On Saturday, January 23, 2016, the American Martial Arts Institute held its annual Adult Seminar Day at its main location in New Hartford, New York. The seminar began at 9 am with Grandmaster Crandall going over the day's agenda, followed by brief stretching. With three large training floors, regular classes were held in training floors one and two, while the 17 adults and black belt instructors began the day in room three.
The first class, taught by Master Stalloch, focused on blocks and counters, with an emphasis on how to close distance. Techniques were covered for right and left punches, kicks, and threatening postures. The students worked in pairs, and rotated frequently to work with a variety of partners, offering the students a chance to build camaraderie with fellow students and to experience different body types based on age, height, flexibility, and build.
The second hour was devoted to self-defense with a collapsible umbrella. This included a discussion on the purpose of training with extension tools and capitalizing on everyday items for self-defense. The collapsible umbrella was also shown to be similar to a rolled-up magazine, tennis racket, cane, golf club, lacrosse stick, field hockey stick, pencil, ruler, and other items. The students learned how to use the umbrella against grabs, punches, and other attack scenarios for both counters and control techniques.
Individuals who test for seventh degree black belt in American Eagle Style earn the status of Master Instructor, and part of their testing requirement was to design and document a traditional kata. This year, each Master performed the kata that they designed and explained some of the rationale behind it. This was followed by a group picture and lunch at the school.
Grandmaster Crandall took time to sit down with the students and covered some of the ways that the structure of the school protects the style, allowing it to be perpetuated from one generation to the next. American Eagle Style is a traditional martial art style, with a philosophy based on "the old ways," concepts that may seldom be explicity discussed or stated, but which are essential and in practice. Grandmaster Crandall discussed some of these concepts and the relationship among beauracracy of a school, structure of the school, the style, instructors, and students.
Master Freleigh presented a class on the extension tools taught in American Eagle Style, as a brief overview. These tools can be found in the third edition of the American Eagle Style Instructional Textbook.
This was followed by a self-defense class on retraining and control techniques. This included standing and ground positions, and neck restraints from the front and behind. This topic is not covered in regular classes. Some students were given the opportunity to practice some ground fighting techniques.
The final class of the day was focused on the complex topic of long guns being used by active shooters. Grandmaster Crandall covered some of the concepts related to these scenarios, and what options might be available to disarm a shooter. The American Martial Arts Institute uses "Blue Guns", replicas of rifles and shotguns used by law enforcement and military training agencies. These training aids are non-functional, steel models covered in blue rubber made from casts of the guns, with the same balance and weight as the loaded guns. This was the first time that this topic was presented to the students, although Grandmaster Crandall may teach these techniques to black belts.
The participants prepared to bow out for the day at 4 pm. Before making a few final remarks, Grandmaster Crandall presented Josef Byrne with his black top, accepting him into the American Martial Arts Institute staff. In order to be considered for staff, an adult black belt student must submit a letter requesting to join the staff. Mr. Byrne will now undergo and apprenticeship program to be considered for instructor status. Congratualtions to Mr. Byrne.
Next Year's seminar will be held in January of 2017.
The American Martial Arts Institute strives to offer the martial arts in a variety of programs for men and women of all ages that will arm their minds with knowledge, their bodies with skills and excite their emotions. One way the school implements this philosophy is by holding three annual seminar events, based on age, to meet the understanding of the students in those age groups.
The "Winter Funshop" and "Summer Funshop" are held for students ages 6-12; the Teenage Seminar Day is held for students ages 13-17; and, the Adult Seminar Day is held for students ages 18 and older. These seminars provide a tremendous opportunity for growth within the style, and many areas that are not ordinarily taught in classes are covered. They are essential events for each student's training, especially at the brown and black belt levels.
Out of 365 days in a year there are only two days that give all of the Master Instructors the opportunity to see all students over an extended period of time, interacting with fellow students and the instructors. For adult students, one of these days is the “Adult Seminar Day” and the other is our school's Extension Tool Competition.
We realize that the communities and employers have put many demands on these individuals but these are the only two days out of the year we have to evaluate who has the qualities to be a brown belt or black belt aside from the basic physical skills. This day covers topics, not ordinarily covered in class, which appear on black belt exams. With the Master Instructors carrying a greater role in the strength and direction of the school and its future, it has become imperative that they know the brown belts and how they came to be brown belts.
Our school will be teaching for years to come and many of today's brown belts will be tomorrow's black belts and future instructors, committed by their own path to uphold these standards of tradition and quality. Therefore, for students who are blue belt or higher, the annual adult seminar has become an essential part of their training.