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Thread: Adapting Koryu

  1. #166
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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    There is a very real chance I would not do well in koryu. Even with that knowledge I am quite a happy person
    One thing though, why did your teacher not just explain? So you would have a fair chance of understanding and things would be much clearer, much sooner?
    Aah he was testing you maybe, if you are of the koryu wood variety or not.
    Those who are not will not progress or will stop training.

    Might that be something koryu could adapt? As in adapting teaching methods?
    To anohter time, society, brand of students? I am warning you it is probably me just not understanding what it means to train in koryu, etc.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits
    As other have said, a beginner will probably not understand. I have seen it happen when someone try to explain a beginner to early. Much better to work on feel for some time than go in to a more deep explanation. If the person keeps coming to training he will eventually not look so awkward.
    Steffen Gjerding
    Kakudokan dojo

    Yup, lousy english

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stefffen View Post
    As other have said, a beginner will probably not understand. I have seen it happen when someone try to explain a beginner to early. Much better to work on feel for some time than go in to a more deep explanation. If the person keeps coming to training he will eventually not look so awkward.
    I am not convinced. It may very well be that this method of teaching: Let them find out for themselves. Or he or she has to 'steal' the techniques were used for several more reasons.
    For example: Explain things early they will learn faster and so either you will loose a student (probable loss of income) or they become to strong too soon and become equally skilled and become a concurrent to a teacher.

    Another reason is to weed out the weaklings. The best will find out and they will 'get' the real thing. Call it natural selection. Is that good? Maybe from a ryu's point of view it is. On the other hand - how many students have died because they thought they had it but did'nt. How many more could have survived if they would have been taught more clearly from the beginning?

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

  3. #168
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hissho View Post
    On making no sense -

    On Faith -

    I think its deeper than this on a number of levels. Faith that what you are learning will 'work' is a different thing than faith that empowers your morale and calms your mind in the face of life and death. This first I see as technical/tactical, and it is more a confidence in your practice.

    Faith in the religious sense is part psychological, part spiritual. Siddle has written directly about the role of religious faith in terms of facing deadly force encounters. If you have a strong faith that some religious force is looking out for you, that they will take care of you, and that what you are doing is "right" in a spiritual sense, that is a tremendous force multiplier. That may give someone a far greater "cup o' courage" than if one did not feel that those things are in place. I think you see this with the bushi beliefs in mikkyo - not only is a religious approval of one's actions obtained, but various magical technologies are offered to provide the psychological sense that one is protected. Going into a situation in which you honestly feel you may be killed can be made easier if one truly, honestly has faith that one is protected.

    That this can be perverted is clear: from WW II Japanese Shinto-Zen "holy war" and "war Zen" to radical Islamists; but I don't think anyone would contend that these folks are LESS dangerous or LESS powerful foes because of their religious beliefs. It's just the opposite because of their faith.

    Facing death is a spiritual experience. As the saying goes "there are no atheists in foxholes." I think the reason that mikkyo was so intertwined with bujutsu was that very reason - these were men who at least originally knew they were going to be facing death, and knew how difficult that could be at times, and understood that men who had something to empower them and override their fear had observable effects on combative performance.

    And in the best traditions also provided a grounding in compassion and ethics to prevent their charges from becoming simply soulless killers.

    I think both are incredibly important to this discussion when it comes to actually laying one's life down, or taking another's life. You want your enforcers to be mindful if at all possible, and you don't want them paralyzed by fear in the anticipation of what they are about to do, or by guilt in the aftermath.
    Kit, you have formulated in a much better way than I could do one of the points I mean. Taking the above as a starting point my question would be is it possible to adapt a koryu's teachings (on the above - providing they have teachings on it) to the Western culture and will it still be koryu then?

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Taking the above as a starting point my question would be is it possible to adapt a koryu's teachings (on the above - providing they have teachings on it) to the Western culture and will it still be koryu then?
    Johan - My koryu are doing just fine in the west. Kashima Shin-ryu is thriving. Yagyu Shinkage-ryu is doing well. Asked and already answered.

