Jimmy Juno has had a lot of memorable moments in his long career. Beginning as a white belt in 1987, he has the distinction of being Sensei Mikami’s longest continuously training male student.
Jimmy first met Sensei when he brought his car in for service at a local car dealership where Jimmy worked. When he learned that Sensei was a very accomplished martial artist who had won many high level international kumite competitions, Jimmy knew without question that he had to study with him. But first, Jimmy would spend almost a year preparing: running sprints, doing bag training and getting into the best condition possible. He intended to make the most of his opportunity to train with the best.
By the time Jimmy was a purple belt, he added a special kumite focused class led by Joe Peco to his regular training schedule. And the extra practice clearly paid off. Jimmy took first place at the Mid South Completion when he was still a brown belt. Jimmy continued to compete at every opportunity. “Kumite was always it,” Jimmy confirmed. It has truly been a lifelong passion.
I think you will agree every belt test is memorable, but some rank advancements stand out more clearly than others. For Jimmy, his shodan test wasn’t nearly as memorable as his first class after he made rank. He went to class as usual on that Monday night but then Sensei called him out and personally presented him with his very first black belt-a great honor! And then Johnny Caluda, the top fighter in the club, called him out to spar and taught him some serious humility in a tradition that’s called “hammering down the nail”. The memory of that night is still vivid even after all these years.
Jimmy reminisced, ” I came up the ranks when Jerry Kattawar, Johnny Caluda and Kyriakos were all in their prime. Fathi had just come back from training in Japan.” ” I got better by necessity, for survival!”, he confided with a laugh.
Many people consider the sandan test to be the toughest kumite test. So when Jimmy was preparing for his sandan test, he wanted to be as thorough as possible. He started by looking at the people who would be testing with him and tried to figure out who he might be paired with for kumite so he could work on strategy. It happened that Lane Nevils was planning to test and Jimmy became convinced that surely Lane would be his opponent so he began to train with Lane in mind. On the day of the test however, there was a participant that Jimmy wasn’t expecting in the line up, Chimen from Birmingham. And this guy was blazing fast! For his kata, Chimen did Jion. And after he finished, Sensei called him back out to do the first four moves.Then Sensei came around from behind the examiners table and demonstrated the solidity of his stance by grabbing hold of his shoulder and actually walking up his supporting leg! So the guy was wicked fast and strong!
And who do you think Sensei paired Jimmy with for kumite? That’s right! Chimen. So all of that careful preparation was for nothing. But not to worry, because it all turned out well in the end. The picture at the left is from that fight. As you can see, Jimmy actually lifts Chimen off his feet with a well placed front kick stopping Chimen’s punch just inches from his face. Jimmy won the match and was awarded his sandan. It was a good day and one he will always remember.