The Seventh Annual Korean Martial Arts Festival – recap by Alain Burrese

It was an honor and a privilege to be one of nearly one hundred martial artists that attend the 7th Annual Korean Martial Arts Festival in Crestview, Florida the weekend of April 19-21, 2013.  The privilege was the opportunity to learn from the eighteen distinguished Grand Masters and Masters who taught sessions throughout the weekend, and the honor was being one of those eighteen instructors at the three day event hosted by Master Thomas Gordon at Gordon Martial Arts.

The uniqueness of having eighteen top presenters in one weekend, all teaching in an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie is hard to find, and what keeps people coming back each year with friends and fellow training partners. This year’s presenters had over 600 years of training/teaching, and all exhibited the essence of true humble martial artists with much to share. Key Note sessions were delivered by Grand Masters Rudy Timmerman (Canada), K.S. Hwang (Connecticut), Kenneth MacKenzie (New Jersey), Shelton Moreland (Georgia), Ian Cyrus (Pennsylvania), Geoff Booth (Australia), and Jimm McMurray (Texas). McMurray also received a much deserved special recognition during the weekend for his fifty years dedicated to the martial arts.  Other sessions were taught by Chief Masters Marlin Simms (Georgia), Kevin Janisse (Oregon) and Masters Monty Hendrix (North Carolina), Thomas Gordon (Florida), Wesley Wing (Florida), Gregory Bledsoe (Florida), Chris DuFour (Florida), Ellen Hendrix (North Carolina), Alain Burrese (Montana), Calvin Longton (Florida), and Mark Cummings (New York). Also present were Mr. Keith Scott, who gave a presentation on martial art school marketing for school owners, and Mr. Stace Sanchez of KICKPICS, who offered special packages for those who wanted professional martial art photographs taken.

Front row: Marlin Sims, Geoff Booth, Kenneth MacKenzie, K.S. Hwang, Rudy Timmerman, Shelton Moreland, Ian Cyrus, Jimm McMurray

Back row: Keith Scott, Chris DuFour, Ellen Hendrix, Monty Hendrix, Kevin Janisse, Thomas Gordon, Gregory Bledsoe, Alain Burrese, Calvin Longton, Mark Cummings, Wesley Wing, Stace Sanchez

As I stated at the beginning, it was an honor to teach at this event, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching my restraint and control strategies class on Sunday. I had a great group of participants and volunteers to help me teach, and we all enjoyed the ways I showed to make people do and go where you need them to. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning from all of the other instructors throughout the weekend. Sure, I went to teach, but I went to learn too. Because I’m working on a couple of youth programs, I attended a number of the sessions designed for the younger participants. I was able to learn not only techniques, but how to better teach, these topics to kids.  I have to say the only negative thing I could think of the entire weekend was my disappointment in not being able to attend every session. While some sessions stand alone, other sessions run simultaneously forcing participants to choose between them. This was the hardest part, and this year my prime directive of learning as much “kid stuff” as I could to take back to help with my programs governed my decisions.

While the mat time and learning from such knowledgeable martial artists is reason enough to attend this annual event, it’s that plus the camaraderie and ego-free friendly environment that keeps people coming back each year as the event grows. Participants have opportunities to dine and mingle with the instructors throughout the weekend, and these interactions can be more educational and meaningful than the mat time. I cherished this time more than ever, and was so glad to see old friends and meet new ones. I guess I can think of one more negative thing, and that’s that there aren’t more hours in the day to visit with everyone. I could have easily spent many more hours with everyone there if only it were possible. This year, the group filled up a local Chinese Buffet after Friday night’s events, and dined while watching MMA on large screen televisions late Saturday night. While there’s a lot of tapping occurring when on the mat, there’s a lot of laughing and story-telling happening when off the training floor. While I have a few stories from my years of training and teaching, to hear some of the things that occurred on mats before I was even born is extremely remarkable and spending time with these elder grandmasters is time to be cherished.

Master Gordon’s goal was to create an annual event where martial artists could come together and train regardless of organizational politics. He wanted a place where white belts through high level black belts would be welcomed and could learn a variety of skills found within the Korean martial arts. Judging by this year’s Korean Martial Arts Festival, he’s achieved that goal and more. I, again, am honored and privileged to be part of this amazing martial art event. For information on future events visit: http://kmaf.info