Tuesday, April 23, 2013
My interview....part one.
(JJ): Not at all, I often borrow Ideas from others, I figure if they got it right…why reinvent the wheel!
(DR):You were born in Winnipeg , Manitoba, Central province in Canada. Would you mind telling us about your early childhood there?
(JJ): it was COLD, well it still is. Maitoba is a beautiful place to live in the summer, but you really have to be a die hard winter freak to love living here. Bad weather, pot holes but some of the nicest people I have ever met live here. Literally, the nicest place to live from what I have seen in my travels. Its always nice to come home from a trip!
My parents were both teachers and busy as heck. First my Dad was a teacher and my mother, one of the strongest women I have ever met, was a office manager….but I think she realized she was way to smart and skilled to stay doing that and she went back and finished school and got her teaching job! I grew up in a home full of smart people! My sister was trilingual and played music, my brother was smart and could spell any word at a young age and he had like this crazy memory! And I hit people (laughs). Yah, they were all smart and I was a cave man!
(DR):Can we please start by asking you how you first started you karate training and why?
(JJ): Well, when I was a kid in the 70”s and 80’s Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris were GOD’S to me. My dad started the whole thing by renting Bruce Lee movies and watching them with me. I got HOOKED MAN! I mean I could Quote Bruce Lee and ran around Yipping and bird calls like he did and then I got into Chuck and the “YAAAA” was flying around in the house. I bugged my dad like crazy but he said no to Karate…I was like 4 at the time mind you.
(DR):Did anyone else in your family do Karate?
(JJ): No, my big brother was a book nerd…Comic book nerd and even though he was six foot and like two fifteen in grade six he was never into any kind of combat arts, or sport for that matter. My Dad and Uncle trained with Tug Wilson in Winnipeg at the old Winnipeg Karate Club and My uncle Bob got his brown belt from Tug!
(DR):Did your father encourage you to train in Karate?
(JJ): No way man! He was way more concerned with my school work. I was a horrible student and always day dreaming. I loved to read but basically my learning disability really made life rough in the house. I always felt like I let my father down in that department. Probably why I pushed to be the only kid in the house to go to university and pushed to do my own thing later on. My Mom encouraged me but my dad was just kind of along for the ride once he found out I was taking classes.
I did that on my own! My brother and I used to go to the movies and one day I saw “MIDWEST KARATE” on a billboard outside a store front and begged him to get off the bus and bring me in…I was six at the time. That was back when kids could travel around on the bus by themselves and not worry to much about violence ext.
(DR):Sensei, the first time you saw karate in a Dojo was by Mr. Marr in Winnipeg?
(JJ): Yup, Sensei Marr and his son were the first two instructors I had.
(DR):Was it a strong club?
(JJ): I could not say. I was a young kid and it was so long ago. I know that Marr Sensei is a good instructor and him and my instructor are peers and friends.
(DR):Why Did you leave that club?
(JJ): I don’t really want to say. I respect Sensei Marr a lot and I think he was going through a rough time. Lets just say that it did not live up to my expectations of Karate at the time and I lost interest in it because of that.
(DR):And you joined Dingman Sensei at the JKA when?
(JJ): About a year after I left Mid west. Again, I was on the bus and noticed the big JKA sign that Sensei used to have painted on the back window of the Dojo. What struck me was the mist that was coming out of the window at the time. It was December and the windows were open and steam was billowing out of the club windows.
I went up the next week and was struck by the smell. It smelled a lot like hard work! The club was seriously NUTS back then. Man it was rough! And exactly what I was looking for. I trained at the club more and more even when I went to university and college, it became an obsession!
(DR):What did you study in university?
(JJ): I studied sort of a general arts degree, but my focus was on “Rehabilitation of sport injuries” I did a lot with biology, and physics…funny because I failed physics twice in high school! I also studied world religion, Sports Med., History, Sociology and other basic intro courses. Actually for the three years I did more intro courses than you could shake a stick at trying to find a diverse base of knowledge….I even took philosophy for a lark…hated most of what I took unless it was anatomy or biology!
(DR):How has that helped your Karate?
(JJ): I think it has, I mean knowing more about the body has helped me in a lot of ways in both teaching and training. Also the requirements for someone with a learning disability to buckle down and study hard to just get B’s has made me serious about my studying Karate as well. I think I approach things a bit differently than say just a regular athlete would. I kind of see myself as a Karate academic in a lot of ways. I see lots of seniors that train in Karate and don’t know a thing about it other than the kicky punchy things and lots of them lose interest or get stale and board teaching. I always find new things to study and bring to class!
(DR):What is your position in the organization?
