Barbara: I had the pleasure of meeting and training with Amy Strader at the 2013 European Kenpo Camp, organized and run by Mr. Ed Downey. This was Amy’s first year at the camp and as you will see, the camp provided an awesome experience for those in attendance. The idea for this blog came, during a training session with Amy. I felt that it would be unique, fun, and thought provoking, to write a joint article on our thoughts and experiences at camp. We will start out with Amy’s insights, and it is our desire to format this in a flowing and organized fashion.
Amy: I have been requested to co-author an article with Mrs. Barbara White for the Women in Kenpo Weblog. To be asked is an honor in itself, but as I contemplate my words, I feel the bigger honor is to be able to reach so many women and men in the world who share a mutual passion and knowledge. Founding Father, Grandmaster Parker, in his generosity, felt compelled to create a system in order to share his great wisdom of Kenpo Karate and all its treasure. In doing so he created a legacy of generosity and sharing, passing down from generation to generation the joy of a common language and outlet for the common spirit that connects us all.
Barbara: Eddie Downey and his organization has had his camp for over 10 years. My husband and I have attended for the past 7 or 8 years, (give or take an Icelandic volcano). Our children have attended the camp and have hopes of returning at some future time. Throughout these years we have had the honor to meet many wonderful and passionate individuals from all over the world, whom we call friends. The camp provides a friendly, family oriented venue to share a common thread, and that is, Kenpo. Thank you Eddie Downey and your staff, for the countless hours you spend organizing this event so that the needs of all are met.
Amy: I was going to write about self defense and what that feels like from a women’s point of view. But, I was so touched by the generous way all the senior instructors never ignored or put off anyone’s request for a moment of their time over the busy weekend; I am compelled to put those thoughts in writing. I was so moved by the strong connection that we have to one another, that the impression that made in me was indelible.
Barbara: I will touch on the women’s self defense class. I have had the privilege to work with many women and present my self defense workshop at this camp for the past several years. I thank Eddie Downey for providing me with this venue because it gives women education in self defense, and has allowed me to make a positive impact to others. Although I am regularly updating my presentation and revising it, there is one thing that remains consistent, and that is the unity, passion, and mutual support and good will demonstrated during this class. I believe it is a good venue for women to work together, and create a bond with one another. Non martial arts women also participate and are empowered when they see how hard they can hit and how loud they can kiai. It never ceases to inspire me, the transition that women experience in their confidence after their exposure to Kenpo karate.
Amy: Spending a weekend in Ireland with some of the most skilled people who have dedicated their lives to this goal was an inspiring event for me. It became apparent that the goal is not only to work hard and be the best that you can be, but to touch as many people with that spirit as you can. It felt like a gathering of the family, a reunion if you will. Even though many of us were meeting face to face for the first time, the feeling was of family, greeting those you have been connected to in spirit for a long time.
Barbara: Amy, you are right when you when you commented that the gathering felt like a family reunion, even though many people were meeting face to face for the first time. I think Facebook has done a lot to connect people together all over the world and you certainly see images and comments pre, during, and post camp. This helps to keep people connected after camp is complete. The significant aspect of the European camp is that it balances the seminars with typical Irish entertainment; singing and socializing. It is a camp for both martial artists and non-martial artists.
Amy: Like a family, all the generations were represented, from the memory of the Grandmaster to the arrival of the first Grandson. The common language and love of those who practice the art was evident in every conversation and interaction that I observed. We all shared the new Grandfathers joy at the arrival of his grandson. We immediately loved that child as our own and we wished him and his mother well.
Barbara: To date, the happy parents have not picked out a name, although they have had a few suggestions. One well-known instructor at the camp suggested the name Jeb, short for John, Edward, and Bob. Hmmm…who could this have been?
Amy: It occurred to me as I sat there watching all the children of Kenpo play and interface that we all are the stewards of the art. That we are connected to one another and that every interaction that we have with another human being leaves an impression. Like footprints, everywhere we go leaves a trace that we have been there. There is a tremendous responsibility that goes with that. Every interaction that we have with someone leaves a footprint on them. (Sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.)
We have to accept that responsibility and be very certain that the impression that we leave is the one that we want to leave. How do we want to be remembered? What feelings do we want people to have when they think about us? Do they want to see us again as soon as possible, or will never be too soon.
When we welcome a new member to the family we understand that we are going to be an influence in the formation of this child. The impressions that we make are going to be a great part of the final outcome of the design. Like the sculptor, blacksmith or diamond cutter every strike of the tool is going to change the outcome. We never know the quality of the raw materials we begin with, but we still must take the care and caution to produce the best final results that we can.
As teachers and all of us are, in our every word and action we are setting chisel to clay, leaving the imprint that is uniquely ours upon every person that we meet. Wow, that is a huge responsibility! Whether you see it as a burden or as a privilege, pre-determines the type of impression that you are going to leave.
Barbara: I agree that every word, action, and deed, leaves an impression of some form or another. Through the martial arts, we learn discipline and self control. With this, in combination with a desire to be a good and upright person, we have an opportunity to leave lasting footprints of goodness. My husband, in his new DVD, Elements of Effective Coaching, quotes a poem, “No written word nor spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be. Nor all the books on all the shelves, it’s what the teachers are themselves.” This DVD helps establish a bar that we aspire to reach.
Amy: In contemplating the fact that every student that we encounter comes to us as unknown raw materials, we must remember that and be very certain of the care that we put in to the impression that we leave. One misplaced strike can shatter the diamond forever. We have a vision of what we want the final outcome to be, but we don’t have complete control over that. There is a fiber or vibration that runs through the process that we cannot break, but need to work with and keep to its highest and best use. This fiber or vibration is what connects us all.
Barbara: Amy, I know we agree that as black belts, we have opportunity to influence and be in service to others. There are many outstanding women in Kenpo who are black belts and aspiring black belts, who are in service to others; Aisling Downey, Aisling Byrne, Niahm Byrne, Niahm Carr, Aisling Lee, Helene Meade, Antonia Mahoney, Andrea Oman, and many others. The French have a black belt who regularly attends camp, Isabell Gomez Fuentes, who works very hard and continually reaches out to others through the Facebook media. It is an honor to be a part of something that so empowers and improves self esteem and confidence of those we are exposed to.
I am involved in Royal Family Kids, both through our tournament and through my work at the camp itself. I would like to end with the starfish story, which is a classical story used often at Royal Family Kids. It speaks volumes.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. –