How to (or not) Attend a Seminar

I attended a two day seminar with the Midwest Haidong Gumdo group this past weekend. We had a great first day with 47 students on the floor, a number of different activities and belt testing. We then socialized at a group dinner. The entire day felt like an extended family gathering. There was nothing to complain about.

Day two brought us to a smaller location with more training sessions together. We ended up with 31 students on the floor, and a few in chairs watching what was going on as they recovered from injuries and whatnot. The sessions for this day were a bit more fun, and even though there was hard work involved there were a lot of smiles on the floor.

However, maybe it was too much fun… While they are all good students - doing the pieces that were asked - they did more. In a smaller space with concrete walls and no sound dampening, the students talked out of turn - A LOT. Not only were they talking out of turn, they were doing extra movements rather than just to the count. In a seminar, a little extra chatter can be expected from color belts, but it wasn’t just color belts, it was all ranks.

While observing Chief Master Frankovich teach a session, I was witness to more than 50% of the students talking after nearly every count, producing an echo chamber. In order to count off the next repetition, Chief Master had to prompt, “Ready?” - in many cases more than once. In addition, during verbal instructions, there were color belts dragging weapons on the ground, first and second dans repeating the last technique out of turn, and third dans twirling their swords around - all of this after being told twice that questions should be asked to him, not discussed amongst themselves.

Knowing that this may not be a popular post with those that attended, I think it is necessary to voice these observations so that students can reflect upon their actions and help create a more efficient and audibly pleasant experience in large groups in the future - especially for those of us that have hearing difficulties. This is a topic that sometimes isn't talked about enough as we are concentrating on training hard and learning. Below are some quick tips for everyone regarding martial arts seminar attendance (regardless of art):

  1. Come prepared to work hard and learn things. Open your mind to doing something differently than you had been taught. Try something that you know you will fail at, and try it each time you are asked. (The phrase "Fail at a higher level" has come up several times in the past months.)
  2. Represent your master/instructor/school well. Be disciplined and show respect to the instructors, guests, and other participants. While in rank, only move when asked to, only talk when asked (or necessary).
  3. Make new friends, catch up with old ones. Just remember to leave the socializing part between sessions or at gatherings specifically for that purpose.
  4. Have fun. Remember, you are there to further your skill and/or better your training. You will better remember and understand material covered if you do it with a smile (internally, of course, "there is no smiling in martial arts.")
  5. Share your experience. When you get back to your school, share what you've learned with your fellow students. Maybe next time, they will see how much fun you had and then accompany you for the next one!