- The inaugural Crossing The Pond Martial Expo was held last weekend in West Seattle. This seminar brought together six well-known and highly skilled instructors of martial arts and self-defense from across the United States and United Kingdom.
- Over the weekend, two one-hour workshops were held by instructors Al Peasland, Nicholas Yang, Kris Wilder, Rory Miller, Marc “Animal” MacYoung, and Iain “Tuna Fish Pizza” Abernethy.
- Approximately thirty-five people were in attendance. Among the students, at least one third appeared to be black belts and/or instructors themselves.
- Participants were open-minded, polite, and patient–especially with this author, who hadn’t done any Karate training since elementary school. Egoism, inappropriate competition, and input from self-declared “assistant instructors” was minimal. This is a credit to the affable seminar host, Kris Wilder, and the other teachers as well, who together set the right tone for the event.
Al Peasland on Crossing The Pond
- Each instructor taught from their own background, first introducing concepts and principles, and then a set of simple partner exercises to instill and explore their application. To the extent that the seminar had an overall theme, it was on applying traditional martial arts for real-world self-defense.
- Due to the diverse backgrounds of the attendees, and the limited amount of time available to each instructor, only basic techniques were taught. It was not a time for gathering new material, so much as reviewing old material from new perspectives and with new players.
- Whether by design or coincidence, most of the sections related to, and built upon each other. Still, I think the expo would have benefited from tighter coordination between the instructors, on which problems (e.g. developing power, interpreting kata, dealing with multiple attackers) they would individually or jointly address.
- Under my gold standard for martial arts seminars, each instructor spends a few minutes with each student: not only observing and correcting, but also interacting with them. This is how martial skills are most clearly transmitted, and by this measure the expo was a little disappointing. Sure, I was choked by Al, and Kris punched me a few times at my request, but I didn’t get twisted up by Nicholas, and Rory never hit me with a folding chair. Maybe next time.
- Under my platinum standard for martial arts seminars, the lectures and demonstrations are professionally filmed, and students have the option of buying the DVD afterwards, either for review or as a memento. A nice compromise would be to make some video clips available online, either on YouTube or a private website.
Crossing The Pond Roundtable
From my notes, here are a few of the central lessons taught by each instructor.
- Karate is not an art for fighting a single opponent (in the manner of a contest or a duel). It is an art for defending yourself against ruffians.
- For self-defense, forget about inflicting pain and go for the knockout. If you are holding an opponent’s head, don’t grasp it so tightly that you support their skull and brain (thus preventing a knockout).
- Stances are not meant to be held during an altercation. Move in and out of them as appropriate.
- If a stranger threatens you, it is safe to assume they have fighting experience or some other hidden advantage, and they expect to win. Do not ignore the basis of their assumption.
- Never enter a fair fight if you have any choice in the matter. If you can’t escape, then cheat early and often.
- Spiraling force is more effective than linear force, and punching the body is less effective than punching the mind.
- Physical conditioning is extremely important. Learning techniques is a waste of time if you aren’t conditioned to apply them well.
- A fight is like a dance: one person leads and another person follows. It is advantageous to lead.
- In the real world, nobody ever leaves their limb hanging out after an attempt to strike. Make use of the time and the space created when they draw back.
- A fight is like a discussion. Someone else may start the conversation, but you should quickly turn it into a monologue.
- There are two ways to deal with a threat. First, to appear even more dangerous yourself, such that they don’t want to take the risk of bothering you. Second, to immediately take a submissive pose, such that they become relaxed. Their relaxation will create an opportunity for surprise attack.
- It is important to have a variety of working tools in your toolbox. It is also important to have one or two favorites, such as a rear naked choke, that you can apply successfully without thinking.
- If a train is coming at you, there is no benefit in backing up. You have to actually step off the tracks.
- Every violent assault is conducted according to a set of rules. It is a mistake to pretend there are no rules. The first goal is to identify the rules, and to know which are immutable, and which can be rewritten or broken.
- The ideal movement does not just avoid damage, or inflict damage, or improve your position for follow-up action. It does all of these things simultaneously.
I am pleased to note that many of the expo teaching topics have already been discussed on this blog. Others will be reviewed in the near future.
In My Dojo, Cheaters And Failures Are Welcome
Defend Yourself the Taoist Way
Why Wing Chun Punches Never Miss
If Street Fights Were More Like Final Fight…
Xingyi And The Myth of The Defensive Martial Art
The Unwritten Rules of Mixed Martial Arts
9 Famous Artists’ Quotations on Martial Arts
I Challenge Kimbo Slice to a Fair Fight
Are You Fit Enough to Fight?
How to Discover The Purpose of Your Kata
Martial Arts of Addition and Subtraction
Movement, Martial Arts, and Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
Crossing The Pond Martial Expo 2010 will be repeated this weekend in Coventry, England. To register, visit their website. Whether you can make this one or not, I would be interested in hearing about the best and worst aspects of seminars that you have attended in the past.