At an unassuming farmhouse in the backwoods of Western Michigan an event of momentous proportions takes place twice a year,
The Gathering of the Tribes (Flourish of Trumpets)
This event, which has been going on for some years now has really grown, far beyond what anyone ever thought it might be.
The Gathering has become a place where martial artists and combat athletes of all levels can meet and share knowledge and experience twice a year in a safe, ego free, family friendly environment. The event has grown to such an extent that it is now an "invitational", you need to know someone who is already a participant, or a member of "The League of Nonaligned Martial Artists" (another flourish of trumpets, and perhaps cornets as well), the group that puts the event on, in order to be invited to come play now.
This gathering started the way they all do, with people arriving Friday evening for the informal "meet and greet". I cooked up a HUGE pot of coconut ginger basil curry to feed people as they arrived.
By seven or so most of us were out in the Dojo for some light sparring. There are probably other ice breakers that we could do, but there is really nothing quite as much fun as a sparring session to get reacquainted.
I did manage to accidentally catch Cody in the eye with a thumb, but that was the only downside to the evening.
We all managed to get to bed by two or so, plenty of time for sleep after the gathering.
As per tradition, we had breakfast going by eight AM, the usual pancakes, along with giant pans of scrambled eggs (donated by Randy, Margie and Mariah)
After everyone was well fed we began the day.
The first session of the day was taken by RMAX Coach, Cody Fielding.
Cody did something a little different this gathering. He introduced us to a process he has been working on that involves being a competitor, coach/corner and referee.
We used some grappling as our learning vehicle and everyone took turns in all three positions.
There were pre and post match analysis of what each fighter needed to work on......
and lots of coaching during the matches. This proved to be truly useful and I am looking forward to a time when Cody will offer this model publicly.
Next up was Chuck and Don, who gave a clinic in kicking concepts.
They worked from long range to short range and rather than working separate technique, they emphasized the principles which allow one to spar with kicks in the same manner that one would with upper body strikes.
One of the fun things was using kicks at unusual ranges, creating unexpected attacks.
Next up for the day was Maha Guro Buzz Smith of American Maharlika Kuntaw.
Buzz is a regular at the gatherings and is one of our secret weapons against boring martial arts.
Buzz split his clinic into two parts, first he introduced us to some of his Kuntaw staff work, this would be the same staff material that helped him take first place in Masters weapons at the Sulong tournament last month
Buzz led us through the basic principles of Kuntaw staff then took us right into application.
After the staff portion Buzz took us through some Kuntaw ground work.
So we all returned to the Dojo and its forgiving floor to toss each other about and try different pretzel ties out.
The last formal session of the day was something rather unique. We had a teacher of Kalaripayattu, the ancient Indian martial art from Kerala join us for this gathering.
This was something delightfully different and it was greatly enjoyed. It was very interesting for those of us who practice Southeast Asian Martial Arts given the likelihood of their origins being at least in part from South India.
This ended the formal clinics for the day and it brought us to The Potluck
We dined on Satay and other wonderful goodies until we were all stuffed to the gills (yes Bobbe, the Dagon folks showed up again)
And it wouldn't be a Gathering without a bonfire for us to sit around.
We spent plenty of casual time in the Dojo dissecting the events of the day, swapping technique and generally having too much fun.
Sunday rolled around and after another breakfast that couldn't be beat we got the day started.
As usual, Sunday morning sessions are devoted to Martial Arts and healing.
This gathering we invited our friend James Kohlenberg to do a clinic on myofascial release. Using nothing more complicated than a tennis ball.
Being as we were all a bit sore from the previous day this was a very welcome event.
We finished the martial portion of the day with a Silat clinic given by your humble servant.
We addressed such ideas as compressed space, rotational force, turning "failure" into feedback
And gravity as a weapon (you can even take it on an airplane or int a government building and no one gets upset)
We ended the day by having Cody lead us in some CST active recovery material from Presara Yoga.
I am already looking forward to the Spring!