The 10th YMAA International Summer Camp took place in August near Lisbon, Portugal. Before arriving, I was nervous because I worked more hours during the summer and didn’t get to train as much as I would’ve liked. The training spirit is much higher in Europe and I knew the classes would be challenging. In terms of drills, there wasn’t too much that was new to me, but I needed to fix bad habits, refine what I learned, and find the endurance to last through the 3 hour long blocks under the hot summer sun. My biggest weakness was lack of leg strength for stances and overall strength. I found that I wasn’t terrible in flexibility (aside from my previously injured ankles) and pantherwalk/hops (thank you CF!).
I had a cold for much of the week and couldn’t train 100%, but that was minor compared to what Jon dealt with during this trip. He was kicked in the shin and slapped in the face as a partner for a student during his test, hit in the face by me during my test (this will be a separate post), burnt and developed a rash on his neck from the Portuguese sun, and stung by a wasp twice while in Switzerland.
The best part of training was being around so many high level instructors and students. They’re always willing to take the extra time to help you improve. I understand that most students are not able to travel to different schools or attend camps, but exchanging ideas and training with different partners is essential to expanding and deepening your knowledge. If you are unable to travel, be sure to absorb whatever you can from students and instructors who visit your school.
In the middle of the week, there was a meeting for the instructors and school directors. A lot of ideas were shared, but nothing was conclusive. I regret not sharing my thoughts, but I was intimidated and felt it wasn’t my place to speak, even though the floor was open to everyone. I’ll share some thoughts here.
Standardization for Testing:
Some argued against this saying that the instructors should be trusted to know what’s an acceptable variation of a technique or sequence and what isn’t. I think their fear was having a single way of practicing a technique or sequence, but that wasn’t the point and goal of standardization. I think everyone is actually on the same page because the point is, there are multiple ways of effectively executing a technique and students and teachers need to know what is acceptable.
As a student and assistant teacher, I’ve come across problems with learning different variations of material. I don’t know what is considered passable and what I should teach to the students. For instance, I learned one way of doing staff fighting form #1, had it checked and was taught to do it a new way, tested the new way with a different person and failed because it was supposed to be the old way. Both methods were effective and each had its advantages depending on your objective and whether or not you are stationary or moving. In my opinion, a student should be able to use either technique and pass. Or, just add a 6th staff fighting form because in my case, they are two different blocks.
Jon and I believe that there should be a set of standards for the testing panel – meaning there should be a list of variations that are passable. When you practice, you should learn different options and understand why each is viable. But each student and their testing partner is unique, and as long as the variation works for them, it should be pass.
Lack of Communication:
One of YMAA’s most valuable assets is depth of knowledge and experience in traditional martial arts. Some schools and instructors are very close and often communicate with each other, but not every YMAA school is in the loop since we are located all over the world and not everyone has had to chance to meet or is able to train together often. To stay unified and consistent, schools should communicate with each other. There is so much you can share such as training tips, updated material, different takes on the same material, teaching and promo materials, and good business practices. If each school has the same goal of improving their art and teaching, they can mutually benefit by communicating with each other.
To be continued…
(More camp photos to be posted when I get the memory card back)