(JJ): Head cook and bottle washer to the chief instructor! Seriously I am the Chairman and the executive director.
(DR):What does that mean exactly.
(JJ): Well, I help direct the ship! Sensei has final vito and vote on things and I just kind of coordinate the whole thing. I have to say that now that I have a really strong board I do a lot less than I used to, but I still dedicate about two hours a day to my duties as the Chair.
(DR):Do you have a dojo?
(JJ): No, I gave mine up when My daughter was born and Sensei needed more help around the headquarters. Over time I kind of just settled in as his assistant and like the dude on Kung Fu…I am a wandering Sensei! I teach at a few clubs, but own none of them.
(DR):Does your wife train in Karate?
(JJ): (Laugh) No, actually she thinks jumping around in white PJ’s is kind of funny. She respects my training and commitment but I don’t see her training any time soon!
(DR):Were you an avid sports athlete prior to your karate training?
(JJ): Not really, I mean I was five or six when I wandered into my first Dojo and you don’t find a lot of athletes that age (laugh). Actually, I did baseball and gymnastics outside of martial arts. I kind gravitated towards not team sports however. Growing up I bounced between just doing martial arts and doing sports to keep my parents happy. I am a bit reclusive and don’t like crowds so I never took to team sports much.
(DR):Have you ever gone to Japan to train?
(JJ): No, I have never had the chance really.
(DR):Do you think you have to go to Japan to train in Karate?
(JJ): No, I mean it would help, but if you have a good instructor then that is the cherry on top! To travel to Japan and Okinawa would be fantastic, but I really think that with the level of talent we have outside of Japan now with instructors like Mikami, Okizaki, Yaguchi, Takashina, Mori, Koyama, Saeki and other great Sensei…you don’t have to go to Japan unless you are looking for that cherry on top!
(DR):What are your goals in Karate that you may not have reached yet?
(JJ): At my age…I am looking to get into better shape, fell off the wagon when my daughter was born big time, by not having the time to train anymore. But other than getting in shape, I want to honor my instructor by moving to Yondan and Godan someday.
(DR):What is your thought on Rank, you are rather outspoken on the subject.
(JJ): Its all kind of relevant and vastly misunderstood. I see the general public drooling over 5th and 6th dans that are HORRIBLE people and horrible Karate people, but they turn up their nose at 2nd Dans and 3rd Dans that are great people and good teachers. I think that most Karate people and the general public need a good education in Rank and what it really means!
(DR):Have you ever been a member of an organization other than the JKA/CJAK?
(JJ): started off with the Midwest group and for a long time we were ISKF and a short time we were independent, but I always felt like the JKA was the way to go.
(DR):Why did you leave the ISKF?
(JJ): Politics, ego and students that did not learn about respect and being humble. I still cannot stand most of them because they would swear allegiance to my instructor to his face and when they went to hug him stab him in the back. Karate brings out the very best and worst in people and they all wanted to run things…and we left to give them a chance…it’s a bit of a bitter joke really! I don’t give up on grudges very easy, my Sensei says I need to forgive like he does, but its very hard when such a bitter thing was done to my Sensei by people he raised in Karate!
But, we are so much more happy now. I am glad that the lazy hearted people left real JKA Karate and now we can build our family up again with people that are honest and won’t be out for themselves only!
(DR):The 1970 and 1980’s were an era of intense conditions, a sharp contrast to today’s politically correct, ‘health and safety’ regulated practices. Do you have any stories from this early part of your training career that could illustrate the karate you experienced?
(JJ): Ha! Far to many! Real training back then was brutal. I cannot count the number of broken bones, cuts and split lips I had because of that Dojo. The training was brutal and we really took it to the next level. The difference now is that anyone can benefit from Karate, back then we would have chased off most people. Lots of broken teeth and split knuckles back then. My mother was horrified on a weekly basis with the bumps, cuts and hospital visits I had from regular training.
I would tell stories but my mom does not want to hear them or read them again…I aged her like 10 years.
(DR):What was the training like? Lots of kihon, repetition, not much explanation?
(JJ): It was very different. Very regimented and pushing the whole hour and a half. But back then I loved it, not sure we could “sell” that kind of work out now adays. TONES of reps to start with then small corrections, back to drills, Kata or Kumite. The Kata was brutal, not pretty at all and Sensei would use his Shinai to correct stance. Kumite, even the one step you thought you might lose teeth and again, sensei with his Shinai….”WACK, WACK, WACK” as he got closer to you …well you started sweating a bit more and knew it was soon your turn (laughing). It sounded horrible, but really…the most fun of my life was in those classes!
