The 24th Annual IKKF Training, which took place over this past weekend, is a gathering of students and teachers who seek to share their martial arts and help each other learn. The event is hosted by C. Bruce Heilman, founder of the IKKF, and his wife Ann-Marie Heilman.

The thing that makes this training a bit unusual is the attendance of very high quality guest instructors from varying arts. Individuals such as Patrick McCarthy, Chuck Merriman, George Alexander, and Forrest Morgan have all been kind enough to teach in the past, and this year was no exception as Aikijujutsu instructor Miguel Ibarra and Shobayashi Shorin Ryu Instructor Bill Hayes led seminars. In addition to special guests, most of the highest ranking members of Okinawa Kenpo made the trip down.

All in all, there is never a shortage of things to see, try, and learn. But one thing that really struck me this year was the ability of these instructors to motivate and inspire.

Learning martial arts is an odd cycle. There are periods of rapid progression, and periods of stagnation. There are times when you feel like you’ve got a good bead on things…and times when you feel lost at sea. This year, my instructors provided me with all of those feelings put together!

Kind of a weird statement…I know. But here is what I mean –

I was able to approach and discuss concepts, techniques, and theory with each instructor. They answered questions thoroughly, and patiently entertained follow-ups. They also challenged me to think outside of my own box and use core concepts that can apply universally. Furthermore, they talked and joked around with me as if I were a colleague instead of a raw student (here’s a hint – I’m much the latter).

Conversely – during their seminars, the guest instructors and IKKF Kyoshi demonstrated flashes of skill that made me set back on my heels. The speed, effectiveness, creativity, and knowledge they displayed is far beyond where I’m at. Watching it forced me to peer higher up the mountain, only to see the tip hidden by fog.

The odd thing is…both factors we’re equally valuable! Personal improvement is always a good thing, but seeing why the martial arts should be a lifelong endeavor is just as important. The term sensei literally translates to ‘one who has gone before’, or ‘one who is just ahead’, and routinely coming into contact with these sensei really helps keep me motivated to traverse the rocky path that is the martial arts.