AMERICAN MARTIAL ARTS INSTITUTE CARIBBEAN TRAINING CRUISE 2013
This historic group picture was taken in San Juan, Puerto Rico
From August 8 to 17, 2013, Grandmaster Crandall led a team of 14 American Eagle Style black belts on a training cruise destined for the Caribbean. The team embarked on Royal Caribbean's Explorer 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, and Italy, but this training cruise was the most instructive and informative international trip the American Martial Arts Institute has held to date.
The primary purpose of this cruise was to train in American Eagle Style under Grandmaster Crandall. 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, and the training also served to prepare them for future performances. Grandmaster Crandall presented four classes while on the cruise, each designed to enhance the students' understanding and skill in the American Eagle Style. With assistance from Royal Caribbeans Onboard Events Coordinator, Rodrigo Martinez, a large conference room was reserved exclusively for the team for the entire trip. Each class was one and one-half hours 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 Tai Chi Chaun, including practical application of some its most fundamental movements, philosophical concepts of wu shu, and push hand drills. Grandmaster Crandall trained in Beijing under Xang Li Li and has had the opportunity to learn from other masters in wu shu styles. While the American Martial Arts Institute does not teach Tai Chi as a style, 10% of it core heritage is influenced by Chinese styles. The students also learned a Tai Chi practice exercise to help develop and remember the skills learned during the class.
The second class's topic was joint locking techniques and Cane-fu. Grandmaster Crandall presented several methods for locking and immobilizing an attacker's joints. Time was spent going over how to adapt your body's movements to size and structure of the attacker's body so that each technique would work. The techniques presented are not taught in regular classes. After practicing on several different partners, the students then learn the Natural Walk Cane Kata from Master Stalloch. This is a traditional cane kata for the American Eagle Style and also the American Cane System.
The third class's topic was blocking, checking, and offensive blocking concepts. In a progression of elevated skills toward fluidity in self-defense skills, Grandmaster Crandall taught methods to redirect an attacker's energy using the minimal effort necessary. This included counters and body movement. It also included how to block and counter simultaneously. The student's learned a drill to develop flow and a rhythm in some of these fundamentals. They also practiced as small groups in circular self-defense format. Grandmaster Crandall led the team to the top deck on the helicopter pad to practice in the Caribbean sun.
The fourth class's topic was meditation. The class focused on the difference between meditation techniques and a state of meditation or finding the center with the focus on acheiving a sense of balance and inner harmony. Grandmaster Crandall discussed the difference between hard ki and soft ki, and other principles of meditation methods. The class culminated in fifteen minutes of time to meditate.
In addition to the four formal classes, which the students practiced in their white uniform pants and custom embroidered cruise 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; and Master Freleigh taught the Gauntlet. Canemaster Lynn Jessee taught Autumn Wind to several participants. Other advanced katas were also taught including Bassai Sho, Bassai Dai, Cheongwon, So San, Hwa Rang, Sip Gin, Gekisai, Continuity 2, and others.
Grandmaster Crandal taught the three master instructors the 8th Dan kata Open Hand.
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 ice skating, inline skating, rock climbing, swimming, miniature golf, golf simulator, workout facilities, shopping, movie theater, restaurants, shows including comedians, parades, and more. The entire group sat down for two formal dining nights in the main dining room. 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, sea walks, glass bottom boats, butterfly conservatory, beaches, zip lines through the canopy of Puerto Rico, zip lines over the ocean in Hati, horse back riding, ATV riding, historic tours, crewing the America's Cup regatta, 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 15th, Grandmaster Crandall held a short presentation ceremony in the team's private conference room. This included small presentations recognizing and remembering some of the moments of excitement from the trip, especially for the youngest members of the team who brought a positive energy and excitement shared with all.
For the past 15 years, Grandmaster Crandall has been learning and practicing kanji and traditional Japanese calligraphy. In most weeks he spends 10 hours practicing this traditional art form. On this trip, Grandmaster Crandall took the time to create four individual calligraphys, each on rice paper boards, signed in katakana and sealed with his personal chop. He presented one to each of the master instructors. Master Freleigh was presented with HONOR; Master Chuff was presented with LOYALTY; and Master Stalloch was presented with KARMA. Grandmaster Crandall also created one for Master Morris which was presented to him when they arrived home.
It was during this ceremony that Grandmaster Crandall chose to name Master Eric Stalloch as his successor and Master of American Eagle Style. Master Stalloch was presented with a certificate, signed and sealed, certifying his position which now hangs in the main training location. Learn more here.
While Grandmaster Crandall and the other 13 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, Master Nathan Morris 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. When Grandmaster Crandall returned, he presented Master Morris with a calligraphy meaning THANKS.
The training cruise was a great success and the team and the memories created will be shared for years to come. The next training cruise will likely be held in 2016.