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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.