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.

[amazon_image id=”0897501225″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Small-Circle Jujitsu[/amazon_image]

  • "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.

  • Anonymous January 12, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Thank you sincerely for taking the time to reply Steve. Your honest thoughts and advice definitely seem derived from experience and will certainly be taken into consideration and heeded. You’ve confirmed what I thought might be the case. I have a pretty physical job (carpentry), so not only can I not financially afford to miss work due to injuries but my body takes a pretty good daily beating as it is. I’d like to continue training and improving for the rest of my days if possible.
    Thanks again Steve. Health and happiness to you and yours!

  • Steven Moody January 12, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks Danny. I just got off a 3 month break due to injuries (more from too much sitting at the computer than too much Wing Chun). As we get above 40, the body is way less forgiving and resilient and we definitely have to take a conservative approach to our training. I’ve switched from free weights to body weight and from 60 minutes on the treadmill to wind sprint style training for just these reasons. So far so good!

    • Anonymous January 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Agreed and sorry about your injury. I am getting over a long standing flu/cold and the bed rest has put a few extra on me haha.
      I have changed my heavy duty workouts too. I concern myself with trying to keep what muscle I have and really work on flexibility. I’ve been doing yoga with my wife once a week. Helps to keep working my 40 something muscles and really stretches me out too. Cheers!

  • Ryan January 16, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Steve good points on training. I know this comment maybe off topic but I recall back in the day just spending hours doing nothing but bench presses and heavy lifting. My body paid the price. Since 2014 I have incorporated more core movements, cardio exercises and an emphasis on stretching and I only do some resistance weight training. I actually feel in better shape now than I did in my 20’s. I always get a kick watching these young folks spend hours doing nothing but heavy weight training, but yet they spend so little on everything else like proper dieting, stretching and cardiovascular exercise. I think WC fits in nicely to this kind of regimen.

    • Steven Moody January 16, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I used to spend a lot of time doing things I thought would give me a certain “look.” I wanted to be ripped like Bruce Lee basically. Luckily I was skinny and so naturally was able to get more or less what I was look for – but I paid the price, as you say, in various injuries, including ones that have stuck around.

      The Chinese were onto something with this training of the tendons. You get a lot more functional fitness for way longer. Like you, I’m much healthier now than I was in my twenties (I smoked etc and ate the worst crap imaginable). As we age, if we’re smart, we pull back from the brink and start trying to stretch out the fun part and stave off the decrepit part of the life cycle. Is this what they call wisdom? I wised up around 40 – wish I’d started at 20! Too bad we can’t do double-blind experiments. One twin parties and smokes and drinks and eats Twinkies, the other does Tai Chi and eats grass fed beef and kale. The comparison would probably look like The Portrait of Dorian Grey.

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