    And dare I say, you are being just a little mulish (a little genever oulde would be helpful at this juncture, I think). You experienced my teaching a classical ryu - Araki-ryu for one week as a pilot project for further teaching.. I very clearly adapted my teaching style to the age, physical condition, emotional state and culture of the individuals who were there. I do not teach like my teachers taught me. I assert that the essence is the same.

    And of the people who participated in the training - approximately 12 as I recall (and approximately 20 more at the KSR dojo), eight decided that they really liked it (and maybe me), but that my "implicit demands" were too strict. I was, just in the way I manifested what I was teaching, asking/requiring more of my students than they would have liked to give. As I recall, one young man at the KSR dojo was rather arrogantly maintaining his own sword style in my class, and I invited him to attack me any way he liked, and I laid the edge of my bokken on him three or four times, neutralizing everything he did and not hurting him in the least. (Were that me, I would have quit what I was doing - no disrespect to KSR - and joined the guy who beat me. Or at least, stumbled back to my own teacher and said, "I've been beaten this way and that. What am I lacking?" Honestly, I don't think he did, because he didn't show up the next day, and if he got it, he would have come back for more, if only to gather more intelligence for his own ryu).

    Four decided to study with me. Two have since quit. (One has jumped intensely into BJJ, also due to my influence, so that's a success, too.) The other two are crazy for more training. To me, that was a huge success - TWO dedicated students out of a sampling of approximately 20-30!

    Ellis

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    Ellis – Me, being mulish? Me?
    Well I guess there has to be a first time for everything so if you really think so.

    Your post does bring back fond memories. I do recall this young man and the situation– you were a gentleman about it, it has to be said. I had some words about it with his teacher some time later. I have known them for a long time and in the early days there was no one of their group I could not handle with a broomstick.

    And tell you what (just in case some of them are lurking here) I think I still can. No disrespect intended to my KSR friends but if it’s anything to them , their teacher knows where to find me.

    For some reason I am not surprised that your koryu are thriving in the west. You never struck me as an example of the average koryu teacher and Araki-ryu has adaption in it’s roots does it not?

    But there has got to be some more mushrooms to find.

    And now just a sip of Corenwyn – I will drink to your health.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    I am not convinced. It may very well be that this method of teaching: Let them find out for themselves. Or he or she has to 'steal' the techniques were used for several more reasons.
    For example: Explain things early they will learn faster and so either you will loose a student (probable loss of income) or they become to strong too soon and become equally skilled and become a concurrent to a teacher.

    Another reason is to weed out the weaklings. The best will find out and they will 'get' the real thing. Call it natural selection. Is that good? Maybe from a ryu's point of view it is. On the other hand - how many students have died because they thought they had it but did'nt. How many more could have survived if they would have been taught more clearly from the beginning?

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits
    I'm not sure if you are missing what I'm saying, or delibrately misinterpreting. It has nothing to do with 'weeding out' or worry over someone becoming too good. After all, the objective of every instructor of koryu is to produce someone that is better than you. What I'm talking about is insufficient frame of reference. Since I love analogies, here's one for you to help clarify what I'm saying ... You are complaining that the mathematics department of every university refuses to start teaching with advanced calculus instead of algebra. I keep saying beginners have to begin with algebra to understand the basics and develop a frame of reference before trying to understand advanced calculus. You say its just to weed out those that aren't serious about being math majors, or to keep the students from becoming smarter than the professors.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    I'm not sure if you are missing what I'm saying, or delibrately misinterpreting. It has nothing to do with 'weeding out' or worry over someone becoming too good. After all, the objective of every instructor of koryu is to produce someone that is better than you. What I'm talking about is insufficient frame of reference. Since I love analogies, here's one for you to help clarify what I'm saying ... You are complaining that the mathematics department of every university refuses to start teaching with advanced calculus instead of algebra. I keep saying beginners have to begin with algebra to understand the basics and develop a frame of reference before trying to understand advanced calculus. You say its just to weed out those that aren't serious about being math majors, or to keep the students from becoming smarter than the professors.
    Paul I am not delibrately misinterpreting your words. Maybe I am missing something. Keep in mind that compared to some posting here I might be an oaf.

