Finding Friends in a Strange Land
Recently, I was invited to participate in and teach at the second Partnership of Women Martial Artists Symposium down in Tampa, FL.
There were only two instructors there who were not Isshin-ryu Karate folk - me teaching Arnis, and the delightful Cynthia Shao (who taught locking concepts from Hapkido). This is only the second Symposium, and I bet, over time, there will be even more diversity in the background of instructors as the event grows.
Even WITH it being one-style heavy, the content wasn't relegated to only Isshin-ryu. In fact, most of the content - even a discussion of bunkai from a form I don't know - was totally accessible to an outsider like myself.
I spent half the day saying, "Hey, that thing they're showing from their style is just like this other thing we do in Arnis!" Y'know, like I do almost every single time I cross-train with anybody. What we have in common far outweighs the differences we have, y'all. It IS all the same.
I picked up a nice little jo drill I'll be playing with going forward, which was fun. If you have been a long-time reader of the blog you know I've spent time with that weapon (and other Japanese/Okinawan weapons) and the jo is my favorite of them all, just barely beating nunchaku.
This symposium also offered sessions that were lectures versus physical training. We had a session on sports psychology and a session on marketing a martial arts schools (the host school, Ingram's Karate, is a fantastic facility that if you're in the area you really need to check out). We got some good insights and advice from those sessions.
My session focused on "dos manos" stick techniques. I taught a drill and showed how the content related to practical, real-world applications in self defense, and suggested ways they could incorporate what I taught into what they do. I really tried to stay true to the old-school Modern Arnis concept of "art within your art" in this session (I only had an hour, so I had to be very focused).
Everybody caught on really quickly, and I was really pleased with how it turned out.
As an outsider, I'll admit, I had a little trepidation. I only knew one person - the organizer - and I only "knew" her online, I'd never met her in person (weirdly enough, Mr. Chick met her years ago in Texas, but our paths never crossed). Flying half-way across the country to train with complete strangers is a little daunting.
My worries were for naught, though. Every single participant was very friendly and made this stick-swinger not only welcomed but totally included in what was going on. I met some wonderful martial artists from New Jersey and Florida and New York and Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth even - practically neighbors of mine when I lived there).
I found friends in what is, for me, a strange training land.
I didn't get any pictures - I was just busy and I plain forgot! I'll share those on the Facebook page when photos others took get posted online. It was fun and totally worth the effort going. The next Symposium is in North Texas and you bet I'm going to try to go again.
Did you go to or teach at a gathering where you didn't know anyone very well? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments!