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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Cram Session

My primary teacher is in Texas, and I'm in Missouri.

When I get to see him - maybe twice a year if I'm lucky - it's often around some event like a seminar or camp.

Easy for me, I already have the stick portion of the bindlestiff. Click on the image to see the source.

Recently I got to spend the better part of four days with him, because a camp we'd intended to attend (and teach at) was canceled (thanks, COVID-19!), but we'd already planned the time off, so he came up anyway and we trained and trained and trained and trained.

And trained.

Because we didn't have to spend most of our time at someone else's event, we got to focus in on just the material he wants us to know now, and to review permissible deviations from his stuff and correct the non-permissible ones.

It was making up basically six months to a year of material boiled down into just a few days.

A martial arts cram session, if you will.

What I'm doing is actually traditional for us.

My situation of being about 9 hours drive time away from my teacher is not uncommon, especially in the Modern Arnis and Kombatan (and general FMA) communities.

Our styles are relatively obscure, and to learn it, we often have to travel as there's rarely anybody near us to teach us. If we do have a teacher nearby, it might be someone who's just barely ahead of you in learning (that was the case with my first Modern Arnis instructor back in Mississippi).

We are often hours - or even days - travel away from our teachers. We have to get as much as we can with limited time when we see our instructors.

Our style spread across the world in this way, starting with the founders and now continuing with many of us, maybe most of us.

We attend a seminar or camp with a teacher, do a lot concentrated training, and then spend six months or longer figuring out what we learned (or thought we learned) and how we actually have to communicate it to others (if we have students) in context with the other stuff we already know.

It's a tough way to spread the knowledge. It's a double-hard way to train as a student, and triple-hard to figure out how to teach it.

However, one advantage to this method is that you can't just parrot exactly what your teacher tells you all the time. You have to think hard about what you've learned, because it's really hard to assimilate all you were told in that cram session, so you have to reason it out on your own.

I have ended up owning my training experience a lot more than I think I did when I had my teacher 30 minutes from my house (if traffic was heavy and I hit the lights wrong).

Make no mistake, I desperately miss training with my teacher three to five days a week like we did on average back when I lived in Texas.

But this cram session method is actually making me feel a little more connected to the people who came before me, and I think it's actually helping me grow in a way I couldn't otherwise.

Do you get to train with your teacher all the time, or are you having to travel and do it in chunks like I have to now? Do you like the cram session approach? Do you think it's better or worse to train this way? Let us know in the comments!

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