JAY, Michael

classical martial arts
Based in London

Type of activity: performance, demonstration, lecture
Available to travel: anywhere
Age range: 8+
Number of participants: any

Tel: +44 20 8979 4179 (London UK)
email : mail@michaeljay.demon.co.uk

jay- profile

Michael Jay

Michael Jay, a British Airways pilot flying the Boeing 747-400 from London’s Heathrow Airport,  has managed to combine a flying career with a lifelong study of Japan and, in particular, its martial culture.

His work and fascination since childhood with the martial arts of both England and Japan has taken him to Japan nearly four hundred times to study, work, train and teach.


Soma Noma Oi

In 1975, courtesy of the family of his Japanese wife, Tokuko, Michael was invited to become the first non-Japanese person ever to take part in the Soma Noma Oi (Soma Wild Horse Chase), a unique three day celebration of skill in samurai horsemanship held in the full heat of the Japanese summer in the Tohoku region in North-east Japan.

This great event combines religion, culture and martial skill and has taken place every year for more than a thousand years since the time of Taira Masakado.  Led by the Lord of the Soma Clan, around 800 fully armoured horsemen and thousands of foot soldiers, priests, shrine helpers and dignitaries make this truly the most spectacular horse event in the world.

The Soma region is in the area affected by the great earthquakes and tidal wave of March 2011. Michael is directly involved in charity work for the relief of the survivors, particularly the children orphaned by this disaster.

In spite of the great loss of life both of people and horses on that terrible day, a small NomaOi went ahead only four months later thus demonstrating the unquenchable spirit of Soma.

Noma Oi involves racing in full armour, a battle chase to catch shrine flags fired more than 1000 feet into the sky, and a roundup of wild horses in the area, all on horseback.  Since first taking part, he has achieved the rank of ‘Kumi-Gashira Soma Odaka-go Go-Taisho Tsuki’ (Group Commander for the General, Soma Odaka Horse Association).

Michael Jay at Odaka Jinja – Soma Noma Oi


Soma Noma Oi has been designated by the Japanese government both as an Important Cultural Folk-Property and as an Intangible Cultural Treasure of Japan.

The only other non-Japanese person ever to hold a genuine samurai rank was William Adams, the English navigator of a Dutch ship who, after being shipwrecked in Japan in the year 1600, became an advisor to the first Tokugawa Shogun, leyasu, and settled in Japan.  In recent years, Adams was the central character in the novel Shogun although a better version of the story was written by Englishman Richard Blaker as The Needle Watcher.  Curiously, the birthplaces of both William Adams and Michael Jay are close to each other in Kent.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu

Michael Jay is also a master swordsman of the oldest and most famous classical martial school in Japan, the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, having been awarded the Kyoshi Menkyo (Teaching Licence) by the Headmaster, Shihan Otake Risuke.  With teachings unchanged since its founding in the 14th century, this school has always been renowned for both the dynamic skill of its swordsman and the highest quality of its moral teachings.  For these reasons it, too, has been designated by the Japanese government as an Intangible Cultural Treasure.

Most certainly no sport, this is a truly mediaeval combat school whose teachings cover laijutsu (fast draw of the sword), Kenjutsu (the use of the long sword and short sword both individually and in two-sword technique), Bojutsu (long staff), Sojutsu (spear), Naginata (a type of halberd), Shuriken (a small throwing knife), and Yawara (empty hand techniques).  Other subjects taught by the school and essential to the samurai include religion, philosophy and various military studies such as strategy and tactics.

Michael Jay with Shihan Otake Risuke
 at Shimbukan Dojo, Narita, Japan

Although the school trains its members in life and death combat, its main teaching is that it is wrong to kill and that we should strive for a life of peace.  This apparent contradiction is usually very difficult for outsiders to understand but is the essence of the philosophy and teachings of all the classical sword masters.

The Katori Shinto Ryu was, and still is, Japan’s premier martial tradition and although demonstrations are given on special occasions the techniques of the school are still kept secret. Entry to the ryu involves signing,  in one’s own blood, a written oath that one will maintain its uncompromising standards.


Other Activities

In the second year of the Heisei Era, Michael was one of the few mounted, fully armed and armoured samurai to accompany the Envoy of the Emperor of Japan at the three day religious celebration called Jinkosai held on land and water every twelve years at Katori Jingu (Grand Shrine), and which involved him demonstrating the classical swordsmanship of the Katori Shinto Ryu. This honour was repeated in 2002  (Heisei 14th year).


Other act 1
At Jinko Sai Festival, Katori Jingu, with Otake Risuke,
Master Teacher of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu

Michael was also chosen to open the demonstration of Katori Shinto Ryu swordsmanship at Kashima Jingu for the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Kashima Shinto Ryu sword school and has appeared in many magazines, newspapers, and television programs around the world, including a full length BBC Television program  entitled The Soma Wild Horse Chase in its prestigious flagship documentary series The World About Us, broadcast in over forty countries, about his unique participation in Soma Noma Oi.

In December 1991 he was invited by Raymond Brooks-Ward to lead the Soma Horse Association Demonstration Team at the Olympia International Show-Jumping Championships. This was the first time the Soma Noma Oi had been seen outside Japan and included demonstrating, twice a day, some of the sword techniques of the Katori Shinto Ryu and the Flag-Chase of the Soma Noma-Oi in which the mounted samurai of the Soma clan battled for shrine flags dropped from the roof of Olympia’s Great Hall.  These specially made flags, carrying a blessing from Soma Odaka Shrine, the seat of the Soma clan, were then presented to disabled children among the audience.

During the Olympia Championships Michael was invited to  lecture to school groups on the weaponry and riding skills of the samurai.  This was in association with the Japan Festival and, by kind permission of the Commander of the Tower of London, General Tyler, culminated in a special demonstration ride, the first time ever that Japanese mounted samurai had ridden at the Tower.


Other 2

Michael Jay mounted for Soma Noma Oi.

During the Japan Festival in 1991 Michael lectured to the Arms and Armour Society at the Tower of London and to the Japan Society of London and gave many demonstrations and talks around the country on swordsmanship and the world of the classical Japanese warrior.

Michael speaks Japanese and has studied many of the Japanese martial arts and ways, holding a total of seven black belt ranks in Kodokan Judo, Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Jodo and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei laido, holding a teaching license in the last of these, and is the only non-Japanese person ever to participate fully in, and hold senior positions in, two Intangible Cultural Treasures  of Japan.  He has taught self-defence skills to a wide variety of students, including military personnel, British Airways staff and American and British police and military officers.  Students who have had reason to use this knowledge have been successful in every case.

A keen archer on foot and horseback. Michael is also qualified by the prestigious Smith & Wesson Academy as a Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor for Revolver, Pistol, Rifle and Shotgun, a Handgun Retention Instructor and as a Defensive Tactics Instructor for Handcuffs and Police Baton. Before retiring from the Metropolitan Special Constabulary in December 2010, he was involved in patrol duties in London and at Heathrow Airport.

Since 1993 Michael has divided his time in the UK between flying, police work, and teaching personal safety, and shoots regularly as a member of the UK National Rifle Asssociation. In Africa, he combines his interests in photography, animal conservation and hunting.



Other 3
Receiving the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal

An accredited expert of both the Japan 21 cultural organization and The Japan Society, Michael regularly demonstrates and lectures on the classical martial culture of Japan to organizations such as the Japan Society, Eton College, Oxford University, Castle Howard, The Royal Armouries both at the Tower of London and at Leeds, and The Arms and Armour Society and was a leading contributor to the Japan Festival in 1991 and the Japan 2001 UK Festival of Japanese Culture.

The summer of 2009 found him as guest speaker both on a sea cruise around Japan and on a land tour to some of Japan’s most ancient and historic sites.

In 2010 he addressed the Oxford University Alumni Association in a presentation entitled William Adams and the Samurai. This lecture and demonstration of martial skill of the Katori Shinto Ryu included a rare viewing in the Bodleian Library of the actual log book of William Adams written on his voyages between Japan, China and Siam from 1615 to 1619.

Since the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster, Michael has been a regular contributor to events organised to help the charities assisting the survivors including the London Japan Festival in 2011.

Michael Jay holds the unique positions of both Shidosha and Kyoshi awarded by Headmaster Otake Risuke of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, Japan’s premier martial tradition, together with the rank of Group Commander in the world’s greatest horse event, Soma Noma Oi.



Michael Jay

Qualifications include:

British Overseas Airways Corporation & British Airways 1968 – 2000.

Senior Pilot, Vickers Super VC10, Standard VC10,

Boeing 757, Boeing 747-100, Boeing 747-200, Boeing 747-400.

(Air Transport Pilot’s Licence, Flight Navigator’s Licence and Radio Operator’s Licence issued by U.K. Civil Aviation Authority).

Soma Noma Oi – Intangible Cultural Treasure of Japan:

Kumi Gashira, Go Taisho Tsuki, Soma Odaka Go Kiba Kai  (Group Commander – Soma Odaka-Area Horse Association)

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu – Intangible Cultural Treasure of Japan:

Kyoshi  (Full Teaching Licence)

Kodokan Judo Institute – 1st Dan, Tokyo, Japan.

British Judo Association – 1st Dan, UK.   .

Muso Shinden Ryu Iai, Kenshukan Dojo, Tokyo, Japan.

Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu, : Kenshukan Dojo, Tokyo, Japan.

All Japan Kendo Association Jodo – 1st Dan, Kenshukan Dojo, Tokyo, Japan.

All Japan Kendo Association Iaido – 4th Dan Instructor’s Licence, Kenshukan Dojo, Tokyo, Japan.

Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary 1993 – 2011: Patrol Duties, Officer Safety Training.

Police Stations: Twickenham, West Drayton, Uxbridge, Heathrow Airport Aviation Security.

Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Police Service awarded in 2002.

Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary Long Service Medal.

Smith & Wesson Academy, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA:

Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor – Revolver, Pistol & Shotgun.

Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor – Police Rifle.

Defensive Tactics Instructor including Arrest & Restraint, Handcuffs and Police Baton.

PPCT System Defensive Tactics Instructor.

Handgun Retention Instructor.


Member, National Rifle Association UK.

© Michael Jay 2015


(This profile may be reproduced without permission for private use)




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