I love this world. It's messy and chaotic and maybe things are breaking down, but it is full of wonderful people who are deeply passionate and caring. In the last two weeks I've spent time with people who have spent fifty years with an art that they loved (and probably dozens who have loved their arts for forty or thirty years). Spent time with extraordinary individuals who walked away from everything out of a passion to learn. Spent time with people who are experts to the point of being savants and some who are just as good but also complete and functional.
Martial arts attracts some very broken people. People who have always felt awkward can learn to move with grace. People who feared and avoided the primate aspects of high school locker rooms can feel like jocks. People who don't have the social skills to get a date can be called "master."
It can be incredibly empowering or heady or toxic. Or all three. I got to spend time with people who saw it clearly and still forged ahead, subtly pushing students towards the empowering and away from the toxic.
There is a special group coming of age in the field of self-defense right now. Men and women with the insight to see how much crap is taught, with the passion to do better and with the humility to wonder, "I've never done this. Who am I to teach it? How will I know if I start teaching crap without that frame of reference?" It's a good internal debate, it keeps them honest and skeptical and learning.
If mastery means anything in this culture (and I hate the word, the connotations in America are too dark, it becomes reminiscent of slavery rather than guilds and implies control more than ability), but if mastery means anything in this culture, George Mattson's annual camp is a collection of Masters. Brilliant researchers and thugs and historians (yes, thugs can be brilliant). people who care about a system and each other and their students above all. Awesome.
I got to meet with my East Coast brain trust, and I absolutely owe them a dinner. We got sooooo busy talking we forgot to eat. Jake, Erik and Bill are brilliant and insightful (Jeff couldn't make it). They helped with presentation and got a taste of the Logic of Violence material in return. I got the best end of that deal. Erik is also a consumate business man (huge compliment in my world) and may have come up with a way to present LoV not as a book, but as a self-study (group study, actually) program. that will probably be my November writing project.
Jeff and Jessica and (for a day) Lisa were awesome hosts. Hospitality is one thing, but learning something every day (side kicks without hip replacement surgery; a refresher on how to suture wounds) is very special.
The seminar at YMAA was new material to a new audience. Nick Yang is one of my favorite martial artists. At the Crossing the Pond seminar in Seattle there was Al Peasland (thug); Marc MacYoung (thug); Iain Abernethy (Really nice thug-- imagine what Santa Clause was like in college); me; and Nick Yang (serious martial artist, super nice guy and definitely not a thug.)
So we were talking about brawls and dismemberment and stuff like that and Nick was talking about White Crane...and we all liked him. With absolutely no idea how to express that without scaring him. Thing is, Nick wouldn't have been scared.
Anyway, Nick hosted a session on recovering from overwhelming force. It's stuff the regular readers are familiar with, but the big gain for me is how natural the concepts were for this group. It shouldn't have been a big insight-- the stuff these guys studied dated from eras when people were trying to kill each other. It wasn't a contest and there were no weight classes. Why should I be surprised that the things I learned were important in jail ambushes were part of systems that dated from this world?
Wes Tasker worked on my back and the difference is incredible. Still pain and numbness, but much less. Much happier...and Wes is one of the people I find intimidatingly intelligent. Cool. Also got to stick spar with Mike M... tee hee hee.
Raffi Derderian is a damn fine man, a great martial artist and an extraordinary teacher. It was very good to spend a day with the people that he admires. I also got to hang with Chris, who is one of the coolest people in the world and meet some new people: Stephe, a bulky, carnivorous, Tai Chi guy who admonishes people to, "keep the F.U. in kung fu." Yet another Erik with a "k" who was that rarest of martial artists: a kenjutsu instructor who isn't anal-retentive. That was awesome. A recluse who hits like a freight train... Good times with good people and a chance to put out some new material (gender differences in violence) and get my material critiqued by new eyes.
All in all, an extraordinary time. But I am missing Kami and eager to be home. Next week: Reno.
Lisa asked at one point what I am most proud of. It's my friends. That I am allowed to spend time with people of this quality blows me away every day.