AMERICAN MARTIAL ARTS INSTITUTE 20th ANNIVERSARY TRAINING CRUISE 2016
From August 11 to 20, 2016, Grandmaster Crandall led a team of 29 American Eagle Style black belts and guests on a martial arts training cruise destined for the Caribbean. The team embarked on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas from Liberty Bay, Bayone, New Jersey with four full-day stops in Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Saint Maarten, and Haiti with six days at sea. Grandmaster Crandall has led similar teams to China, Russia, Japan, Australia, Italy, and the Caribbean, but this training cruise was focused on celebrating 20 years of the documentation of the American Eagle Style and the world release of the style's textbook. Future training trips are planned to occur annually over the course of a weekend within the United States, with the first being held in 2017 in Niagara Falls.
The primary purpose of this cruise was to train in American Eagle Style under Grandmaster Crandall with classes taught by the five Master Instructors. Many of the black belts who accompanied Grandmaster Crandall on this trip are the same black belts who have represented American Eagle Style on previous international tours. Each class taught on the cruise was designed to enhance the students' understanding and skill in the American Eagle Style. With assistance from Royal Caribbean's Group Coordinator, Cashion Serrao, a large conference room was reserved exclusively for the team for the entire trip. Each class was one hour in length, but the students also spent additional time each day training together in the conference room, on deck, or on the beach (when at ports).
The first class's topic was Self-Defense without Sight, taught by Master Stalloch. The students wore Mindfolds to simulate blindness; these sleep masks are used by the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired for training facilitators in working with their clients. The purpose was to become better skilled in maintaining close contact and fluid movement during self-defense and to develop skills without the use of vision. Some of these techniques are taught in Secure Living Online seminars for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, but there are many reasons why someone might not have full use of their vision including sand in the eyes or a power outage at night.
The second class's topic was practical applications of the kata Geum Gang, presented by Master Moller. Students who did not know the kata Geum Gang were taught the kata by Master Stalloch. The class included an explanation of various applications of six different Geum Gang techniques and an explanation of scientific versus fighting katas. Students partnered in order to practice the techniques for timing and distance.
The third class's topic was elbow techniques, taught by Master Freleigh. This included the use of elbows as blocks, guards, and strikes. Many of the techniques were also applications from the close range fighting moves in the kata Gauntlet. Master Freleigh also presented a drill set of 20 continuous elbow blocks and strikes with stance changes, allowing the students to practice either with partners or alone.
The fourth class's topic was accupunture, presented by Master Chuff. Master Chuff learned accupuncture while stationed in Korea. In addition, to discussing its basic principles, Master Chuff taught the students how to find common accupunture points. The students participated by putting small stickers on each other, with Master Chuff checking for accuracy and clarifiying the points. Master Chuff also presented charts and let students see some of the various needles and other tools used in practice.
The fifth class's topic was checking and countering, taught by Master Morris. This advanced topic included the difference between a block and a check, and how to counter smoothly, striking to vital target areas. This class featured some traditional wu shu techniques such as the "snake strike", found in the kata Unity. Master Morris also taught checks as guards while moving the body into a position for an immediate counter.
Grandmaster Crandall taught the final class on a checking drill set. Students partnered for the repeated speed drill. He also took time to discuss the philosophical underpinnings of traditional martial arts and its relationship to daily life.
In addition to the six formal classes, which the students practiced in their white uniform pants and American Martial Arts Institute t-shirts, other times we spent learning katas and practicing. Each of the master instructors on the cruise taught the katas which they developed as part of their testing requirements for 7th Dan. Master Stalloch taught Resonance; Master Chuff taught Wind; Master Moller taught Trilogy; Master Morris taught Unity; and Master Freleigh taught Gauntlet. Other advanced katas were also taught including Bassai Sho, Bassai Dai, Cheongwon, So San, Sip Gin, Gekisai, Continuity 2, Chip Jang, Chip Su, and others.
Grandmaster Crandall also taught a private class for the Master Instructors.
The black belts also took advantage of the ship's fitness center, treadmills, open air track, free weights, and aerobics room for personal workouts to improve strength, power, endurance, and overall fitness.
Between training sessions there was plenty of time for the team members to enjoy the ship's activities and each ports excursions. Some of the on board activities including bumper cars, inline skating, rock climbing, swimming, workout facilities, skydiving simulator, flow-rider, shopping, movie theater, restaurants, shows including comedians, parades, and more. The entire group also had cake and ice cream, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the school, and enjoyed the numerous restaurants. The four ports included Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Saint Maarten, and Haiti. Some of the excursions that team members enjoyed included SCUBA diving in coral reefs and wrecks, snorkel safari, parasailing, jet skiing, aquarium and zoos, glass bottom boats, butterfly conservatory, beaches, zip lines, fly boarding, ATV riding, historic tours, and many others. Below are some pictures of the excitement. The team grew stronger in camaraderie through their shared enjoyment of everything the Caribbean had to offer.
On August 18th, Grandmaster Crandall held a short presentation ceremony and cake cutting in the team's private conference room.
This included the announcement of the publication of a new children's book authored by Mrs. Amanda Crandall and illustrated by Miss Sabrina Crandall titled Down Block for Defense (A Julia and Tiger Lily Adventure). The book will be released internationally in September 2016.
Grandmaster Crandall presented Master Stalloch and Master Morris with hand carved Hanku (Chops), the traditional seals used for official documents and certificates. Master Stalloch's is to be used as successor to American Eagle Style and Master Morris's is to be used as successor to Takenouchi-Hangan-Ryu-Matsuno-Crandall Iaido.
It was during this ceremony that Grandmaster Crandall announced the promotion of Master Eric Stalloch to 8th Degree Black Belt, after Master Stalloch completed his testing requirements on the ship by demonstrating the 8th Dan katas before the group. Master Stalloch was presented with his certificate, signed and sealed, which will hang in the main training location.
While Grandmaster Crandall and the other black belts were on the training cruise, the main location of the American Martial Arts Institute remained open for its students to train in regular classes. In Grandmaster Crandall's absence from the country, Mr. Steve Riley was responsible for all administrative duties for the school and American Eagle Style. It was his dedication to the school and style that allowed the school to remain open while many of the other black belts were away, with support from the other black belt instructors and staff who remained behind to run classes. THANK YOU.
The training cruise was a great success and the team and the memories created will be shared for years to come. The next training trip will occur in 2017 in Niagara Falls.