2019 Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation Kodanja, Northeast Black Belt Camp and Spring Cycle Dan Shim Sa

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 9:42am — webmaster

2019 Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation
Kodanja and
Northeast Black Belt Camp

Springfield College, Springfield, MA
May 31st, June 1st, and June 2nd

by Gary Starecheski, Sam Dan
with contributions from students of Crouching Lion Tang Soo Do: Jonathan Nelson, Connor Hamilton, Helen Goodyear, Tamara Kushwaha, Marc Nemeth, and Gil Rowe

The Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation Kodanja (Master’s Clinic) and Black Belt Camp and Shim Sa running at the same time? This could be a dream come true or a nightmare of confusion. Thanks to great planning and teamwork all events were successful, and they intersected to provide even more opportunities for learning and fellowship. This was a fantastic opportunity for students to meet and learn from Masters and students from across the country. The great instruction we received was not surprising, as that is clearly the standard in our organization. It was amazing to see the Masters’ desire to learn. We often hear “we are all students” but to see the sharing of knowledge and insight happening almost every minute really demonstrated how to “walk the talk.”

Kodanja orientation presentations by Senior International Master Klacko and International Master Duva whetted our appetite for what was to come over the next 3 days. Kwan Jang Nim St. James then focused our attention in his discussion of “What Does a Master Look Like?” Listing all the attributes was enlightening and daunting, as we compared ourselves to the ideal. Kwan Jang Nim provided a more concise description: learn-grow-share-serve-lead-inspire. This, along with his specific expectations of “follow up and follow through”, “take responsibility”, “grow the art and membership”, and “have fun” sent us off to the rest of Kodanja filled with Moo Do Spirit.

Friday morning and afternoon were spent advancing our knowledge and ability of hyungs (empty hand and weapons). The technical details of each hyung were emphasized, and there was consistent use of shil ki (practical applications). This brought us to a deeper understanding of each hyung and provided a way to remember the technical details. The afternoon ended with Kwan Jang Nim discussing and leading us in “Energy Cultivation.” Many comments such as “I feel recharged” and “My tired muscles are ready for action again” demonstrated the success and utility of this presentation and workshop.

After dinner and networking, the Kodanja Shim Sa brought intense focus and an amazing combination of energy expenditure and energy generation. The Shim Sa Kwan Nim consisted of Kwan Jang Nim St. James, Senior International Master Klacko, International Master Busby and International Master Michael Jett. Their comments, corrections, and encouragement made the test a learning experience and brought the performance level to a higher peak.

The evening ended with International Master Duva giving an in-depth explanation of the five elements followed by theory and practice of meditation. Many of us have looked at the five elements without fully appreciating their application not only in Moo Do but in relationships, teaching, and introspection.

Saturday morning before breakfast was a concurrent session with Black Belt Retreat for some trigger point therapy and a dry needling demonstration by Master Estrada. This exercise was to help relax our muscles and wake us up for the big day. We learned the right pressure points for the best results. Students worked together to find the right spots to apply pressure and had opportunity for supervised practice.

Relaxed by trigger point therapy and refueled by breakfast, the rest of the morning was focused on advanced self-defense, including applications of basic moves. The master instructors covered the complicated topics of knife and gun defense by focusing on a few basic concepts and simple moves for an extremely practical session.

The afternoon started with an in-depth discussion of nutrition for performance by Ms. Samantha Gafford. There are many fads in this area, so her ability to explain the nutrition basics and how to apply them was refreshing. This also gave us an opportunity to digest our lunch and be ready for the next phase of Kodanja Shim Sa!

After the Shim Sa, we had more sessions that emphasized using basic concepts to advance our knowledge and technique. Master Klacko’s explanation and drills on the importance of footwork in self-defense improved our ability to flow smoothly while keeping control of our partner/opponent. Master Estrada expertly taught basic escrima techniques and how to use them for advanced self-defense.

After cleanup and a welcome change out of our well-used DoBahks was "meet the Masters" dinner: an excellent chance to ask specific questions of the many attending Masters and candidates (nearly 40) that we do not normally have an opportunity to speak with. It is always enlightening to get another's point of view on various subjects—from forms to falls and rolls. Even the youngest students felt comfortable being on a more personal level with the Masters and their other seniors.

Saturday evening brought the Kodanja and Black Belt Camp together. As everyone shuffled into the lecture hall, at least one student mentioned that his “dogs were barking.” This invited a response from another student who suggested that her dogs were so tired that they couldn’t bark anymore. Another student carefully confessed that he thought he saw the Energizer Bunny sitting on the campus grounds next to his drum and holding a sign that said “I Can’t Keep On Going but APTSDF Campers Can.” It was apparent that many of the tired participants would welcome the opportunity to undertake the next phase of their training while comfortably seated in a classroom listening to the featured lecturers. But this session would not be simply about listening to a lecture delivered by ordinary presenters.

Kwan Jang Nim was on hand to deliver the keynote address and everyone would be immersed in a full-on discussion about the essential element of their training. Grandmaster’s keynote address focused on the relationship between Greatness and Spirit. During his presentation, Kwan Jang Nim invited everyone to identify persons who capture the elements and essence of great spirit. Mohandas K. Ghandi, Mother Theresa and the late great Grandmaster Hwang Kee were included among the numerous leaders who were recognized in the conversation.