(DR):Did you do a lot of Makiwara work?
(JJ): Not till we were sixteen or seventeen, sensei would skin us if he saw young kids wacking that thing! I loved it however. As soon as I turned sixteen I was all over that thing! I used to hit it about 100 times each hand before class and as much as I could after!
(DR):You talk a lot about the injuries you got in Karate, can you tell us a bit about some of them?
(JJ): I’m a wreck (laughing) no seriously, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I have had a full 12 months without a major injury…but only a few have come in the Dojo. Broken bones, cuts…bad cuts, concussions…you name it. But I am still here and still kicking and punching!
Its really important to note that I was never really hurt to bad doing Karate. The odd broken tooth, lots of bumps and bruises….. but nothing that stopped me from training.
(DR):So most of them were from training outside of Karate and other things? What about the damage that you took in Karate?
(JJ): Karate was brutal back in the day, but we ate most of it and kept going really. I had lumps on my shins and forearms that did not go away for like six years! And when they went away others popped up in their place. No Karate was brutal and I got a few broken noses but we had a kind of system in the Dojo were guys that went nuts and hurt people sparred with those further up the line and were tuned up a bit. And if that did not work then Sensei got his hands on them and they pretty much figured out the rules!
(DR):Do you feel karate has lost a bit of that martial spirit, and how do you overcome this in your own dojo?
(JJ): Oh, yah. Karate used to be about being a warrior and showing up knowing you were going to be hurt. You were scared to come in the door because you knew you were going to get beat up every single class! I am not kidding it was a kind of pleasure and pain thing…sounds sick but really we all showed up knowing that we were going to be driven to the limits and if it was not getting hit by your partners and dropped by Sensei and his shinai then it was a class that would leave you sucking wind bad.
Now people show up and get offended if they soak a gi! Really???? House wives that come with polished nails and make up on, guys with $100 haircuts and pink shirts! Back in the day they would not have come in all dressed up…even if they came from work. Why, well because they knew that the hair was going to get soaked and Salmon pink shirts would be ruined after they sweat through them. We were a lot tougher than that!
The practice is also different. I remember Sensei open hand slapping a student once for hurting another guy…now that would not fly, different times!
(DR):What do you think of modern sport competition?
(JJ): I hate it! Really the Gis are all skirts and they hop like Kangaroo! No, the old JKA style is the best, the guys were fast as lighting and had an iron will! They were scary! Now its all fancy kicking and flippy dippy stuff!
(DR):What is the difference between JKA Kumite and JKF competition?
(JJ): JKA Kumite is straight in, blasting like a crazy man and focused hard striking. The other stuff, I don’t know if its JKF or what ever, is weak. Its about speed but you could slap a guy 1000 times or hit him once! You pick!
(DR):Have you ever competed in open Karate tournaments?
(JJ): Not in an open one. I went and watched a few but they had horrible techniques and they were being doted over for being fancy. I was very sad to see that kind of garbage called Karate!
(DR):Did you compete much?
(JJ): I did my share, have a bucket of medals in the basement holding up dust…but that never why I was in Karate. I hated grading and I hated tournaments.
(DR):How has competition changed these days do you think, in and outside of the JKA?
(JJ): its about being a peacock now. I remember when it changed too. The generation after me, about 10-20 years younger flipped a switch from Budo based Kumite to this flippy dippy stuff. And they got “fans” that adore them too! I don’t like that stuff, its not Karate, its to ego driven. Granted some guys in the generation before me had this issue too…and most if not all are gone now!
(DR):Did you ever train with Nakayama Sensei ?
(JJ): No, that’s a funny story. I was a kid when he came to Winnipeg and we had this big fuss made over him, my instructor drove him around and he ate at his house. But from my point of view it was more expensive seminars they wanted us to go to…and really I paid for most of my own Karate by selling comics, birthday money and a paper route so I was on a budget. I thought “great another old guy that was charging big bucks for a class”….Hey, I never said I was bright.
Yah, I still kick myself. About a year after he passed away, Sensei Tammy (Dingman Senseis Daughter) was looking at a book I got for my birthday from my big brother, “Dynamic Karate” and she said, Yah, he was here last year….I still kick myself!
(DR):What other instructors have you trained under?
(JJ): I train a lot under as many instructors as I can. I have trained with Yaguchi Sensei the most of all the masters as that was my instructors Sensei.I have also trained with Okizaki Sensei, Takashina, Koyama, Ueki, Tanaka, Imura, and a few other Japanese instructors as well. Canadian instructors that I would say stand out would be Del Philips, Terry Proctor, Jarvis Kohut, Brad Jones and Dick Powel. Some I have trained with a lot, others just in seminars and at Koyo Camp.