    But I am a critical oaf.

    " After all,the objective of every instructor of koryu is to produce someone that is better than you. "

    I do not believe necessarily in the goodness of people, so I do not think the above statement is true to reality. But we are allowed different opinions.

    Due to my ' mulishnes ' so to speak people will get annoyed sometimes. But they really try to help. I believe they are willing to put up with me for so long because they do understand that my questions and ramblings are sincere.

    In this proces we generate a lot of information, more so than just a question and answer model. The last I find very limiting. In a discussion as this I feel a lot more information is generated. And that's good.

    A last word and then I have got to go and cook a meal for my family please do not forget that English is not my first language (but then that was obvious to you from the beginning

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Well, koryu aren't religions. And far too much is made of things like mikkyo (it was just psychology by another name - Draeger constructed a somewhat false image there). Ellis
    Ellis,

    It's been years since I read Draeger on mikkyo, so none of the following is any commentary on what he may or may not have said.

    Inasmuch as the context of this discussion is narrowly restricted to the applicability of koryu to modern close quarter combatives, it's largely correct to say that the relevance of mikkyo to adapting koryu is primarily psychological in nature. But that is a measure of the focus of the discourse and the discussants, not the depth or breadth of mikkyo, as your remark above would seem to suggest.

    When the only problem you're addressing is hammering down a nail, everything looks like a hammer (or is judged by its suitability for use as a hammer). By this measure, my laptop is near-worthless -- but if I dismissed it as "just a tv with a keyboard" I would be making a major error). But beyond CQC, mikkyo has subdivisions which touch on areas which were significant to koryu as living social organizations with responsibilities of governance, both internal and external.

    Pages 257-273 of Katori Shinto-ryu: Warrior Tradition, for example, contain a great deal of material that was formerly transmitted primarily via mikkyo, including astronomy (not so very long ago, indistinguishable from astrology, both east and west), in-yo gogyo, gogyo used in fortification (think of it as military feng-shui), civilian building siting and town planning, etcetera. What Otake presents is just a small sample of a larger body of multi-disciplinary knowledge which would have been associated with mikkyo.

    Even if one initially drew a distinction between bodies of knowledge appropriate to officer and enlisted classes (or their medieval equivalents), some of the geomancy is relevant across the board (where's the high ground? whose back will be to the sun? etcetera). Of course, one could make the case, as you already have with gunnery and grappling, that rather than attempt to excavate and revive the old knowledge, one would do well to learn from a contemporary instructor how to orient via the night sky, how to read a map and compass, how to use GIS systems, how to construct defensible urban space, etcetera. The problem is that, by definition, one can't know what is slipping from one's grasp when doing so. I would argue that the best judgment about what is useful and what is not in these subdivisions is likely to be made by a contemporary professional with expertise in the modern analogues of the relevant subdivisions -- or at least, a best practice would be to include that expert perspective in the decision-making process (although, per my last point below, time may not permit that comparative luxury).

    A second problem is that qualified mikkyo teachers treat the bodies of knowledge to which they are privy in much the same manner as koryu instructors treat the information they hold; they will release a certain amount of that material publicly to ascertain interest, but then make decisions on the basis of the responses they observe about who they will (or will not) give deeper access. Suffice it to say that I have been privy to a number of tales like that you related regarded the KSR practitioner, in which the dramatis personae are not two budoka, but a buddhist priest and a budoka, and the priest made a determination that the budoka was not a suitable vessel. I have even had that uncomfortable sense that both participants in the "story" I was being told were present as it was being told and were, in fact, the only people in the room.

