AMERICAN-ITALIAN GOODWILL TOUR "AMAI 2 ITALY 2008"
The American Martial Arts Institute recognizes the importance of sharing American Eagle Style with the world. Through the exchange of knowledge with other martial artists and people of diverse cultures, the school has become known internationally, grown stronger, and promoted positive international relationships. On cultural exchanges to the People's Republic of China, Russia, Japan, and Australia, instructors and black belt students have demonstrated the strength and beauty of a traditional martial arts style. From July 16th to 26th, 2008, Grandmaster Crandall led a team of American Martial Arts Institute instructors, black belt students, and their guests to train and perform in Italy.
This historic group picture was taken in front of Leaning Tower in Pisa.
The team flew to JFK International airport out of Albany, New York for a five-hour lay-over. During this time, Grandmaster Crandall and the team trained on katas near their terminal. Many team members were given the unusual opportunity to learn a kata that is required for a higher level of black belt.
After an eight hour flight from JFK International airport in New York City, the team arrived in Rome where they were welcomed by their tour courier, Paola Guelpa. The team members spent the afternoon touring the city and training on katas at the hotel.
On the morning of July 18th, the team met their local guide for the day at the Colosseum. The day's touring included seeing the Vatican museums, excavations of ancient Rome, entrance to the Sistine Chapel, a tour of Saint Peter's Basilica (where many chose to walk the several hundred stairs to the top of the copula overlooking Rome), a walking tour in the Piazza Navona area, and entrance to the Pantheon. The history, architecture, and opulence of the tour was impressive. In the evening, the team members were free to tour the city on their own. Many walked to a local park where they trained in katas and self-defense. While training in a park near their hotel, Grandmaster Crandall and team members were approached by an Italian martial artist who had spotted them training. Adam Bourne, an instructor for Jeet Kune Do-Kali International, had recognized the American team practicing traditional Korean katas. He commented that he was impressed and pleased to see that the Americans performed the katas with the same tradition and quality as the Italian martial artists. In fact, practically everywhere that the team practiced, Italian martial artists approached them to discuss the martial arts.
July 19th was an open day for the team to see the city. Many members had made reservations to see the excavations beneath Saint Peter's Basilica, and had a private tour guide and professional archaeologist take them two levels beneath the main floor to see the ruins of the ancient city before it was buried by Constantine. In the afternoon, the team divided into smaller groups. Two of the team members, Travis and Tristan Donley, took the opportunity to go sky-diving. Other members toured areas of the city. In the evening, Grandmaster Crandall led the team in their first performance at Villa Doria Pamphili, a beautiful park on the outskirts of Rome. Surrounded by spectators, the team performed katas including Arena, Hwa Rang Hyung, Old Koryo, New Koryo, Hansoo, Sip Jin, Simplicity, Sil Lum, Bassai Dai, Bassai Sho, Chip Su, and many others. Flyers were handed out that described who the team and Grandmaster Crandall were, what katas were being performed, and other information about the team.
On July 20th many of the team members chose to attend a full-day excursion to Pompeii and Herculaneum. Both ancient cities had been destroyed when mount Vesuvius had erupted in 79 A.D. Over the past 250 years the sites have been excavated. Again, in the evening many members found time to practice katas.
TUSCANY AND FLORENCE
On the morning of July 21, the team departed Rome by motorcoach for a full day excursion to Florence. On the way, the team stopped in Tuscany at the Enoteca Osteria Osticcio, an ancient fortress. The long ride to Florence gave the team a chance to sit and talk with one another. In Florence, the team entered the Santa Maria dei Fiore (St. Mary of the Flower) Duomo (Cathedral). The Duomo is home Michelangelo's third Peita.The evening was spent by team members walking the city, practicing katas, and enjoying the city's excellent food.
July 22nd began with a professionally-guided walking tour of Florence. The first stop was entrance to the Accademia Museum, where the team saw the "David", scultped by Michaleangelo. The team also entered teh Duomo (nave), Sanata Croce, and Leonardo's Leather Workshop. Some members of the team toured the Uffizi Gallery. At night members of the team practiced katas with Grandmaster Crandall on top of the hotel roof overlooking Florence. While training in Florence, Grandmaster Crandall was approached by another Italian martial artist named Adam Issiaka of Doyu Kai Florence. As with the other martial artists the team met in Italy, he was excited to meet Americans who were preserving the tradition of the martial arts.
On July 23rd the team took their historic picture in front of the Leaning Tower at Pisa. The local police shut down the area around the tower and obtained the necessary permission for the team to stand on the grass (which is ordinarily not permitted). The hospitality of the local Italians and officials was overwhelming. Many tourists stopped to take pictures of team during their photo shoot, and some tourists even had their picture taken with team members. After the photo session the team toured Pisa including its Duomo before continuing on to Venice.
July 24th. The team took a professionally-guided walking tour of Venice, entered Doges' Palace and Saint Mark's Basilica, and saw a glass-blowing demonstration. Here Grandmaster Crandall met Aldo Dinon, a traditional Shotokon martial artists who lived and trainied in Venice. Later that day, many were able to take a Gondola ride later in the afternoon. These events were impressive, but the real excitement came later that night when the team held their second major performance. On a stage at Spiaggia Comunale of Venezia ("Town Hall Beach of Venice") and surrounded by hundreds of spectators, the team demonstrated American Eagle Style. Grandmaster Crandall led the team through a performance of punches, kicks, basic forms, and katas. Several instructors performed indivudually as well with forms such as Bassai Sho, Eye of the Eagle, American Eagle, Bassai Dai, and Arena. Grandmaster Crandall also demonstrated self-defense for the crowd. Hundreds of flyers were distributed. After the performance the team changed out of their uniforms and enjoyed swimming in the Adriatic Sea.
On July 25th the team said "Good-bye" to Venice and head by motorcoach to Lake Maggiore, stopping at Verona along the way. At Lago Maggiore the team toured the Borromean Islands, Isola Bella, Palazzo Borromeo, and Isola dei Pescatori. The team finished their day's journey by staying in Stresa for the evening. The team took the time to get together as a group that evening to recognize some of the people who had made the trip possible. Grandmaster Crandall said a few words of appreciation about Paola, the team's courier, before presenting her with a card and gift from the team. Paola had traveled with the team to every location, translating, managing entrance into events, sharing her vast knowledge of the country and culture with the group, and much more.
On July 26th the team transferred to Milan international airport to begin the series of flights home. The experiences and training from this trip will be shared with hundreds of American martial artists for years to come. The memories will last a lifetime.