(DR):Who would you say has been of the biggest influence on your karate?
(JJ): My Sensei obviously. I have to say that I can thank my stars that I found him. Of all the other instructors in Winnipeg I could have ended up with, I know I would have walked away a long time ago if not for finding the right instructor! I have trained with a lot of people over the years and none of them can hold a candle to Dingman Sensei!
(DR):Do you have any Idols in Karate?
(JJ): When I was young it was guys like Tanaka and Yahara Sensei. I really like Kagawa as well, but I have to say that my instructor has always been a bit of a idol for me to look up to…even though I have to look down at him (Laughs). Other than him I really respect Saeki Sensei a lot as well. I don’t get to train with him enough, only once a year now, but he has always impressed me how open and honest he is.
(DR):You are a senior student under Dingman Sensei correct, what is he like to train under?
(JJ): its always been interesting. The more I got to know him the more he shared with me and the more I learned about Karate, the more I learned the more he encouraged me to train and study. He said “training in karate is different than studying it”. That always stuck with me. Actually he is full of so much information and he is very reserved when it comes to some things and he would rather we “steal it from him” sometimes.
He has also changed a lot over the years. When I started he was a tough instructor that was hard on students, man we had big classes, but a huge turnover rate! Now he is more fun loving and loves to teach kids. His health is not the best at the moment but he still shows up and puts his time in and is worried about his students every day!
(DR):And in private how would you describe him?
(JJ): He is very different! He kind of changes when you put the belt on…like the S on superman’s chest. But once you get him one on one he is kind of shy and reserved. He is a private person and its hard to kind of get inside those walls, but once you do he is truly a beautiful man inside. He cares a lot about his students and he is a tough old Irish Dude that does not talk emotions much, but he really does care a great deal. I saw him at his lowest points when the ISKF thing happened and his students kind of did a number on him. To this day he wants me to let it go, but I have the Welsh temper backed up by my Russian temper…basically I don’t let go of things as fast as he can!
(DR):Have you ever had other instructors?
(JJ): Yes, TerryProctor, Jarvis Kohut and a few others
(DR):You don’t call many of them Sensei why?
(JJ): No no, I have one true Sensei, that’s the way I think it should be. I use the title for other people I respect as well, but I only have one Sensei. Also, a few people have really hurt my instructor and I don’t respect them anymore because of that and I won’t call them Sensei or anything for that matter. Terry Proctor was one of my Sensei but I think of him as a Sempai now, not my Sensei.
(DR):Did you ever study another form of Budo besides Karate-Do ?
(JJ): Judo, Kendo and Aikido. I also dabbled in Kick boxing, Sambo, Jiu Jitsu and some kung fu. The thing is that I get mentally racing. I want everything and most of the time its because I want to add to my Karate. I take a style for a while and want to just do Karate. It’s a weird thing really. The longest I trained was four years in Judo.
(DR):Why did you give up Judo?
(JJ): Injuries started to pile up and it was hard to keep up training in both Karate and Judo.
(DR):What Rank were you in Judo?
(JJ): Shodan in the end. I left about a week after I got my shodan. I didn’t even pay to register and to be honest I don’t remember most of it so it was a bit of a fail in the end. The instructor was not that great and the club folded a short time after. His instructor was Mo Oye in Winnipeg, who is a fantastic instructor and I trained under him a few times.
(DR):Would you recommend cross-training in another form of Budo ?
(JJ): Years ago I would have said yes, but now I just don’t see it being that much of a benefit. I think that my new focus and new understanding of Karate and my goals are counter to that. So, the answer is more “what is your goal”! Why do you want to train in different styles. For me its no.
(DR):Have you ever trained in other styles of Karate or with other people from other styles?
(JJ): When I was a kid we had the “Karate Mafia” (laughing). Seriously, I had in high school this band of kids that all took Karate, none of us went to the same Dojo and a weird thing happened. This one kid who did Chito ryu suggested we all work out together. We got together on week ends and after school for like six months, It was fun and great learning. We had the Kid from Chito, Me (Shotokan), one guy from Goju ryu, a Isshin ryu guy and a Tae Kwon do guy. It was lots of fun.
(DR):Is it useful for Shotokan people to learn Goju-ryu or other styles kata?
(JJ): I don’t know, see we have 26 Kata that you can learn in traditional Shotokan and as far as I can see it covers all you ever need to know. I play around a bit with some Goju Kata as a “opposite” to Shotokan kind of training, but really if you start off and want to learn Shotokan then you can stick to the 26 and be happy.