An Interview with Jeremy Nguyen

On July 9, 2020, Vancouver BC, Canada


Jeremy at the age of nine taking a blue belt test


Tameshiwari in the yellow belt test in fall 2015


Competing in the 2016 Vancouver Cup


Had the privilege to spar with Daihyo Masanaga at Honbu, Kobe Japan in 2018


Sparring with Shihan Tats to prepare for the 2019 International Tournament

Q1. When and how did you join our club?


Growing up watching martial arts icons such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Micheal Jay White, there was something about the fighting that gratified me and I knew then, that I wanted to learn. I recall picking up a book about Karate in my elementary school library when I was 7―and it was cool enough to set my interest in stone. I checked it out, and as soon as my dad came home from work, I told him I wanted to learn karate. After a couple of weeks of searching, we stumbled upon Shihan Tats and stayed there ever since. 


Q2. What do you remember from training in the dojo when you were a child?


The classes were mostly light and comedic sprinkled in with some competitiveness; it was a great combination to keep children like me engaged. It was the little competitions that Shihan hosted such as relay races, or who could punch and kick the hardest that inspired me to keep training. But there was this one particular moment in class where Shihan asked the class “what happens if you lose your balance” during Kihon. Out of everyone, Arjun replied “if you lose your balance, you lose your dignity” passionately with a huge grin on his face. Still makes me laugh to this day. 


Q3. Now you’ve grown up to be 18 years old. What aspects of Karate do you enjoy?


As an 18-year-old, we become overwhelmed with school, jobs, social life, and the mounting pressure to “know what we want to do for the rest of our lives.” But as soon as I step into training, and let my fighting high take over, all my worries and thoughts disappear. It allows me to feel grounded and focus on the one thing that I love. 

"As soon as I step into training, and let my fighting high take over, all my worries and thoughts disappear. It allows me to feel grounded and focus on the one thing that I love. "


Q4. You competed in the international tournament in December 2018. Tell us why you decided to take part in such a high caliber competition and how did you prepare for the tournament?


Having trained with Sempai Mark and finding success in the local and Canadian tournaments, I was eager to find exceptional fighters my age and elevate my own skill. When Shihan offered me the opportunity in December of 2017, I jumped at the opportunity. Of course, none of this would have happened without my parents major support and active participation over my decade of training. Whether it be the insanely stupid amount of miles they have driven to and from, the unconditional support from the sidelines, the volunteering, or the fees spent on tournaments or classes, none of it would have been possible without them! 


We had very little time to prepare―11 months to be exact. I haven’t trained seriously nor competed since we changed organizations back in 2015, so I was already belated in terms of skill and experience. In-training with Shihan Tats and Sempai Mark, we focused heavily on what I couldn’t do myself such as technique, stamina, and endurance. We followed a consistent and brutal regime of the infamous Nakamura combo among other drills in a rotating schedule that developed technique, speed, and power. The end of each session included hard sparring and conditioning, such as toughing the knuckles on wood or rolling a barbell on the shin. On my own time, I spent a couple of days in the gym a week doing a 5X5 program to develop muscle mass and strength. By the time the tournament came by, I put on 15 lbs of muscle. 

"Of course, none of this would have happened without my parents major support and active participation over my decade of training. "


Q5. You had a tough match with a Japanese fighter from Honbu. How did you feel and perform throughout the tournament?


As soon as the whistle blew, my athletic high kicked in and I was throwing things I’d usually never do in training but felt strangely natural. The first minute in, I felt strong and had it going. My low kicks were buckling his legs and definitely feeling the weight of my punches. But this is where my lack of experience caught up to me. He started using the space and time to his advantage and evaded me more and more while I tried to chase and throw in a number of techniques before the main round finished. By the time the round ended, I was far more exhausted than I usually am―most likely from the onsen the night before and still tired from the traveling.


The extension round began, where I mostly had control, until the last thirty seconds when he took advantage of my exhaustion and pushed back. Because of this, the judges gave the match in his favour.


With the Team Vancouver members at the 2019 International Tournament in Osaka, Japan


Participating with Sempai Mark in the 2018 International Tournament


Thursday Fight Training with Sempai Mark


Training in the infamous Nakamura combo during the 2019 Summer Camp


Teaching children at Killarney Dojo


Time to relax with fellow students in the 2019 Summer Camp


Trained and competed together with Sempai Sasha all along for the past two years

Q6. Then, we know you planned to compete again last year and trained hard for it. However, you could not participate due to a knee injury. Tell us how you felt through the series of events you experienced with the injury.


Up until I trained for the first international tournament, I was playing volleyball competitively. During, I developed knee pains here and there, but nothing too serious where I thought to myself that I should get it checked out or take more precautions. By the time I was training for the second international tournament, the knee pains developed into tendonitis in both legs. Our prior routine had to be changed and adapted significantly. But more importantly, the mental toll the injury took. For several months, mental issues that I never thought would have occurred started burdening other aspects of my life. The emotional reactions that I was experiencing such as mental blockades, frustration, isolation, and sadness started mounting from the inability to perform the way I should be. 


By the time the tournament rolled around, I not only became jealous and resentful of others but myself; jealous and resentful that I robbed myself of the opportunity of competing again on the world stage. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a friend, that I gained a view of objectivity and became accepting of the predicament I was placed in. It was then that I decided I wouldn’t let a fallback derail my potential, and made it my goal to compete in the world tournament once more. 


Q7. We know you teach and lead children’s classes on a regular basis. What benefits do you receive from the teaching?


I have worked with children through Karate for about 5 years now, and I gradually understand more and more that it's a privilege to teach someone who is so malleable. Not only does it take patience for them to learn and pick something up that is challenging, but on my own part as well, to deliver material in a way that’s conducive and worthwhile. It’s so rewarding to witness those little “mind...blowing!” moments when a child is finally able to perfect a technique or those seconds of innocence and awe where they can’t seem to grasp a “fancy” combination.


Q8. It has been over ten years since you first joined us. What motivates you to keep training for so many years?


I remember when there was a period where frankly, I wasn’t interested in Karate anymore―it lasted a year and a half. I took the training for granted, and no longer had the motivation to keep going but stayed because my dad wanted me to. It wasn’t until I began training with Sempai Mark during that period that I began to respect the work that went into preparing for tournaments. I began to regain motivation and trained hard―but motivation never lasts: it’s ephemeral. These impulses eventually run out and make everything seem like it’s a chore, and that is something that you can’t afford during serious training. Motivation is something that is very ungrounded, and when it comes to practicality, it can’t be relied on. So what does it come down to? Discipline. It’s the consistent, measurable and committed actions that get results. This is the mindset that I try to bring with me every time I step into the dojo. 


"Discipline. It’s the consistent, measurable and committed actions that get results. This is the mindset that I try to bring with me every time I step into the dojo. "

Q9. What are your short- and long-term goals in Karate?


My short term goal is to attain a black belt in the near future. My long term goal is to train my own camp of high-calibre fighters one day. 


Q10. Please give a message to Kohais.


In ways more than you can appreciate, Karate embodies various lessons that extend outside of just the physical aspect, and I’m just beginning to realize that. The opportunity to witness and respect the work, commitment, and dedication it takes to do Karate teaches us humility, and therefore continuingly redefining our notions of what progress and introspection are in other facets of life. In a highly unprecedented time such as this, we must take this moment to reflect and find the meaning of why we continue practicing Karate for ourselves. Osu!