I received a text message from Big Stuart which I had to read twice. It said that Brian Jacks would be taking a class at Yoshin Ryu on the 28th May and myself and Oli would both be welcome. The price for this lesson was the normal £5 matt fee. I had to pinch myself as Brian Jacks has been somewhat of an idol of mine for many years but this wasn’t entirely due to his prowess on the tatami.
Brian Jacks was the first Britain to win a medal in the world Championships; taking a bronze in Salt Lake City in 1967 he then went on to gain a second bronze in the 1972 Munich Olympics. As I wasn’t born until 1972 you might wonder why I hold him in such high esteem. Well it wasn’t until he started competing in the BBC TV show Superstars that he achieved real fame, winning it 4 times. I remember as a young kid cheering him on as he went on to win nearly every event that he entered. He was especially remembered for that famous gym test dual with another hero of mine Daley Thompson, the 2 x Olympic gold medal winner in the decathlon and probably Britain’s greatest ever Athlete. Jacks still holds the world record for the number of Dips and Squat thrusts he was able to do in a minute, 100 dips and 118 squat thrusts.
When I arrived at the club there was a real buzz around and also an awful lot of Judoka present, many of whom I had never seen. The senior Coach, Sensei Errol was also in attendance who himself is a 6th Dan. He approached Oli, Big Stuart and myself and introduced himself.
When Sensei Jacks appeared we were told to line up. The line of Dan grades stretched the entire length of the dojo and the kyu grades matched it on the opposite side. Despite being a 3rd kyu I was the second lowest grade on the mat and therefore I was virtually opposite Sensei Jacks when we bowed.
He warmed us up with some Uchi-komi and then had us practice all the techniques holding lapels only with one arm over uke’s and the other arm under. We then practiced with both hands either over or under. The purpose being that we could attack with left or right sided throws without having to change grips and without our opponent knowing which side we were going to attack. The throws we focused on were Hiza-guruma, tai-otoshi & Uchi-mata.
We then did a drill whereby we did the Okuri-ashi-barai dance and after the third step we both had to sweep, the purpose being to avoid the sweep and then sweep your opponents foot as it missed your own. Occasionally both partners fell to the ground as they had swept each other.
In between practicing the techniques he was open to questions and showed many of the dan grades other ways of doing certain techniques for example Tomoe-nage and Yoko-Tomoe-nage. He then had the person who asked the question come out and perform the throw to show that they had understood what he had said. At this point I was glad that I hadn’t asked any questions myself.
Throughout the lesson Sensei Jacks called upon the Johnson twins (both highly regarded young black belts who compete nationally) to either be his uke or perform throws on each other so that we could watch how things are done. At one point he asked them to do some throw for throw randori using the double lapel grip that we had been practicing with and I must say I was extremely impressed with their speed, power, movement and technique, none of which I could ever hope to obtain myself. Now I have randori’d with both of them and it is like trying to control an empty jacket caught in a tornado but seeing them against each other made me realise what high level Judo is all about.
We finished up with some Ne-waza which was done in a loser stays on format. I won my fight fairly quickly against a brown belt who I submitted with my old trusty favourite san-gaku-jime. Unfortunately this meant that I didn’t get to fight again as the losers then had to keep fighting until there were only a handful of them left on the mat. Still with the hot temperatures we have been experiencing recently it was nice to sit down and watch and catch my breath.
After the class we sat down around Sensei Jacks and he just talked and we asked him questions on anything we wanted to. I was racking my brain for something to ask him, especially regarding Superstars but my mind was blank. I wish I had been more prepared.
Before we left we had a group photo and then we had an opportunity to have photos taken with both Sensei Jacks and Sensei Errol. I hope to obtain these photos soon so I can post them on here but they were taken by a photographer and not by my own camera.