    A third problem is that there are explicit Buddhist prohibitions (and though compounded with Taoist, Confucian, and "Shinto" elements, the primary structures of mikkyo are Buddhist) on instructing anyone who is packing. Sometimes that restriction is interpreted narrowly and literally as "armed at the moment of instruction," other times it is interpreted more broadly as "prone to walking around armed and likely to use the knowledge in a way that will cause harm." In the wake of the great Pacific War and the atrocities committed by Japanese forces in China in the name of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (and the public embarrassment resulting from Brian Victoria's book, documenting the activities of a number of Zen lineage holders in that era), there has been a pronounced social tendency to take the latter view. This creates an additional hurdle for budoka who are interested in that material.

    A fourth problem is that "mikkyo" is as broad (and in some respects useless) a category as koryu. Some mikkyo was nothing more than corner store magic on the order of burning a candle to draw money. Other lines of mikkyo contain terrifyingly complex cosmology and epistemology that no Western philosopher has yet even approached in subtlety, breadth, depth, or rigor. So any encounter with mikkyo, good or bad, only provides information about one line and one teacher. Extending from the single encounter to the whole field is bound to end in error of some kind.

    Lastly, there's the fundamental question of time. How much time does one spend doing one's bujutsu (whether kata, or more "live" practices such as you describe)? How much time does one spend on basic fitness? How much time does one spend on IS practices? How does one make a living? How does one have a life. Each of these areas could easily become an all-consuming rabbit hole, and choices must be made (cf. Kit's request that his firearms coach not change his draw). The benefit of a larger body of practitioners is that it allows for more sub-specialties within the social whole.

    Much of that is arguably beyond the scope of the current discussion, but perhaps not. More narrowly, I will assert again, as I have in the past, that the basic gachirinkan and ajikan meditation practices found in Shingon provide useful keys not only to arcana of the koryu, but to some basic modes of "seeing" and, for lack of a better phrase "parsing space" that have immediate practical application. Those basic practices were accessible to bushi -- i.e. professionals -- from CE 1000 forward and had a significant infuence on the form and content of the koryu that they left behind. I will further argue that those (and others) would be immediately apparent to a contemporary professional. And then I will shut up and get back to the book proposal I'm working on.

    All of that aside, many thanks to all of you for a large body of thought-provoking discussion which I believe I am likely to read several more times just to begin to digest it! Please pardon the interruption, I hope it wasn't too annoying!

    Best regards,

    FL

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    Paul - Although agreeing with much of what you say, I think it is a little idealistic. I am well aware of many shihan who withhold information because it is their "ace in the hole." This can have a number of reasons:
    1. The iemoto system ensures an income (unlikely to be monetary - more likely to be devotion, perpetual students, etc.) and unless one is graduated, with full certification of the gokui, etc., one cannot teach, one is still a student and under the teacher's control. I can think of a number of prominent ryu where the headmaster ensures that there will be, in essence, no fully developed young bulls in his pasture. When they try to go independent, they may be vilified, expelled. Many ryu are dried out - no place left for hot-blood.
    2. The mystification of some of the higher knowledge can lead everyone to a kind of self-hypnosis, over-inflating the importance of that esoteric dimension. Too encased in ritual too much is made of, say, "applied psychology." (Not discounting the truly religious dimension that Kit notes as a real component for the development of bravery in the face of death and resilience in the face of trauma). Everyone makes too much out of what may be mundane at times.
    3. Some teachers deliberately confine the whole curriculum to their own family - it's a feudal set-up where the other students must serve the family.
    4. I very definitely withhold info - sometimes, as you say, because one cannot teach calculus until algebra is mastered. Sometimes for other reasons. I recently "tested" a student for two years, so to speak, holding him to only the most basic stuff while I taught others, some who entered after him, more. He was only allowed to practice off to the side, and maybe watch at times. I did it deliberately. He never complained and practiced hard. The last time I taught that group, I taught him both sides of three whole kata sets in a week. And he remembered them all, and his fundamentals were sound. He leapt upwards, so to speak. However, note this: the very fact that I did this is, as I say, evidence that koryu is NOT battlefield training. It is a product of the luxury of time.
    5. On a more general note, I return to Paul's correct description. If it takes eight years for a student to master a step, I'm not going to waste time teaching him the next step which is impossible without the first. (I'm usually quite pissed that it's taking that long). OTOH, I've taught one man the entire torite curriculum in a week, and certified him in that section - a really seasoned grappler, he understood each and every component as I taught it. Why waste any more of his and my time?
    Ellis Amdur

