First, the concept behind the VPPG:
KJ and I started ours a year or two ago. The original notice is here:
I've had a few people ask about joining who aren't from around here, which won't work really well. Here's the deal, and the format. Nothing is written in stone, so if you decide to form one, do it your way.
There comes a point in everyone's life/career where they should start running out of instructors, or at least start running into questions that the available people can't answer. It happens in every science, and that is how science keeps growing. Everyone, if you've been doing martial arts for a while, should have a 'mystery': "What are the principles behind X?" "What are my options if..." "Does technique Y or drill Q really help? What is it really teaching/ingraining?" "How do I teach ____?"
Stuff like that, and even more. If you don't have questions you might be in your comfort zone. Or brainwashed. Or maybe dead. If all of your questions can be answered by your available resources, you need to get out more. That's my opinion.
So the idea behind the original VPPG was to get together people we respect from the widest variety of backgrounds possible. Not a lot of people-- any group that is willing to play at that level will be pretty small. We get together when schedule allows (rarely, right now, since two of the other key members have regular jobs and I'm traveling most weekends).
The format goes like this, "Kevin, what are you working on?"
"Well, I've been trying to figure out how to..."
Then we all brainstorm it.
Then we go bang. Pressure test. Scenario. What-if. Levels of contact matter because there are some things that can only be evaluated at certain levels of contact... so it has to be a group that we trust for everything from judgment to contact to first-aid skills.
When we are all good and sweaty, and maybe have some insights or (gasp!) answers, we go back to the circle and the next person kicks out a question.
Question, brainstorm, bang. That simple.
R&M (we never really discussed how secret the secret VPPG last weekend would be, so I won't use names) asked me months ago if I could set up a perfect VPPG, who would I want?
Two very different reality instructors. Two top eclectic practitioners. Two weapons guys. Two super-traditional.*
M offered a venue, R pressured me to set a date...and with about two months lead time, I sent out invitations. The group of eight I envisioned was a group of five. Which isn't bad for the phenomenally busy people that were invited.
Two days and nights in a remote piece of northern California. Hikes, shooting, brawling and brainstorming. It was sort of awesome. I got to play a little and talk extensively with someone I've admired for a long time. Got to look at the thought process behind his teaching (for almost everyone, how and why they teach is far more valuable to me than what they teach.)
Played flow. Brainstormed operator problems, and having operators and martial artists there made for an interesting synergy because each worked really hard to make sure the other side understood the underlying problems. Got called on some of my own bullshit, "You say it's a bad habit to practice moving straight back and yet you love fencing. Isn't that pretty linear?" Touche.
I think everyone left with pages of notes, plans, new ideas. Some got answers and I think everyone found a blindspot or two.
So my legs are sore, face sunburned, and a new scratch is scabbing nicely. Very nice.
*Which is another blindspot. I have access to some pretty extraordinary sport MAs and it never occurred to me to add two of them. Hmmmmm.