"At their heart, martial arts are a solitary path. No one can walk that path for you."
I'm paraphrasing one of many great bits of wisdom shared by Mark Mikita, a 50-year martial arts practitioner and teacher, at his talk on longevity in martial arts at the 2017 edition of the Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium (VISS).
One of the beautiful things about an event like VISS is that it gives practitioners an opportunity to be inspired in their own journey. You are not simply going to a class with a single instructor — you are exposing yourself to a wealth of ideas and approaches from a variety of practitioners.
There was a time when I found ideas different from my own to be threatening. After all, I had invested years training particular techniques, within a particular system, following a certain pedagogy. As an instructor, it was also challenging because my students would come back from an event like VISS full of new ideas and challenges to the ways we had been doing things all along. Were we doing things the wrong way? Had I wasted my time on a particular path? Would my students leave for greener pastures?
Part of my journey has been finding that my worth does not come from what I know or what I do. I am not here to impose my way on others, instead I am a companion on the path with my students. Sharing with them what I have learned from walking this road a little longer than them but not closing the door on their own discoveries nor shielding myself from the things that their fresh eyes can show me. One of the best things I can do for myself and my students is to keep renewing my openness to change. I can do my best to equip them to be their own guides and model what I have learned as my own teacher.
The most powerful thing you can share with your students is a way of being, not simply a way of doing.
Thank you to all of the excellent instructors who came out and made VISS such a wonderful event: Matthew Howden, David Coblentz, Marco Quarta, Jessica Finley, Christian Tobler, Paul Wagner, Rob Rutherford, Guru EW, and Mark Mikita. I am glad to be walking this path with all of you.
Thank you to Clint Fernandes, this year's Chair, and my teammates on the VISS board for making this event so easy to be a part of. Thank you to all of the volunteers for helping it run so seamlessly!
Finally thank you to everyone who came from all over the world to cross blades, touch hands, and raise glasses in my home and to be, for a weekend, part of our family.
Our Spring Instructor Intensive is starting up in Vancouver on March 6th for one week. 10 hours each day immersed in the arts of Italian rapier and longsword. Join me to deeply explore the fundamentals of these arts and to build your skills as a learner and teacher. Learn more and register here.