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Interview with "doyen" Milan Prokeš

Interview with Milan Prokeš
Martin Svitek, 1.1.2013 – When I first met Milan (Milan Prokeš, V. Dan, head instructor of Velešín Taekwon-do school, national team member, head of czech Taekwon-do federation technical comittee), I though he is just old guy from south bohemia, who is respected because he is head instructor of his own school and practices for long. What a mistake. In few years we know each other I had the privilege to develop friendship with him, to see that he is still improving despite of age and motivates me in much more ways than only physical part of Taekwon-do. So he is perfect person to interview.

Milan, how did you get into Taekwon-do? Why, where, because of know what I want to hear.
When I was 8, I wanted to be like my father - soccer player. We lived in block of flats and I had trained soccer technique in 2 metres square cellar. This doggedness continued in strenghtening when I was 14 - of course with goal to be adored by girls (what was kind of hard because I was the smallest in my class). Turning point in my career was when I got to league club Dynamo Č.B. in age of 17. I continuued in Škoda Plzeň during University studies and afterwards played for my hometown Velešín where people were great nad we got to regional championship. I was always kind of disappointed that my sport trains mostly lower body so I bought book of V.I. Levsky – „Karate“ and started regular practice. After one year of home training I wanted to sign to karate course in České Budějovice, but I did not have car, trainings were from 6 to 8 P.M. and bus back to Velešín departed at 10. I saw poster of martial art Taekwon-do by accident whose trainings had better schedule for I went there to ask what is this Taekwon-do about. Mr. Galbač told me that it is like karate, but much better. It was year 1988, I was 27 and started my training in the third beginners´ class in history of Pedagog Č.B. school. I was white belt for a year and then was chosen to take part in training camp with Toni Nobilo in Yugoslavia where I got 8.kup. Then master Hwang came to České Budějovice, I got green belt and opened dojang in Velešín, it was 8.12.1990...our profound history is available on our website if anyone is interested....

What is the difference in your training back then and nowadays (not only quantity, but also quality). Everyone who had the honour to see you without T-shirt lives in idea that you must be practicing every day - men are jealous, women dreaming...

What a slogan, I have to remember it "men are jealous, women dreaming..." :o) ...trainings in my early years, when I got white belt after 3 months were in yugoslavian karate style, so dedicated to cardio and sparring. We trained nearly daily. It was Master Hwang who brought order and meaning to south bohemian Taekwon-do. Unfortunately there were no regular regional seminars like nowadays. I always strived to find a way, new things, new methods. For example I was working from 6 A.M., but came half an hour earlier to do 90 press ups and then blocks and strikes I´ve learnt on training. My colleagues got used to it pretty fast :o). So I tried to train daily, bit by bit, unfortunately mostly alone. I opened dojang in Velešín with green belt with noone to practice with me, but trainings were colourful - strenghtening with both bodyweight and weights, sprints, patterns, gymnastics....After Master Hwang mentioned "training secrets" I started to focus more on techniques. In deep corner of my soul I envy our youngsters all the knowledge and regular training they can have from their early years. If you don´t let your body shatter you will always remember what you have trained in youth. I know it from my own soccer experience....
My nowadays week trainings are:
- everyday yoga, few combinations from patterns or fundamental movements, cold shower and leave to work. It takes about 30-40 minutes. I skip rope about 3 times a week, always 1000 jumps, different styles, different paces - it takes 10 minutes. I also try to practice at least 3 patterns a day and 3 times a week martyring my dalyon-de for 20 minutes or so. I lead trainings on Monday and Wednesday for advanced students, and beginners on Thursday (where I do not train to much). Friday is nice, because on training for red belts and above I practice nearly everything. No training during weekends, only morning stretching and dalyon-de from time to time.

Who, from taekwondoists, influenced you the most?
Our master Hwang for sure....he is the reason why I am where I am in Taekwon-do. I must´t forget Jirka Gazda (first I.Dan holder in Czech republic), who helped me a lot when I was 4. kup struggling to understand techniques. I was not able to regularly visit Prague to train with Master because family and work responsibilities and Jirka travelled from Prague to South Bohemia to teach me, to share his knowledge. Rostislav Kaňka (former national team headcoach, instructor of Tong-Il České Budějovice) helped me a lot with my preparation for II. Dan testing (in time when I did not grade for 10 years and had short affair with WTF Taekwon-do).
And in recent history it is both Honza´s and both Jana´s as national team coaches (Jan Mraček, Jan Klaška, Jana Lazorová, Jana Hoňková). They showed me many new things, it is not about me improving so rapidly now, but they are great inspiration for training I lead in home dojang, for new generations....

And what is the reason you are staying in Taekwon-do for so long?
You mean that in time when dying from heart attack in age of 40 become normal I am to old to move at all? :o))) I think it is not only because of regular exercise, but also because what I eat. When I fell in love with Taekwon-do, I though about it both as art of self-defence and health exercise. I got interested in yoga, diet habits. I hadn´t eat meat for two years…..and eventhough I am not vegetarian anymore I am trying to eat as much as I spend, not more….and I keep in mind what E.T.Seton said: „Body is temple of the soul.“ …so I take care of it.

