- Veracity (truthfulness / accuracy in words & actions)
The codes of Bushido are absolutely central to our journey as martial artists. These values are held in the highest esteem within our dojo. As a Sensei, it is my job to instill these virtues into our students as a method of balancing to learning martial arts techniques that can maim or harm. The application of these principles both in and out of the dojo are among the highest goals from the budo perspective of our art.
In our training, we also focus on “appropriate response.” From a self-defense point of view, this means utilizing an appropriate response to the situation we are facing. We also apply this to our daily lives by having a measured response to challenges that face us personally.
The simple concept of safety is a principle we stress heavily. Safety in training, safety for ourselves and of our partners. The idea is not about hurting others but rather Jukido is about learning how not to get hurt. Jigaro Kano Sensei (founder of Judo) summarized this idea well with his maxim “Jita Kyoei” – or mutual benefit & welfare.
4. Why do you think it is important for people to learn martial arts?
There are a variety of reasons why I believe it is important for one to engage in a serious study of martial arts. However, it is important to ensure that (1) the study of martial arts is serious, and (2) the learning is taking place in a school that values authenticity.
All too often, schools promote the idea of “character development” in training and the schools are filled with 7 year old black belts and training uniforms that look less like traditional training gi but more like NASCAR drivers. The potential benefits of martial arts training – physical or otherwise – will not be achieved at this type of school. Even qualities such as “confidence” and “self-esteem” are taken from these schools (even if not real martial arts abilities), it is not sufficient in my view. Mainly because this increased confidence isn’t based on veracity or a truthful base.
If, on the other hand, one studies a martial art that teaches both the values & techniques of authentic martial arts – then this increase in confidence or self-esteem is built in something real – the knowledge that one has the ability to take care of themselves and the internal strength to know when fighting isn’t necessary.
Given that one pursues a serious study of martial arts at a serious martial arts dojo – the benefits are immense! From self-defense proficiency to health benefits and character development.
5. What difficulties and obstacles have you encountered so far with regards to teaching martial arts and how did you overcome them?
In attempting to build strong students both physically and intellectually, there are always challenges. Among the most difficult challenges that any long-term instructor faces is the loss of a student who has given years to training and to whom you have given years of instruction. It is never easy to lose a long-term student. Thankfully, these are few and far between. Nonetheless, overcoming them is a matter of vision. Having a long-term vision of what you want for your school, your organization, and your teachings – it gives you the clarity to know that moving forward is a must. There are those who are still there, thrusting for knowledge. One of those individuals may be the next great sensei of the upcoming generation.
6. What advice and/or insights can you share with our readers who want to pursue their interest in the Japanese form of martial arts?
If I had to give any advice, it would be two-fold. First, know what your goals are before searching for a dojo. If your goal is self-defense, don’t be sold to a school that is teaching an Olympic sport. Understand what you are looking to achieve in martial arts and investigate from there. Don’t sign up to a dojo simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or gives the best sales pitch. Know what your goals are and begin your search. Once you find a dojo & sensei you feel comfortable with – commit to that sensei & dojo. Joining a dojo is not like joining a workout gym. One of the fundamental concepts of martial arts is trust & loyalty. Certainly, it is a two-way street – nonetheless, once you commit…seriously do so.
The second piece of advice ties into the first. It would be to approach the arts with a sincere heart. One often hears schools advertise that they build character or give children better grades. I think it is a fair question to ask “how exactly does learning how to kick someone or throw someone give me or my kids better grades or a better outlook on life…” The honest answer (veracity) is that it doesn’t. The act of punching, kicking, throwing, or swinging a weapon doesn’t do those things. Rather, the approach in which the student, sensei, and dojo take in learning the skills of martial arts can build these qualities.
It isn’t the punch that makes you better – it is the manner in which you approach learning the punch. The spirit of respect. The spirit of constantly trying to outdo yourself to become the best that you can. The spirit of looking for deeper lessons beyond the physical techniques. If one doesn’t approach the arts correctly – it can simply become a collection of fighting techniques. The approach one takes in learning techniques makes one a better person, not the techniques themselves.
Balance equals power. There must be a balance. The character development must be built on a foundation of real martial arts skills and real martial arts skills need to be approached correctly to build character. Without this balance you have a confident person who has false-belief in his abilities, or a person who can do serious harm but doesn’t learn the responsibility that comes with these skills. Unfortunately, both of these are common in today’s martial arts circles. Many commercialized schools don’t teach real skills. Other schools focus on “toughness” for the sake of competition, sometimes, extreme competition (cage fighting) – but as you see on TV, they have the ability to hurt but many don’t demonstrate the respectfulness & strength of character that are the hallmark of real martial arts.
7. Can you give a short biography of your instructor(s)?
I have been blessed to have many authentic martial arts sensei to guide me. However, I’ll limit it to the two primary influences in my development.
My first and primary sensei, who recently passed away, is the founder of the Kokondo arts and the International Kokondo Association. During that time, Master Gregory P. Howard (7th dan) had been an important sensei in my development – second only in my development to Shihan Arel. Since his passing, Master Howard has become my primary sensei – he is also the Kaicho (head of association) and successor to the founder. Here is some brief history of both:
Shihan Paul Arel:
Shihan Arel served as the 1st International Director of the International Kokondo Association (IKA). He was the chief instructor of many IKA dojos during his nearly 60 year involvement in authentic martial arts. He began as an Instructor of Martial Arts in 1952. Shihan Arel continued training in traditional jujitsu exclusively until the mid ’50’s when he entered the United States Marine Corps. His leadership qualities and entering the Marine Corps as a black belt afforded Mr. Arel many advantages. For one, he was soon instructing Marines in unarmed and armed combat, including the most elite of the forces, certain Special Tactics Units, and various other Government entities.
Throughout the 1960’s while pursuing his study of jujitsu, Mr. Arel was also a private student of Mas Oyama and one of the first Branch Chiefs of Kyokushin Karate in the United States. Mr. Arel opened the first Karate school in Connecticut USA. In addition, Mr. Arel received principle training from Don Nagle and H. Ishikawa. His skills helped bring one of the first large scale shiais to North America. He has worked with, in one capacity or another, a great number of people familiar to most people who have been involved in Martial Arts for any period of time. They include Koichi Tohei, Gary Alexander, Peter Urban, Henry Cho, Daeshik Kim, Maung Gyi, K. Ueyno, H. Nishiyama and many more.
By the late 1960’s, Mr. Arel was recognized as the world’s leading authority on Jukido Jujitsu and was awarded the title of Shihan. His profound concern for the public’s well-being led him to blend his jujitsu experience with his training in Judo, Aikido and Karate into a dynamic and devastating system of self-defense. His skills helped bring one of the first large scale Shiais (traditional tournaments) to North America.
As time went on, Shihan Arel continued to perfect his art. Publicity led to numerous radio and television appearances, including the TONIGHT SHOW starring Johnny Carson. After working with Woody Allen and actress Barbara Nichols, Mr. Arel produced and was featured in the motion picture ART OF THE ANCIENTS. In 1998, he earned the rank of 10th Dan in Kokondo Karate and 10th Dan in Jukido Jujitsu. This achievement cemented the legacy of Shihan Paul Arel forever.
Kaicho Gregory Howard:
Kaicho Gregory Howard began his martial arts training as a child at the honbu dojo (world headquarters) of the International Kokondo Association (IKA) under its’ founder, Shihan Paul Arel (10th dan). Today, Kaicho Howard is the world’s leading authority on the authentic martial arts of Kokondo.
As the International Director, he is responsible for leading the IKA worldwide as well as maintaining the authenticity of both Kokondo arts. Kaicho Howard was promoted directly by Shihan Paul Arel to the rank of 7th dan in both Jukido Jujitsu & Kokondo Karate. He is currently the highest-ranking black belt in Kokondo.
The long martial arts history of Kaicho Howard began in 1972. The late Shihan Arel stated that Kaicho Howard as a child was a quiet but enormously dedicated student who desired to learn everything he could about Kokondo. Kaicho Howard’s passion for applying the powerful arts of jujitsu and karate for realistic self-defense has lead to a lifetime of study.
As a martial artist, Kaicho’s techniques are well known and difficult to forget. His encyclopedic knowledge of how to maximize the potential power of the human body is matched only by his knowledge of how to systemically control and fundamentally destroy that very same potential. Kaicho Howard is without question a master of the maxim Seiryoku Zen’yo (optimal use of energy).
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