Wally Jay and Small Circle Jujitsu

“Sticking with your opponent … is vital. To counter any resistance or escape attempt, you must keep in constant contact with your opponent during the flow of one technique to another. This requires sensitivity. To learn sensitivity, you must learn not to ‘muscle’ the application of the hold. You must relax to feel the slightest movement by the opponent, sensing its direction and quality. This is the most difficult art to develop, but with sufficient practice it can be mastered. After it is mastered you will be able to sense your opponent’s intentions instinctively, enabling you to decide what countertechnique to apply to maintain control.”
Wally Jay, Small Circle Jujitsu

Professor Wally Jay, who sadly died last year at the age of 93, was a martial arts master who left a lasting legacy due to his experimentation with melding judo and jujitsu techniques into his Small Circle Jujitsu method.

Jay studied Danzan Ryu jujutsu under Juan Gomez and learned judo from Hawaiian Champion, Ken Kawachi.  Over many years, he developed his theory of Small Circle Jujitsu and then taught it worldwide.  He has influenced many people, including Bruce Lee, who studied with him during his Oakland period.

I studied briefly with Wally Jay student Professor Lee Eichelberger (8th Degree Black Belt) in Alameda just before I discovered Greg LeBlanc was teaching Wing Chun nearby. I probably learned just enough to get myself into trouble but the training really made me respect the mind behind the system.

My Kung Fu brother Dave Rodriguez studied under Professor Jay for years and has shown me some of his stuff and I have to say, it is an art I would like to study in more depth down the road, after I finish my primary Wing Chun training.

Again and again as I study martial arts, I find the same ideas at the root of each art.  In Wally Jay’s book Small Circle Jujitsu, he has a section titled “Ten Principles of Small Circle Jujitsu,” and the principles are all similar or identical to the basic principles of Wing Chun, despite one being a grappling art and the other being a striking art.

Wally Jay

His ten principles are: Balance, Mobility and Stability, Avoid the head-on collision of forces, Mental resistance and distraction, Focus to the smallest point possible, Energy transfer, Create a base, Sticking, control and sensitivity, Rotational momentum, and Transitional Flow.

Compare these to the principles of Penjat Silat discussed in my earlier article on that art.  Wing Chun principles teach almost word for word what Professor Jay tells us about Balance, mobility and stability, and the avoidance of “collision of forces,” which Gary Lam calls “Mercedes vs Honda” and cures with the creation of angle.  And Wing Chun is predicated on learning sensitive sticking and the use of transitional flow between techniques.

Again and again I recall my teacher’s point that at the highest levels, all arts resemble one another.  And these higher level perspectives bring into sharp relief the foolishness of the endless forum arguments about which arts are “best” and what arts are a waste of time.  If you are worried about whether your art or teacher is any good, see if they can explain why their art works and what its principle ideas are.

  • "G" April 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    This small circle jujitsu & WC together would be one unbeatable combo, how long have you studied this art. Most of the main schools are out of the Bay Area , small circle is so much more effective than other Grappling Arts for street self defense.

    • Steve December 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Sorry it took me so long to reply – this one slipped by!
      I only studied about six months. I would like to have a better grasp but life is short and my inner ear didn’t like all the rolling and break falls. Luckily WC has Chin Na (standing grappling) and I learned enough SCJJ (and have kept training it) to help me in drunkle situations. WC I will depend on for self defense and general life enhancement.

  • steven April 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I studied SCJJ for about six months – then I found out Greg LeBlanc was teaching Gary Lam WC in Oakland. This was 2008. I studied with Professor Lee Eichelberger in Alameda. He was one of Wally Jay’s top guys. My Kung Fu brother Dave Rodriguez studied with Wally Jay for many years, as well as studying escrima for a long time with Maestro Sonny Umpad. So he is a really well-rounded fighter!

  • Danny December 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I actually am currently struggling with deciding on whether to train in Danzan or Augustine Fong WC. I have both available to me. (the Danzan is quite a bit more affordable, btw) I’m forty 46 and in very good health (knock on wood) and I’ve heard Danzan can be pretty hard on the body with all the throws and joint manipulations. I’ve also heard it’s best to train in something that is “principal’ based (W/C?) as opposed to “technique’ based (Danzan?). which makes sense to me. just thought I’d get some thoughts, insights and opinions from you. Happy Holidays.

    • Steve December 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      I don’t know anything about Danzan, I’m afraid.
      I do know that you are in good hands if you go with Augustine Fong – in a world filled with second-rate and outright misleading martial instruction, especially in WC, Sifu Fong’s reputation as a first rate teacher and practitioner is solid.
      In regard to your age etc, this is why I decided not to continue with Small Circle Jujitsu and is the subject of my article “Wing Chun: A Gentleman’s Art.” There are many things you need to balance in choosing an art and I think part of the genius behind Wing Chun is its balance between the level you can reach as a fighter and the toll it takes on your body – you can do WC crazy hard (Barry Lee-style) or you can be very gentle and Tai Chi about it. I think the best WC schools take the middle path, being hard enough that your body has to adapt, as to weight lifting, and requires that you condition your hands and develop useful reflexes, but it doesn’t leave you always recovering from injuries.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.