But away from physical aspect, that you body is healthy enough to keep training, what motivates you? What is it that you are not sitting in pub drinking beer just remembering good old days when you were practicing?
Hmmm, hard question and much harder to answer…
I think my soul started to be formed in cellar playing with ball, during my calisthenics days when I was really weak and small on primary school. These trainings wrote to my brain that it is important to preservere, to practice regularly. And of course knowledge that nothing is for free. Then when karate and taekwon-do got me, training on regular basis was the only way to improve, but I also started to study healthy lifestyle. I have transformed to someone with body that needs to move otherwise I did not feel well and relaxed. Nowadays I need to balance rest and physical activity and I am still learning what is the right ratio. But away from philosophy I know that you have to spend as much energy as you take, so after training I can enjoy beer and tasty meals without getting to big :o) And also I cannot imagine to just sit in pub without training first. After good training I enjoy my friends to chat and sing together, then I am happy. And there is third motivation and that is my training notebook – I would be ashamed of myself having it empty.

How would you describe your Taekwon-do school? Sport, traditional….or is it to simplyfing stupid question?
It is not stupid at all….you know Svíťa (author Martin Svitek´s nickname) our school exists for 22 years, you personally was one of important persons during our 20. anniversary celebration and during this pretty long history it is always changing…..competitions, traditional Taekwon-do, competitions again….it depends upon instructors and students´s generation practicing at that time. It is just few year ago when we did not take part in tournaments at all or brought 3 competitors in maximum. It is again changing now, maybe my national team performance motivated it a bit. Few weeks ago I discussed trainings with our youths drinking beer after training and they had many arguments what we should do more and what we forget to do and not focus enought on etc…..but I have said: „Boys, but how often have I seen you on training?“ Finally they counted it is maximum 2 times a week. What can we focus on then? But there are boys and girls with will to improve and compete and they train hard….we will see in future what will it brings. J

Now I want to know something about your appearance in czech national team. Everyone here knows you did really well (2times Worlds champion only in individuals!!), but I have another question. How is it to train under someone who knows Taekwon-do well for sure, but still it is someone you remember as kid or talented 20 years old competitor from Moravia? (czech national team is led by former national team members who are all around their thirties, national team chief instructor Jan Mraček did not reach 30 years of age yet, still he is one of the most succesful competitor in the world of Taekwon-do).
I have no problem with it …. I came there as one of national team members who have to listen, do what he is said to and I believe that everyone has to study and accept new ideas no matter what Dan, age or status he has. Accept ideas and training methods not only from older ones! Your young generation brings new approach, different methods and it is good to study you. For example I watched your pattern videos, you are national champion so it is good to see. But one have to defeat his pride and ego to do it. I was practicing my VI. Dan pattern, which Jana (Jana Hoňková, one of national team coaches and former succesful national team member) doesn´t know step by step, but understand movement deeply, so criticized nearly every technique (there is nice photo from Tallin where she is counting my mistakes on fingers) – posture, power, stance….feeling I am just 30 again comes quickly then :o) And in sparring it is much worse, because you got cleverly hit by teenagers and when one of Honza (Jan Mraček and Klaška – both national team coaches) or Roman (the most experienced senior team member) stand in front of you, you have to forget age, degree, status, titles and just fight like normal boy, without all the ego covers, just getting your beating. But at the other hand I am allowed to be boy once again in other ways – I have fun and they care of me, I just listen what instructors prepared for my improvement.

How many days did you spent on national team camps and how many days did it t take to recover?
Hmm…don´t know preciously, Svíťa….I was on national team enroll in January, but then gave up because of time, family, work…..but about 2 months before European championship in Sofia Honza Klaška calls me, that I am nominated to practice in veteran V. Dan patterns…..I disagreed again and then GM Hwang called me to come to Třeboň that he has to discuss some matters with me….and it was it, they just persuaded (forced!!! :o) ) me to accept. When we arrived to Sofia Honza told me that I will participate in everything. National team camps are hard and the hardest is that mind wants to, but body is shattered. So I had overloaded me to often and regeneraton is much slower than for teenagers. We spent few nice moments with GM Hwang talking about injuries and what and where hurts. Interesting note – GM Hwang doesn´t consider silver veteran category as veterans, so rest of our veteran team is young in his eyes :o)
Preparation for World championship was much worse….I wasted myself during first („easy“ as Jan Mraček described it) run to Schwarzenberg´s tomb. My legs were sore during all 2phase trainings we had afterwards. GM Hwang saved me once when I was allowed to ran with girls in the morning and he sad: „Milan, it is morning, you better only walk with me.“… morning Třeboň was never so nice for me …
When there was last camp, 2 weeks before leaving to Worlds, I got bitten by dog, after minor skin surgery doctor told me that I can take part in Worlds, but only as a spectator. Honza Klaška had solution again : „You´ll fight just with your legs.“

Away from competitions and national team. What you consider the most important thing on Taekwon-do nowadays?
I have started Taekwon-do pretty late, when I was 27. …I had good basics from profi soccer and my calisthenics practice so I can compare. Despite of fact that Taekwon-do exercises whole body and keep it flexible till late years you can also get back to it whenever you want to. We have many such examples in Velešín both young and earlier born who stopped practicing because of numerous reasons and now they are back. It is important for me that we oldies can still be with younger ones, you test us a lot, but still you allow us to be between you…this is impossible in soccer…

This is something I have to ask you, because that is what I think about a lot. You do really have people who stopped practicing and then returned? Not for half a year but for years? Because I can´t think about such a person in our school. So I wonder if it is because I am impatient (you opened your school 8 years before I even got my white belt) or it is just problem of these people who have to find reason why to really get back or there is some quality of dojang that brings people back in time they doesn´t really care of belts and medals…
Yes, it really is true. All three of Císař family, Milan Rouha, my elder in times of Pedagog Pavel Šmíd and last but not least member of our competition team Jarda Bartizal. These pauses in practice has many reasons (family, study, work…) and it would be probably better to ask them personally what made them return. But I can speak about me, I had Taekwondo crisis: I. Dan in 1992, II. Dan in 2003 – 11 years later!!

Now my son Miki (II. Dan) goes through kind of „crisis“. He fell in love with mountains and climbing and Taekwon-do got to edge of his interests. Will he return? We will see….maybe this is one of life´s beauty - everything isn´t lined, is not as we think it will be.
I have to say that through these „backcomers“ and cowork with them that became friendship one learnt tolerance. It is like in marriage, you can not be always the one who make decisions, who is on top…..

What do you consider as privilege of Czech Taekwon-do and what you believe we have to work on the most?
The greatest privilege we have is GM Hwang. I think everyone would agree that it is hard to find more humble and courteous person among Taekwon-do personas. You personally have much more experiences from international seminars so you can compare. I feel as good promise to future that new strong personalities are rising here - many times World Champion Jan Mraček, Jan Klaška, Jana Hoňková, you.....have to mention our federation´s president Martin Zámečník who promotes us through the World and then our top level referees Rostislav Kaňka, Ondřej Vrábel... this is team that makes us honourable in eyes of others.
Of course there is dark side of this. Through professionalism we forget that Taekwon-do is "just" hobby for most of people, then tolerance, undestanding and humanity is sometimes covered by ego. As wise words in Encyclopaedia says "Sincerity without humanity may be rather cruel."
So I hope more friendly athmosphere and humanity will develop in our Czech Taekwon-do, because time is hard and no life last forever. And at the end there will be just memories, so let try to create nice memories worth of remembering.

Thank you for your answers, my friend.

Martin Svitek, IV. Dan
The website visitor's coments
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lukasl (8.1.2013 – 16:08)
Zajímavý rozhovor :-)
Zajímavý rozhovor :-)
banesto (5.1.2013 – 20:06)
Pavle souhlasim, ze pokud ma clovek vse pod nosem, v tomto pripade informace, tak si jich vazi vyrazne mene. Musim-li neco najit, vypatrat ci se na to nekoho zeptat, tak to ma pro me vetsi hodnotu. A hlavne to chci vedet. To co mame pred ocima nas casem prestane zajimat.
Pavle souhlasim, ze pokud ma clovek vse pod nosem, v tomto pripade informace, tak si jich vazi vyrazne mene. Musim-li neco najit, vypatrat ci se na to nekoho zeptat, tak to ma pro me vetsi hodnotu. A hlavne to chci vedet. To co mame pred ocima nas casem prestane zajimat.
snablik (5.1.2013 – 18:46)
Paráda, hodně inspirativní. Pan Prokeš je asi supr člověk a jeho tréninky můžou být zajímavé. Nad větou, že závidí mlaďasům, že mají spoustu informací, jsem se pozastavil. Asi by bylo na dlouhou diskuzi co je lepší, přecejenom když má člověk něčeho málo, tak si toho více váží. (najít si něco na internetu X prodiskutovat to s instruktorem, mistrem)...
Paráda, hodně inspirativní. Pan Prokeš je asi supr člověk a jeho tréninky můžou být zajímavé. Nad větou, že závidí mlaďasům, že mají spoustu informací, jsem se pozastavil. Asi by bylo na dlouhou diskuzi co je lepší, přecejenom když má člověk něčeho málo, tak si toho více váží. (najít si něco na internetu X prodiskutovat to s instruktorem, mistrem)...
mirek (2.1.2013 – 13:09)
Perfektni! Inspirativni. dik
Perfektni! Inspirativni. dik
pida (1.1.2013 – 22:00)
„upřímnost bez lidskosti dokáže být hodně krutá….“

jdu si to asi vryt do pameti... parkrat jsem na to dojel...
Svito moc pekny rozhovor... :))
„upřímnost bez lidskosti dokáže být hodně krutá….“

jdu si to asi vryt do pameti... parkrat jsem na to dojel...
Svito moc pekny rozhovor...
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