On Saturday, June 11th, I attended my first martial arts seminar. The key word there is "my." I've attended lots of seminars, especially when I've trained at Aikido of Central New York, both now and in the past. I love seminars - so much knowledge and training packed into a few hours. But Saturday was the first seminar that I was personally responsible for. I proposed it to my Senseis at Five Star Martial Arts. And to their credit, they gave me the go-ahead, even though they really didn't know much about Aikido. I then made the arrangements with Yousuf Mehter Sensei at Aikido of CNY, who was extremely gracious to such a young dojo that had never done anything like a guest seminar before. I scheduled everything, created all of the marketing materials, and promoted the seminar for the better part of a month. At the seminar, I greeted all of the attendees, checked everyone in at the front desk, and showed our guests around the dojo. My Senseis even kindly allowed me to make the opening introductory remarks and kick off the day's training. This was my baby - something I'd never done before.
I confess, I was a bit nervous leading up to this. I take a lot of pride in doing a good job, in being successful, and in serving with quality and distinction whenever I take on a task. I wanted this to be a big success, for many reasons. Of course, my own personal credibility was on the line. It would have been very embarrassing to me and to my dojo if nobody showed up for this seminar. As it was, we had to shift the children's class into the main adult seminar because only a handful of kids signed up (and most of them were mine). But more than that, this was the very first guest seminar at my home dojo, and its success or failure could easily have an impact on the future of seminars at our school.
I believe martial arts seminars are important. Learning from different instructors who are recognized as experts in their style is truly valuable. More, I think that exposure to different styles is useful to the martial artist who wants to be well-rounded and to understand all ways that different styles approach movement, strikes, blocks, stances, grappling, and all of the other aspects of hand-to-hand combat, fitness, training methodology, and martial arts theory. I also like the way seminars can bring people together from different dojos to meet, train with each other, and form part of a larger martial arts community.
As such, I sincerely want seminars to be available as a regular, ongoing part of the training for Five Star's Karate students. And the only way that's likely to happen is if they're successful, well-attended, and well-regarded by the students, the Senseis, and the other martial artists in the area. So when I say that Saturday's seminar could easily have had a long-term impact - positive or negative - on the future of seminars at Five Star, it's not difficult to believe.
Fortunately, it was a huge hit. We had about 20 total participants, including some senior students from Aikido of CNY who were extremely helpful to the Aikido novices at Five Star. Sensei Mehter spent two solid hours teaching us a series of techniques that all built on the basics of the style - notably Ikkyo, Nikyo, and Sankyo. He was a terrific instructor as always, and really great with the six kids and pre-teens who attended. In between techniques, he would call the children up to the front to show what they'd learned, which they all seemed to really enjoy. And so did everyone else. The look of wonder on everyone's face was incredibly gratifying. The awe and amazement they expressed at what we were learning sent my spirit soaring. THIS is exactly how a seminar is supposed to be - enthusiastic martial artists being blown out of the dogis by the fantastic new knowledge they're learning that's different from anything they've trained in before.
I got to make the rounds a lot, working with everyone and lending the benefits of my limited experience to those with even less than I have. I got to experience their joy up close. Now looking back on it a couple of days later, I'm filled with gratitude to everyone who helped bring the seminar together and make it a success - to Mehter Sensei, to Senseis Pastore and Napoli, to the attendees from Aikido of CNY and the Oswego Aikido Club, and to the student participants from Five Star Martial Arts. The bar has been set and set high - our next seminar will have to be outstanding to compare with this one, but at least everybody will know that a Five Star Seminar means the best in quality martial arts instruction. People will talk, word will get out, and the next time Mehter Sensei comes and teaches for us (if he graciously agrees to return in a year or so, perhaps), I fully expect to have twice as many people on the floor, eager to see why everyone raved about this seminar so much. I know I'll be there!