Maya Jagjivan Kalicharan delves deep into the beautiful practice of Jinenkan.
Birds chirp gently overhead and the early morning drizzle glistens on the greenery with the peeping sun as I meet Lance Horsman and his students for a Jinenkan class, or dojo, in Gillitts.
The natural ambience is in sync with the beautiful journey they take me on – of envisioning difficult terrain in ancient Japan, manipulating and manoeuvring the human body to learn how to fight, but becoming more peaceful in the process.“Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan means the hall of natural movement to deal with real-life situations. Every culture has developed ways to deal with conflict – this is the traditional Japanese way,” Lance explains, beaming with pride.
And he has reason to. He is the first South African to qualify as a Jinenkan instructor, and holds the second highest Dan. He travels to Belgium every year for instruction from Mario De Mol, currently the highest graded member in the Jinenkan, behind the Grandmaster Manaka Fumio, who founded the federation in 1996.
Lance recalls, “In 1993/94, I met the only instructor of ninpo in Durban at that stage. Ninpo is martial traditions developed in Japan. Ever since then, I fell in love.”
He trained for 15 years, staying away from practicing for some years due to injury, and in 2010, he joined Jinenkan.
Lance says, “I’ve used Jinenkan against armed attackers – no weapons, just me.”
It extends beyond self-defence. He narrates a moving story, “An elderly lady who came with her children in their 20s, later developed lung cancer and she died three times on the operating table. Doctors said she had an unbelievable will to live. She said, ‘That’s because my Sensei Lance told me to never give up’. I feel proud – that’s part of my legacy.”
Lance, a single dad to a teenage daughter, works in the insurance industry and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Leadership. He admits, “I have learnt more in life and business on the mat, than from my degrees.”
In his class, you will learn Junen taiso (body strengthening and flexibility), Ukemi (falling and rolling), Kihon (basic technique revision), Kumite (partnered training) and Kata (practice of traditional martial techniques). There’s a similar pattern of training for weapons and unarmed training, where the intensity ranges from Keiko Gata (basic training) to Shinken Gata (true case scenarios).
He elaborates, “If you’re interested in personal growth, then it’s an incredible place, but just a caution – it’s physically painful.”
Lance jokes, “Guys with samurai shoulders and watermelons under their arms don’t last long. They think they’re tough, but then a small woman pokes them in their throat with her thumb.”
As I observe the class, his words come to life.
Robyn Roux glides through the air with swift movements. She’s been training with Lance since 2012 and says it’s helped her with “self-confidence, fitness and flexibility.” She is a screenwriter who found her real-life love story in the dojo.
It was here that she met her husband, Henri Roux, a professional mechanical engineer. In 2015, he accompanied Lance to Belgium for training and grading. He credits Jinenkan for his improved physical awareness. “In the office, the street and walking to my car, the awareness is clicked on. Outside of this environment, I don’t know where I would have obtained this knowledge and experience from,” says Henri.
Training in Jinenkan is a dream come true for Brandon Herselman, a software architect. “As a little boy, I always wanted to be a real ninja,” he smiles. He started training in 2014 and describes Jinenkan as a spiritual journey. “Here I have learnt how to read and feel situations. It’s a lifestyle now. It gets under your skin and doesn’t let go.”
Lance shares a delightful rapport with his students and is open to new members. He says they must be over 16, eager to learn, and must love animals – he has five rescue dogs who are very comfortable on the mat too.