    So, actually, although you are right about a pedagogical progression, there are a number of reasons where a teacher would withhold knowledge from the practice to the shabby.

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    A third problem is that there are explicit Buddhist prohibitions (and though compounded with Taoist, Confucian, and "Shinto" elements, the primary structures of mikkyo are Buddhist) on instructing anyone who is packing. Sometimes that restriction is interpreted narrowly and literally as "armed at the moment of instruction," other times it is interpreted more broadly as "prone to walking around armed and likely to use the knowledge in a way that will cause harm."
    Fred - is this something pertaining to a certain level of teaching? I have not encountered that, and in fact thought just the opposite - a Shingon priest blessed our house and paid a little extra attention to my training weapons and my modern weapons and armor for work... he was not Japanese, but was ordained at Koyasan and I know thought of well based on his trajectory since I met him... fascinated to talk to you about this on the other stuff - PM inbound.

    On "basics" and "weeding out."

    Paul's point makes perfect sense, especially from a CQC perspective when life is literally at stake (i.e. when you know the guy you are teaching is going to go out and stake his life on what you taught....)

    Basics are what save your life when you don't have time to think. They have to be at the level of mushin. If a student does not master them for whatever reason - incompetence, lack of attention, lack of practice - it demonstrates that they are simply not prepared yet to go on to the more involved stuff - they literally will not have the working memory to use the involved stuff if their basics are not down.

    So yeah it weeds people out - for their own safety, for one reason. And testing their commitment for another. The carryover to modern practice of older ryu makes sense if only as a holdover of those views.

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    Although agreeing with much of what you say, I think it is a little idealistic. I am well aware of many shihan who withhold information because it is their "ace in the hole."
    Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Stop bursting my bubbles!

    I do not believe necessarily in the goodness of people, so I do not think the above statement is true to reality.
    It is not due to any inherent 'goodness', it is one of the basic underpinnings of the koryu which have allowed them to survive for as long as they have. Once you achieve a certain ranking within a koryu, you are expected to do what is best for the ryu, not for yourself. As Ellis has pointed out, this is not always the case for a variety of reasons. However, it is supposed to be the case that all practice of the ryu is supposed to be towards the benefit of the ryu. In my opinion, it is this outlook that is the reason that the koryu are not more monetarily succesful than they are (I know of no one that makes any money from them).
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Deleted due to double-post.
    Last edited by kokumo; 16th March 2012 at 20:44. Reason: Double-post

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hissho View Post
    Fred - is this something pertaining to a certain level of teaching? I have not encountered that, and in fact thought just the opposite - a Shingon priest blessed our house and paid a little extra attention to my training weapons and my modern weapons and armor for work... he was not Japanese, but was ordained at Koyasan and I know thought of well based on his trajectory since I met him... fascinated to talk to you about this on the other stuff - PM inbound.
    Kit --

    The source of the prohibition is one of the lower-order "training guidelines" to be observed by fully ordained monks, and it comes in a block of such guidelines including:

    103.Teaching to person holding a stick 104.Teaching to person holding an umbrella 105.Teaching to person holding a knife 106.Teaching to person holding a sword 107.Teaching to person holding a weapon 108.Teaching to person wearing armour
    In a strict sense, these fall in a section regarded as what we might call "best practices" and violations by ordained monastics are to be avoided, but don't involve any sort of formal confession or penance.