After identifying common elements that are typically demonstrated by persons having “great spirit,” Kwan Jang Nim contemplated that persons with great spirit “don’t go to a career, they go to a calling." They are committed to their mission and they stay with it no matter what comes their way. Their purpose is so great, and their resolve is so strong, that they will succeed no matter what comes along. The connection between great spirit and realization of purpose is the basis for the concept that “Great Spirit leads the way to Certain Victory.”

As if to seamlessly reinforce the principles that KJN shared with his students, Master Desorda followed up with a group discussion about the importance of practicing self-defense (Ho Sin Sul). Students and instructors were reminded that Ho Sin Sul is the foundation of Tang Soo Do and the principal focus of our training. Each element of our practical training is interconnected with Ho Sin Sul at the center.

Master Jason Duva followed up with insights about the progress and achievements of the Healing Warrior Society. The first HWS retreat will be at the Eastover Estate in New Hampshire September 20-22, with a comprehensive program planned and possibilities of special guest speakers.

It was time to relax, but did we sit around? Nope, it was time to socialize/network and have some serious fun learning the merengue under the expert and entertaining tutelage of Master Khodko. He had us laughing while learning the basics and then applying them to more advanced footwork and circling moves.

Sunday began with Master Drewicz teaching how to increase mobility by adding heat and length. This was a great way to prepare for the physical exertions to come. Mr. Paul Dulaney then showed how technology and social media can be leveraged to recruit and retain students. For our final Kodanja class, International Master Busby showed how economy of motion is used for efficient defense. The extra benefit is that endurance is enhanced when energy is not wasted.

We then gathered on the green with Black Belt Retreat attendees for group hyung led by the drumbeats and encouragement of Kwan Jang Nim. The energy of group hyung is almost indescribable and was even more amazing since there had been so much physical training in the days before.

But there is more! Black Belt Retreat had its own full agenda. Sessions on hyungs, self-defense, weapons, tournament judging, footwork, sparring, falls and rolls, breaking, planning a demonstration, and Certified Instructor Training were rounded out by the Kodanja concurrent sessions already described. Really, it’s TOO MUCH to cover all sessions so here are some highlights:

The Dan Shim Sa was truly impressive. The overall energy level was extremely high and all of the candidates were obviously giving their best effort throughout the entire test. Best in test was awarded to Finnegan Paquette in the youth division and to Garrett Warfield in the adults. Congratulations to them and to all the candidates!

Highest Written Scores
Adults – All with 100% - Garrett Warfield, Dawn Wise, James Meyer, Katy Scott
Youth – 92% - Finnegan Paquette

I’d like to end with specific comments from students:

The first day we arrived at camp, we were tired and stiff from the long ride. After dinner, the first two-hour session on forms was scheduled and we were all pretty exhausted at this point. But the second we began the lesson, we snapped right to attention. This session was an in-depth, fast lesson on the forms each belt was learning (we split up based on rank), and it was a great experience to have a Master's undivided attention for a form you are learning. The instructor for our group was energetic and knowledgeable and guided everyone through the forms we went over until we could all perform them from memory. The greatest thing about this session—and this camp experience overall—is that you are so in depth with the art that you forget the world outside of it. You are totally immersed in something you love and surrounded by people who feel the same. It was awesome to come into camp and be in this environment first thing.

Black Belt Retreat is a refreshing step away from the distractions of contemporary life. It is all too common to get caught up in your immediate surroundings and forget that the rest of the world does not operate the same way or have the same views that you do. The diverse and entirely welcoming culture of this organization creates an environment where everyone is treated with humility and respect. I will always remember being immersed with students who have more experience than me, who have practiced more consistently than me, and when I was on the verge of feeling overwhelmed and out of place, being taken aside by an assisting Master who walked me through the forms and techniques that I had not practiced in the years that I had been away from Tang Soo Do. Instead of critiquing my style, sir told me that he would teach me his way, which is likely not identical to the way I have been taught. Where many communities might have seen this as an opportunity to attempt to practice one consistent “correct” way, the Master instead spoke of how this was completely normal, and something to embrace. After experiencing this, I no longer felt out of place or overwhelmed. Instead I felt like a unique individual and stopped trying to compare myself to the other students. It was a beautiful example of acceptance and a harmonious lifestyle that truly embodies what I believe is an important aspect of being a martial artist.

My first Black Belt camp as a new red belt was an unforgettable handful of days—I emerged with improved confidence and a strong sense of excitement for my further practice of Tang Soo Do. In particular I would like to commend students and Masters alike for the graceful accepting and helpful giving of instruction at the Black Belt Retreat. In my case, the session on executing proper front rolls was particularly helpful and memorable. The Masters running the session quickly separated the students into two groups, those who needed to perfect and fine tune their already strong front rolls and those who, well, like me, needed some help with fundamentals.

The Masters explained that most groups arriving at Black Belt Retreat can do one of three types of rolls—the correct martial arts style roll, the barrel roll, and the gymnast roll. I fit the latter category and learned how keeping up this gymnast style may result in injury, especially if I have to roll where there are no protective mats. Master Watson-Jones spent time with a small group of ex- and current gymnasts, young and mature, and helped us refine our rolls into that coveted martial arts style. With this patient assistance, I was able to understand and execute a solid martial arts style front roll by the end of the class! I was so excited with my last roll that after jumping (easily!) to my feet, I jumped up and down whooping several times! To my surprise and delight, everyone in the session clapped and hooted with me! The stronger students and Masters alike were welcoming and encouraging to all belt and ability levels throughout the Black Belt Retreat weekend—what a confidence builder for one and all!

Tang Soo!!!

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