In the last month I was lucky enough to meet up with Shahier Razik during the Rocky Mountain PSA Open in March. It turns out that he is good friends with Jan Koukal aka. Kouki, who I got to spend a lot of time with.
After the tourney, Jan wanted to go snowboarding. Ciaran and I took him to Lake Louise where we spent a warm, slushy spring day racing down endless, wide open runs and had the entire mountain to ourselves. He left the next day to play a tourney in San Fran and was back the following week, although sick as a dog. Kouki still pretty much hung out all week and of course we went back to Louise to spend a cold, icy, sniffling, coughing day snowboarding with two-planker David. Then he was back off yesterday to play a tourney in the States.
So what was I able to learn from Jan about Squash? First off, it wasn't like an interview, we didn't just sit down for an hour and discuss his career. Jan really just wanted to relax and get his mind off of squash and hang out and do fun stuff, but not too fun cause he was deathly ill.
Kouki is actually a pretty Kooky guy, he makes a lot of jokes and really likes to laugh. He says that recently he's found more success cause there is less pressure to play these days, he plays cause he loves to play. He likes to tour and hang out with the guys on the tour...especially the Canadians. He loves it here in Calgary and loves training at a higher altitude, although he complains it's too dry here. The advice here is "If you don't love it, then don't f'n play."
We talked about different styles and techniques for hitting shots. Jan enjoys playing guys who have a refined and a bit more predictable or classic style. Guys who swing at the ball in a conventional way are easier to play because you know their options, you just have to play better. Kouki says he struggles playing against the grinding styles of the mexicans and central and south americans. He says it fast and never ending, not always the tightest shots or cleanest gets, but it's still squash and you have to keep at your own game and try to put it away cause they'll never give it to you. The advice here is "No one style is greater than another, competition tests the competitor's talent, training and desire to win."
Jan came to watch me play an interclub match and laughed that I should have skunked my opponent. I'm not sure that I was on the same page at first cause winning 11-0, 11-0, 11-0 seems a bit awful. By Jan asked me, why I slowed down when I was up 8-0, why should I care if my opponent feels bad. The advice here is "Control what you can control and that's just yourself, don't worry about anything else. And never allow yourself to play worse, always push yourself to play better with every shot."
Well I won't blather on about all the other stupid stuff we talk about, but hopefully Kouki finds his way back to Calgary, I'm sure that our paths will cross many more times.