Clinics and Tournaments: Classrooms for Self Improvement (Part 2)

Tournaments and clinics each have a place in the education of martial artists. The experiences gained from attending them – both good and bad – goes far beyond learning a new kata or lock flow, or winning a handful of medals. I encourage my students to take advantage of these opportunities whenever possible. In the this two-part series I share the benefits I’ve gained from participating in tournaments and clinics, and why I think they’re an important component of our training as martial artists.

Part II: Clinics & Seminars

My early years in the martial arts were spent in a classroom and at tournaments. I didn’t even know about clinics/seminars and figured I could get everything I needed from my karate school anyways. And in all honesty, there was nothing more that I needed to learn at the time. I picked the school to start my training, and as a beginner I only needed to focus on what my Sensei told me to do and then do it the best I could. After all, this was all new to me – outside of watching Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee films.

It wasn’t until I moved to Kansas City and met Dan Kennedy that I attended my first clinic. WHAT? Another instructor that wasn’t mine teaching me something that wasn’t on my requirement list? YES! How else do you expect to broaden your horizon? You see, I’m blessed to have an instructor whose ego isn’t so big he can’t get his head through the door. He’s comfortable enough with himself and what he teaches that he brings in other styles and instructors or takes us to see them, only to give us more to think about in our training.

Through this process my martial arts knowledge has grown greatly, as has my understanding of what we do and why we do it certain ways. I now attend master level clinics and seminars with instructors from around the globe. I’m not seeking a new art or trying to “fix” what we have. I love going to these clinics for a deeper understanding of what I do, and to see what others do and why. What I’ve found out is that we all do similar things, but maybe our basics are slightly different or the emphasis is different in one area versus another. It doesn’t mean that anyone is wrong – we’re just different.

Attending and participating in clinics outside your comfort zone takes a bit of getting used to, but when all is said and done, we are all karateka in search of deeper understanding and knowledge. I have had the privilege of not only learning from some of the best, but also working alongside them, as well as some very talented students. Unlike a tournament, clinics are not a competition. Everyone is there to learn or help others learn, and they’re a great place for martial brotherhood. I’ve met some great friends at clinics from around the States that I would not have likely met or made a connection with at a tournament, due to the nature of competition. But not all clinics are “awesome.” I have been to some that were, well, boring. Maybe it was my mood, or I felt there was nothing being taught to my level, or the instruction was bad. But one good thing about clinics is there is always someone to talk to, to discuss theory with, or to just shoot the bull.

My instructor has introduced me to clinics and continued growth – both in and outside our dojo. I encourage my students to attend events in hopes it will broaden their knowledge. If a student leaves in search of another direction, I’m glad I could help to introduce them to their true path.

If you really want to educate your students, take some advanced students to a few clinics – or even host your own – but bring in a couple outside instructors that you are comfortable with. Then afterwards discuss the good and bad things. Maybe a door was opened for a student, maybe you learned a new way to teach, met some people, or even encouraged others to explore your teachings.

I’m thankful for the opportunities to meet other mentors in my martial life, to have made new friends, and to have had the opportunity to try new styles and see new material presented. I can only believe that all of this will help me continue to grow in my lifelong journey in the martial arts.

Summary: A lot can be learned from attending clinics, but you need to find one with like styles or cross styles that encourage your own growth. As a senior martial artist I am finding that I need more mentors in my life and I need to find others that are on a similar path as mine. This is important to share ideas and help each other grow.

Tournaments and clinics. Either way you travel, look for ways to improve yourself. Ask questions and grow as a martial artist and a positive leader in your community!

2 Responses to “Clinics and Tournaments: Classrooms for Self Improvement (Part 2)”
  1. mattjon332 says:

    Great blog.

    I think it depends on where you are with your art, but in the long run if you’re not seeking out new knowledge from various mentors outside your own art/dojo you are stagnating and missing opportunities to further enhance your understanding of your own art. This reminds me of the saying:

    “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

    I think this applies in the martial arts world as well, without considering different viewpoints and taking constructive criticism we are missing chances to grow. Without those chances we at best stay in the same place we were years before, at worst we lose our way entirely.

  2. Ron says:

    Hmmmm….two replies in less than a week. Once again, you have hit upon a topic of interest to me.

    As with tournaments, I view clinics as a means of figuring out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. And how often do you have the opportunity to learn directly from your teacher’s teachers? That puts a whole new perspective on my own training and, by itself, is worth the price of admission (which is less than I’d spend going out to eat a couple times).

    Of course, as you mentioned, you get to know people that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet. I walked into the recent MYB clinic knowing just a few people and left having made new friends. This is a special breed of people with a sense of camaraderie that I’ve only experienced in one other setting (ultramarathons), but that’s a different story.

    I’m big on writing things down so I don’t forget. Looking back through my notes from the recent USKK and MYB clinics, I’ve got all sorts of useful information. Did I capture everything? No, not even close. My issue is a bit different than yours, in that much of what is being taught is beyond my current ability. But I still get something useful from every instructor, even if that “something” is from a different system.

    Maybe I’m a bit of a fanatic, but I figure it’s all about choices. If there’s a good karate clinic not too far from home……….or I can hang around the house, clean the garage, mow the lawn…….I choose karate.

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