My Impressions of The Gi Yu Dojo Annual Seminar June 2010
Mike Marziale (Ni Kyu)
July 8, 2010

    As anyone that was able to attend can tell you, the 2010 annual seminar was a huge success.  With fellow students joining us from Indiana and Georgia, these events remind me of a family reunion more than anything else.  We are all there to learn, to train, and to practice our art, but the annual seminars are really about more than just training. 

    Even though we may only see the students from the Atlanta and Kokomo schools a few times a year, there is a strong bond that develops with these individuals.  At its root, that bond starts to form through shared efforts and shared goals.  As we train together, trying to improve ourselves, each other, and our art, a friendship and understanding forms, as does an essential level of trust.  We must trust our training partners with our safety as they learn their techniques, and accept their trust as we learn our own.  As our understanding of our techniques grows, so does our understanding of each other and ourselves. 

    While training may be the root of these friendships, it is not our only point of commonality.  It takes a certain type of person to dedicate themselves to training in a martial art, and this is especially true of our art.  The seven virtues of Bushido; justice, courage, mercy, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty seem to be of decreasing importance in our society today.  Some might even call them archaic.  I know, however, that every member of our dojo holds them in their heart, and strives to stay true to them.  This shared core set of beliefs is the glue that binds us and makes us a community instead of just a training group.  

    The training itself also changes somewhat during the seminar weekend.  As the dojo fills up, and more people attend, the energy and excitement levels increase.  That energy is really impossible to describe, so I won’t even try.  It is something that you have to be experience for yourself.  It also provides us an opportunity to work with people, bodies, and body types that we don’t train with on a regular basis.  This can be important for our training.  Sometimes, I think, we can get use to how our partners respond to techniques, or what we have to do to affect a familiar uke’s body.  Having unfamiliar partners can force us to rethink what we are doing, and improve and adapt our techniques.  These moments can show us flaws or assumptions that we make in our training, and such lessons are priceless, and hard to come by.  Just as we trained in plain clothes on Thursday to remove the assumptions and assistance a gi can provide, sometimes we have to change our training to try and remove assumptions that we might make about weight, or reaction time, or movement. 

    The seminar ends every year, of course, with rank testing.  First, let me again congratulate everyone that passed his or her test, that is a major accomplishment.   Speaking for myself at least, testing isn’t just a measure of martial ability.  Testing will tell you how you are progressing.  It will give you a goal to strive towards, and a guide against which to measure your growth.  More importantly, however, it provides us with a challenge, and an opportunity to prove to ourselves what we are really made of.  It is only in the face of adversity that we find our true selves.  In order to pass these tests, a student must have the determination and dedication to prepare for the tests and learn the techniques.  The student must have the strength of will and confidence to perform under pressure.  You must possess the courage to face the challenge set in front of you.  Anyone challenging themselves to test for rank will learn a good deal about themselves through that experience, pass or fail.  Any student that passes that challenge will carry that sense of accomplishment with them into every other aspect of their life.  It is an experience that I hope everyone reading this has a chance to experience for themselves.

    To Sensei Sandhu, for organizing this event, and for the continuing and unwavering patience and dedication to our school, to our art, and to each and every one of your students, you have my profound respect and gratitude.  To everyone that attended the seminar, and made it such a great success, you have my most heartfelt thanks.  I already find myself looking forward to next year’s seminar with great anticipation.  Domo arigato gozaimashta.

Mike Marziale