Thanks to Eli Jones for this guest post:
September 22, 2012 – It was a sunny Saturday in Tallahassee, the perfect day for a special training. Being as class was to begin at one o’clock, I decided to get there about twenty minutes early to have plenty of time for a pre-training warm-up, and to go over any incidental changes to the day’s layout – if there were to be any. I arrived at the dojo to find instructors Bill Lucas and Paris Janos’s vehicles already there, and, of course, Lucas and Janos sensei already inside prepping for the three-hour event.
As other karateka began trickling in, Janos sensei took the opportunity to visit with longtime students of the Tallahassee Karate Club, and meet with those who are relatively new to the style. For those who have never had the pleasure of meeting Janos sensei – or training with him for that matter – it took no time at all to realize that his classes are not only informative … they’re an experience. Newcomers got to see, firsthand, the senior instructor’s propensity for simplifying seemingly complex subject matter, ability to convert any kata-based technique into practical application, and legendary brand of humor that is so quick it can only be rivaled by his technique.
As soon as the group was fully present, Janos sensei wasted no time in having the class form a circle, bow in with mokuso, and get straight to warming up with kata. We began with Naihanchi Shodan and consistently followed with each successive kata until finishing with Chinto. After warm-up, Janos sensei began discussing Naihanchi Shodan, which comprises techniques that serve as the basis of not only Kishaba Juku, but karate as a whole.
With regard to the lower portion of one’s body, he stressed the need to relax, drop down in each stance, and break balance while maintaining the body’s centerline. At the completion of each movement, one can then check to see if they’re in the correct position by simply looking to the side with head over shoulder; this helps the upper chest area remain open, establishes the centerline, and serves as a method of checking one’s position without compromising the technique by glancing downward. In discussing hand movement, Janos sensei explained how making large circles with the arms for Naihanchi-oriented chudan and chuden-gedan techniques are unnecessary. In order to cut down on superfluous movement, he had everyone hold a hand over their head at the centerline, and then allow the arm to drop. This was followed by an explanation that each block should be equally relaxed and follow a similar trajectory during execution. In terms of striking, Janos sensei focused on Naihanchi Shodan’s uraken (backhand) technique by showing everyone how to project with a whip-like motion. This is accomplished by relaxing, striking outward, and dropping down into one’s stance simultaneously. In doing this, one is able to quickly strike and draw the technique back into its original, recoiled position, granting the karateka the ability to continually execute the uraken over and over.
As Janos sensei covered each technique, he had everyone pair up and begin application. Throughout the day, techniques were extracted from the first two Naihanchi kata, two of the Pinan kata – Shodan and Yondan specifically – and Rohai. Focal points included – as noted earlier – dropping while striking, maintaining centerline and shifting for more efficient footwork, recoiling to perpetuate the striking process, and using koshi-mechanics to minimize energy expenditure.
Janos sensei went from pair to pair monitoring everyone’s progress, and adding very valuable input where needed. Among the more colorful points illustrated was the importance of relaxation, demonstrated through a (pretend) drunken performance of staggering footwork, flailing hand and arm movements, and shifting body weight into KJT’s very own David Higgins – who didn’t seem to know whether he should laugh, block, or move out of the way. In contrast, Janos sensei gave the dojo an intense performance of Fukyugata Ichi where he appeared to be tightening every muscle in his body, striking with full force, and projecting a kiai with such ferocity that a wild animal would likely cut and run. Afterward, he explained the pointlessness of training this way, going on to ask, “What’s wrong with doing kata slowly?” While everyone racked their brains to come up with an answer, he exclaimed, “Nothing!” Upon further explanation, Janos sensei noted that practicing slowly allows karateka to execute techniques properly, and sense the muscles actually being used. By doing this, one can learn to eliminate unnecessary muscle movement and gain a more refined, energy-efficient application. Other application points were made through occasional demonstrations putting Lucas sensei in the role of “demo dummy;” a part that requires a fair amount of endurance for the full contact examples provided by the senior instructor.
After roughly two hours of training – presumably covering the key points of the day’s workout – Janos sensei asked, “Well, what do you guys want to know?” I think I heard two people whisper “everything” under their breaths; I know I was certainly thinking it. Although most of us didn’t seem to know where to start, Dave, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly where to start. He had very good and specific questions with one of the more memorable being about the opening technique of Naihanchi Nidan. What I had come to think of as breaking a grip from behind quickly evolved into an aggressive uraken-seiken-empi uchi (backhand, forehand, elbow strike), utilizing koshi motion to ground the opponent in a compromised position. Similar questions and techniques followed.
Once everything was comfortably wrapped up, Lucas sensei had the group bow out and change into formal attire (full gi) for the following promotion demo; the demonstrations began with Frank Carson who was testing for rokyu (sixth kyu). He started with a strong demonstration of kihon (basics), followed by a solid series of kata including Naihanchi Shodan and both Fukyugata. Afterward, Dave entered the floor to begin testing for ikkyu (first kyu); his first demo set included kihon, both Naihanchi kata, Fukyugata Ni, and Pinan Shodan. This was followed by the second set of demonstrations which included the three Pinan kata and Shuji no Kun (Yamani Ryu Bojutsu) for Frank, while Dave performed Tomari no Passai, Chinto, Ryubi no Kun (Yamani Ryu Bojutsu), and Kihon Sai (traditional Kobudo).
The third set of demonstrations placed senior student Joey Gordon with Frank in a performance of level three Yakusoku Kumite, while I joined Dave to perform various bunkai extracted from Naihanchi kata. Other demonstrations included a performance of Rohai by Joey and a performance of Sakugawa no Kun (Yamani Ryu Bojutsu) by yours truly. The promotion demonstration concluded with a brief round of sticky hands kumite, and, of course, promotions.
After an incredible day of training, Lucas presented Janos sensei with a bo made of white ash as a thank you for his time and willingness in sharing such invaluable knowledge with our dojo. Following the presentation, the group took Janos sensei out for refreshments before his trip back to Panama City. All in all, it was a truly enjoyable and enlightening Saturday.
- Eli Jones