Exploring Past Your Comfort Zone: Colin’s Martial Arts Seminar in Schenectady, NY 2024

JDK Schenectady, NY Seminar 2024
Participants at JDK;s Schenectady NY Seminar 2024

Beyond the Comfort Zone
A trip to Schenectady, New York, for a martial arts seminar in January 2024 pushed me outside my comfort zone. It followed a successful seminar and book launch in Dallas the previous year and presented unique challenges, from planning a seminar without much of a lead time, to navigating unfamiliar territory, and reaching out to martial art schools.

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone
While Dallas 2023 resonated deeply, the upcoming seminar in New York felt daunting. It was uncharted territory, a stark contrast to the familiar warmth of Dallas. Yet, it presented an excellent opportunity to strengthen my working relationship with the host Master Will Just, who had connected with me five years prior, and was my demonstration partner in Dallas. He was captivated by our training methodology, particularly its emphasis on extracting practical applications from traditional forms. He even harbored the ambitious dream of establishing a branch of Joong Do Kwan (JDK) in New York.

Colin demonstrates an application on Will Just
Colin demonstrates how a ‘receiving’ application can hit hard or soft on host Master Will Just

Fueling the Passion
Knowing his aspirations, I readily agreed to travel to New York when it coincided with my wife’s work trip. With her support, I encouraged Will to organize a seminar. However, the timing wasn’t ideal: the holidays and harsh winter weather presented significant hurdles. Undeterred by the challenges, Will, fueled by his positive experience in Dallas, mobilized his network, visited schools he wasn’t connected with, and promoted the event feverishly.

Commemorating and Moving Forward
As preparations progressed, a note of sadness shadowed our excitement. The trip reminded us all on the recent passing of my dear friend and book publisher, GM Mike Swope. His presence was deeply missed, and we spoke of him frequently throughout our time in New York, cherishing his friendship and guidance.

Jeff applies a doo palmok markgi on Nick
Jeff works a two-man application at Schenectady 2024

A Leap of Faith
Another unexpected encounter happened just days before the event. Jack Berry, the new editor of Taekwondo Times, reached out through FaceBook messenger. He was intrigued by our approach and expressed interest in me contributing articles. Stepping outside his comfort zone, just like myself was doing, Jack saw the Schenectady seminar as an opportunity for growth and exploration.

Mental Readiness
The long flight to New York offered the opportunity to delve into the seminar material through mental visualization. Isolated from distractions, I envisioned myself presenting, engaging the audience, working with my demonstration partner, and tackling any potential challenges. Landing in New York, despite the fatigue from the journey, I felt confident and well-prepared.

Beyond Lost Luggage and the Tribulations of Travel
The warmth and hospitality of the local martial arts community offered a sense of belonging, and the focus shifted to the training itself.

The seminar delved beyond the realm of “fancy moves” and flashy techniques. Our focus was on unlocking the hidden potential of traditional forms and exploring their practical applications in dynamic real-world scenarios. We emphasized the importance of anticipation, sensitivity to the opponent, adapting to the opposition, and even turning their aggression against them, like a water droplet navigating a powerful torrent.

A highlight was witnessing a Grandmaster seamlessly blend her police experience with the seminar material, demonstrating the inter-relatedness of tactical skill. We are all branches of the same tree!

Master Will Just working a Knife Hand Strike whilst walking his opponent down the line
Master Will Just working a Knife Hand Strike on Taekwondo Times Editor Jack Berry at Schenectady 2024

Beyond Technique: Building Connections
Beyond the technical aspects, the trip fostered connections. Witnessing a passionate practitioner establish a new branch of my school in New York was incredibly rewarding. The genuine hospitality of the local martial arts community offered an unexpected sense of belonging.

Colin Wee destabilizes opponent off the base
Colin Wee performs a number of unscripted skills, destabilizing Master Will Just off his base at Schenectady 2024

Beyond Expectations
This journey to Schenectady, far from being just another martial arts seminar, became a transformative experience. It reaffirmed the value of venturing outside comfort zones, embracing the unexpected, and fostering meaningful connections. It served as a reminder that growth often lies beyond familiar territory, and that stepping outside our comfort zones can open doors to new possibilities and enrich our lives in profound ways. This odyssey, filled with challenges and unexpected encounters, solidified my commitment to sharing my knowledge, fostering connections within the martial arts community, and continuing to learn and grow both as an instructor and an individual.

Note: A short reel on this seminar can be viewed at https://youtu.be/A_OeUdtNtM8?si=eCdgQrmOrfM9NEE4


Bio: Colin Wee is the Principal of Joong Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do in Perth, Western Australia, Author of Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata, and winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Non-fiction Martial Arts.

In Loving Memory: Honoring Mike Swope, Our Publisher, and Friend

With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to a cherished member of our community, Mike Swope, who, at 55, left us on October 1, 2023, after a motorcycle accident. Beyond a publisher, Mike was a beacon of light, etching an indelible mark on our hearts and the martial arts world.

Mike joined The Study of Taekwondo Facebook group in 2009, becoming an integral part of our community. His passion for martial arts resonated in every post, forging connections that transcended the digital realm.

Colin Wee (left), and Mike Swope RIP (right) search out some amazing ribs during a lull between launching the book and martial art seminars in Dallas, March 2023.

In 2018, Mike’s talents as a writer and interviewer shone in Totally TaeKwonDo magazine. “An Interview with Sabumnim Colin Wee” showcased not just literary prowess but an understanding of camaraderie among high-level instructors. Little did we know, this marked the start of a beautiful collaboration.

In 2020, our paths crossed again with a manuscript. Entrusting Mike with “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata” was an investment in a friendship that bloomed into something extraordinary.

GM Mike Swope understood the power of the written word, but more importantly the visuals of a story. The above picture was taken during a seminar where he spent time taking videos of the content and working the crowd.

Mike’s dedication was awe-inspiring. He saw beyond words, encouraging a rewrite to infuse more of “my voice.” A testament to his commitment, understanding of the interplay between words and illustration, and belief in authentic storytelling.

In March 2023, during a road trip around Dallas for the book launch, we met Mike in person. His warm smile mirrored the online friendship. Mike’s discreet contributions to our seminars showcased his humility and passion for martial arts.

Mike wasn’t just a publisher; he was a friend sharing our joys, challenges, and triumphs. His reviews reflected an authentic voice resonating with readers. His belief in our work fueled motivation during creative ups and downs.

The Road Trippers 2023: GM Mike Swope, Colin Wee, Will Just, and Jeff Palm.
Mike was a good friend, he will be missed.

As we grapple with Mike’s void, solace comes in tributes from the community. Phrases like “a stand-up guy” and “a great person who loved TKD” echo sentiments of many whose lives he touched.

Best Indie Book Award Emblem
Under Moosul Publishing, Breaking Through Won 2023 Best Indie Book Award

Mike’s legacy transcends publishing. His passion for comic books, motorcycles, and sci-fi showcased the depth of his personality.

For condolences or Mike’s obituary, visit Mike Swope’s Obituary. As we navigate life without our friend and publisher, let’s cherish memories, shared wisdom, and the enduring impact of Mike Swope on our lives and the martial arts community.