Over the weekend of August 4-6, 2017 many RVTKD students participated in Special Training led by guest instructor Andrew Benioff, Ee Dan, from Philadelphia. The participants trained seriously and with obvious enthusiasm, keeping the energy level high throughout a weekend of intensive training. Special thanks are due to David Eve, who served as Andrew’s otomo throughout the weekend. This honorary role is similar to that of an assistant: the otomo makes a traveling instructor’s life go smoothly, as well as the event they’re leading. We can thank him for the flowers, energy- and electrolyte-replenishing orange slices, barley tea, and many other less noticeable but important details that made the weekend better for all.
Following Is a Recap of the Weekend of Training
- After practicing rolls and break falls, already familiar to some RVTKD students, guest instructor Benioff showed students a way to roll that I hadn’t seen before: as a result of being thrown while attempting to seize their partner’s weapon—in this case, a jo (short staff) wielded by Benioff.
- Students then experienced an introduction to Iron Body training, which included internal meditation and visualization, along with more external exercises: upper body and forearm conditioning, Iron Palm work on a bean-filled training bag, and other techniques meant to harden the body and increase its ability to repel impacts.
- The evening’s general class focused on developing fast footwork and high intensity in movement overall. Unlike the bulk of our Ji Do Kwan training, the focus was purely on moving as fast as the neuromuscular systems would permit, rather than on technical perfection. Two interesting observations while focusing on speed:
- technique suffered but not terribly, i.e. solid technical training makes for good habits that persist even when not required
- as we hear so often in class, speed IS power. . . it was very noticeable how strong and authoritative the techniques and combinations became purely by focusing on speed and not specifically on generating power
Although the weather forecast all week called for morning thunderstorms, that risk had passed by Friday evening, and the morning offered perfect conditions for misogi training (“hardship training”). In a peaceful mist just after dawn, the group performed 1000 cuts with bokken, punctuated by sessions standing in the river water, while chanting a ritual phrase in Japanese. This allowed participants to cleanse impurities and cut away attachments and entanglements in their lives. A group of 15-20 startled ducks half ran, half flew across the flowing water during takeoff as students chanted and cut.
- On the way back from the Gorge to the dojang, many of our group converged upon Outlook Farm for a hearty breakfast.
- Third Geups and higher worked on evasive footwork, learned proper handling of a wooden tanto, then learned and studied three knife takeaway techniques drawn from Aikido. These techniques involved joint manipulation, breath deprivation, and other concepts that usually fall outside our normal Ji Do Kwan practice.
That afternoon’s general class built on the previous footwork/speed class to further develop power and dominance with kicking combinations against targets. A fast paced and exhausting session, participating students demonstrated an impressive level of energy and enthusiasm throughout a demanding sequence of drills.
- After a much-needed shower break following a long day of training, students reconvened at the Great Wall restaurant for a well-earned group dinner. After some technical difficulties with a projector at the dojang, the afterparty moved to Matt Roncone’s lake house, where we watched a 1976 documentary, Fighting Black Kings, which followed competitors in the first international Kyokushin Karate world championship tournament.
There’s nothing like an early morning meditation class, and this Sunday’s included both seated and walking meditation techniques. The latter may have been unfamiliar to many, but it’s a common practice at many Buddhist temples, where practitioners circumambulate in the setting of a temple or stupa . Kneeling for extended periods in meditation is painful for most, and especially those who don’t practice regularly, but we discussed how the pain itself provides opportunities for transcendence.
- After another hearty group breakfast, this time at the Green Bean, we resumed weapons training, reviewing the techniques learned on Friday and one new one.
- We then closed the weekend so our guest instructor could make the long drive home to Philadelphia. Before leaving, Benioff presented each participant with a thoughtful gift: two classic martial arts books for further exploration of themes touched on over the course of the weekend.
As Head Instructor, I offer heartfelt thanks on behalf of our River Valley Tae Kwon Do community to Andrew Benioff, Ee Dan, Ji Do Kwan for traveling to our dojang from Philadelphia. I also congratulate all our students who accepted the challenge to train in these unfamiliar ways and settings. Andrew and I hope you found the experiences satisfying and that you can incorporate elements of what we practiced into your future training.