    The commentaries on these rules are detailed and fascinating. The stick rule commentaries actually detail the length of the stick to allow exceptions for walking sticks and canes, the umbrella rule commentary points out that this relates to umbrellas as status symbols, the knife, sword, weapon, and armour rules have exceptions for sickness and weapons which are holstered or scabbarded.

    So you have the explicit rules, the commentaries on the rules, and the lineage specific interpretation and application of the rules and commentaries. In the case of Japan, you also have the fact that most priests are not fully ordained monks, and thus, not bound by the full monastic discipline. For some sects, this has been the case for a thousand years or more. For the rest, this has been largely the case since 1868 or so.

    The other element here is the distinction between exoteric and esoteric teachings. The monastic tradition is (primarily) exoteric. The model of transmission in most Japanese ryu (both cultural and martial) is actually based on the comparatively secretive model of transmission found in the mikkyo or esoteric traditions. Closely held texts, personal instructions, goku-i reserved according to rule or whim, coded language, etcetera: whether it's poetry, tea ceremony, shodo, or budo, they all secularized the model and sacralized their material by adopting the esoteric model of transmission.

    But exoteric or esoteric...Blessing a warrior's weapons and armour in his residence with the intention to insure that no evil befalls the warrior and that they are only used to prevent evil from befalling others? There are many lines that have no trouble with that at all. Some folks take a broad view of things. Others take a very constricted view. Sometimes this is because of personality, sometimes this is based on experience (either personal or collective).

    It should be noted that the Buddha came from a warrior family and the one fixed rule about soldiers arose when his father complained that his own army was in disarray because all of his soldiers were deserting the army and becoming monks in order to get free food and clothing without a further obligation of military service. From that incident came the rule that soldiers had to be officially discharged from military service in order to enter the ordained Sangha. "No deserters need apply" has been the rule for over two millenia.

    I would argue that most of the rules are based on what we would call a "harm reduction" model, but where there are people, there are sticklers, and where there are sticklers....Thus it has always been.

    Best,

    FL

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    In a strict sense, these fall in a section regarded as what we might call "best practices" and violations by ordained monastics are to be avoided, but don't involve any sort of formal confession or penance.
    Ahhh - seems there are a number of things that fall under this. Thank you for the fascinating explanation.

    Another aspect to the faith element of this discussion would be religious concern for one's own salvation. Particularly problematic when the religion specifically prohibits killing at all - and yet has a very long tradition of sanctioning it under different circumstances. But if I am a warrior in a culture concerned with that, and in particular a pre-modern culture with a good deal of superstition thrown in, having some kind of "protection" against the acts I am going to do, duty bound to do, and some kind of spiritual get-out-of-Hell free card could have a great deal of impact to me in the performance of my duties. I am sure many warriors were simply enculturated (sp? Is it even a word?) with this, and were as irreligious (though perhaps still superstitious) as fighting men today, but for some who appeared to be rather devout, this could very much be a mindset issue. Having these ideas so thoroughly inter-twined with their combative practice just makes sense - indeed makes sense as one of the main reasons to have such ryu.

    Not that this couldn't be problematic - the aforementioned Zen at War offers the Buddhist story of the bodhisattva boat captain (Buddha in another incarnation?) killing the robber to prevent the murder of everybody on board, and it being compassionate, which has been repeated to me in questioning along these lines. But that book also offers some absolutely stunning statements from Zen priests through the ages which are nothing short of excusing wholesale murder if the killer takes care to see the killed as "intrinsically empty" - so some extremes here need to be accounted for. Not that such murder hasn't been justified by other religions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    In this proces we generate a lot of information, more so than just a question and answer model. The last I find very limiting. In a discussion as this I feel a lot more information is generated. And that's good.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits
    ...............

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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