Arnis Fest occurred recently, Nov. 10-12th in Homer Glen, IL. Arnis Fest is a three-day martial arts camp consisting of 18-20 hours of total training. The camp (that hosted students from all over the country) feature Masters and Grandmasters of varying martial art styles, coming together to teach students techniques, counters, fighting, and more. This year, students had the privilege of working with Masters of Tapi-Tapi Chuck Gauss and Ken Smith, Grandmaster Will Higginbotham, and Master Earl Tullis.
Master Ken Smith held the annual Arnis Fest at his dojo, Modern Arnis Academy in IL. Arnis Fest primarily focuses on the Filipino martial art Modern Arnis, but also hosts Masters specializing in other styles, therefore attracting a very diverse group of people ranging in skill. Rooms were filled as students poured in to get a chance to train personally with some of the highest ranking instructors in the world. “Going to a seminar where only one person is instructing, you only get to see the one viewpoint and compare and contrast it with your own,” said Thomas Gentile, a martial art student who attended the camp. “Seeing four great Masters who respect each other, makes an environment to really facilitate learning, reinforcement and critical thinking about what you’re learning.”
But why is it important to train outside of your dojo? Does it really make a difference in your martial arts career if you only train regularly at your home dojo? The fact is, martial art camps are really critical to the growth of a student’s skill. “A camp can be up to six months of training,” said Master Ken Smith, sensei of Modern Arnis Academy. Students who attend camps regularly develop to be more well-rounded martial artists as well
as “developing a sense of community,” said Grandmaster Higginbotham, who taught
techniques involving small joint locks at this years camp. Making an effort to attend camps to practice on others and be taught by different instructors is what made Grandmaster
Higginbotham the profound martial artist he is today. “I’m a teacher now from having absorbed all the things I got out of seminars and camps,” Grandmaster Higginbotham said. “Regardless of your instructor, you need spread your wings and diversify… Diversity of training is terribly important. No one person can think of everything.” In addition, traveling and training with other students can give you a reflection of your own skill, “It’s paramount [to train with others]. Because it gives you self-gratification of where you’re at as a measuring stick,” Said Master Chuck Gauss.
In addition to the training and skill acquired at camps, students can develop close relationships with other attendees, and gain friendships that last a lifetime. “My best friends are people I’ve met at camps,” said Master Ken Smith, who met his best friend Master Chuck Gauss at his first martial arts camp. “My very first Remy Presas seminar was Master Ken’s very first Remy Presas seminar, that’s how we met,” Said Master Chuck Gauss, “we’ve been friends ever since, that’s twenty-plus years of friendship.”
Earning the title ‘Master’ or ‘Grandmaster’ takes a lot more than just a lifetime of training. It takes discipline, understanding, diversity of training, and modesty. Grandmaster Steve Stewart says, “learn from everyone, not just owners, but students… I’ve learned things from white belts.” Everyone sees things differently, and everyone teaches differently; it is essential for anyone striving to be a great martial artist someday to broaden their horizon and learn from/practice on as many people as possible. “If you don’t [attend camps] you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’ll never be a whole martial artist,” said Grandmaster Stewart.
Training as a diverse group helps students learn and grow from each other. This is a life-long journey, and no one is on this journey alone. Share your experience and skill with others, and let others share the same with you, regardless of rank, martial arts style, or anything else.