At the invitation of Grandmaster David Landers of the Effingham Illinois Storm Dragon Dojos, all association disciples gathered together for 4 days of seminars, clinics, training, and fellowship at The Timbers Lodge outside of Stewardson, Illinois April 19 through April 22 2007.
(left to right): Nidan Rick Downs (Kittery, ME), Nidan Scott Williams (North Berwick, ME), Nidan David Shuler (Montrose, IL), Sandan Carl Parker (Spokane, WA), Sandan James Nancarrow (Northwood, NH), Sandan Tim House (Portsmouth, NH), Yondan Russ Jones (Laconia, NH), Master Joseph Larison (Montrose, IL), Grandmaster Peter Rose (Dover, NH), Grandmaster David Landers (Effingham, IL), Master Kerry Bushue (Beecher City, IL), Nidan Scott Petitjean (Carbondale, IL), Nidan Art Shuler (Montrose, IL). Not shown — because he was the only one with a camera! — Sandan Dwayne Beccue (Shumway, IL).
The weather was unexpectedly warm for the six of us who traveled out from the East Coast. We had just gone through a major snow storm the week before, and knew that Illinois had also experienced a freezing sleet and snow storm that same weekend. Though not packed for winter, we weren't prepared for the 70 degree temps and hot sun for our outside training either. It was a great treat! A couple of the nights were pretty chilly, though, and so we were able to gather in the lodge's great room with a warming fire roaring in the huge stone fireplace.
On Saturday evening of the retreat, I was honored by the C&S Self Defense Association's Governing Council with a promotion to 9th Degree Black Belt. As I stated to them later in a letter:
"I would like to thank you all for your trust by the promotion you bestowed upon me this past retreat. I will do everything in my power to not let you down, to be fair, and to conduct my life in accordance with the standards that not only you, but I myself, expect of me."
I am humbled by this, and can only thank all of my students who have enriched my life these last 39 years by their hard work and dedication to an art that is most important to me.
After arriving at the Indinapolis Airport late Thursday morning, we met up with Sandan Carl Parker who flew in from Spokane, WA. From there, we were driven to Master Joseph Larison's in Montrose, IL for a group lunch.
We were then taken out to The Timbers Lodge to square away our gear, and meet up with a few more of the local disciples.
The Timbers Lodge is a beautiful privately owned log frame structure in a secluded and wooded area about twenty minutes outside of Stewardson, IL. With seven or so bedrooms on three levels, a hot tub in the basement, and a couple of grills on a huge deck overlooking the woods, we were all set! The Illinois disciples had made up a beautiful welcoming banner that they hung from the top floor landing's bannister overlooking the great room.
Lying on one of the tables in the lodge was a collection of short specialized fighting sticks which Master Larison had made for each of us. Of course, we couldn't resist fooling around with them until our knuckles were sufficiently banged up and sore. But we had things to do, so Master Larison would have to wait until later that evening to show us how to use them correctly.
Then it was off to Nidans Art and David Shuler's club in Effingham, IL to meet up with the rest of the disciples and masters, and to watch a series of great classes and presentations from the various age groups in the Shuler's programs which they hold at the Effingham Lake Land College location gym.
It was great to see such enthusiasm and effort on the part of all, and to meet so many of the students in the various C&S programs from the area, many of whom then joined us for a buffet dinner at the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Effingham, IL later that evening.
And - after so many years - I got to finally have another glass of wine with Grandmaster Lander's wife Linda. We had been kidding each other for I don't know how many years since she had been out vacationing with him that we'd do that again some day. And I got to meet Kim and her daughter, and I now have a promise to meet up with her for a wine tasting. I hope it won't take twenty years to do that!
After all of the disciples gathered back at the lodge, we got a fire going in the fireplace, and began some of the discussions that we would have throughout the weekend. I outlined the seminars and clinics that I would be holding, as well as identifying the sehedule for workouts and training.
Sometime around midnight - and after sufficient beers - it was decided to pit Grandmaster Landers and Sandan James Nancarrow of the Northwood School of Self Defense, Northwood, NH against each other in a breakfast competition: Nancarrow for Friday morning and Landers on Saturday. It turned out to be a toss-up as to the winner and so we decided that the only fair thing to do would be to have them go at it again at the next retreat!
Yondan Russ Jones of the Sachem School of Self Defense in Laconia, NH rousted everyone out of bed very early Friday morning for Sanchin, a couple of presentations that he wanted to share with the group, and a workout.
While they were out doing their thing, the Masters had to make an emergency trip over to the store in Stewardson as one of the Masters - who will remain nameless (Grandmaster Rose...) - had to have half and half with his coffee.
Sandan Nancarrow had just finished up his breakfast preparation of some terrific omelets when the others got in from their workout session. Everyone relished the breakfast and had a chance to relax for a few minutes before I plunged them back into the thick of things.
After eating, I covered some discussion topics, and then it was back outside for a couple of my presentations and more training. We took a brief break for lunch, and then back outside for a two hour forms analysis session. We ended up the afternoon back in the great room for a discussion session before getting cleaned up for dinner.
Dinner was steaks and chicken on the outside grill. Things couldn't have been any better! It was great to share the evening with such a motivated and dedicated group of martial artists.
We ate in the lodge's large rustic dining room, and after clearing the tables, a surprise cake was brought out celebrating the 15th anniversary of C&S Self Defense Association's creation. This was followed by a presentation to each of the Masters a hand crafted cane with that Master's animal as the handle. They are truly works of art.
And then, just as I was about to usher everyone back into the great room for my next discussion topic, I was surprised and honored by the
C&S Self Defense Association's Governing Council with a promotion to 9th Degree Black Belt. I was truly touched by this expression of trust and faith in me.
But I cautioned them all that if anyone was thinking I'd be softened by all of this into cutting the evening short, they were mistaken.
This was brought clearly home to them as we went late into the night again, although later conversations were more of a personal nature than retreat topic oriented. And what better way to top off the evening than with more ice cream and cake from the dinner!
Yondan Jones had everyone out the door early again Saturday morning. Nidan Petitjean lead the group through some Mantis Chi Kung exercises while the Masters met inside the lodge and discussed matters relavant to us, our training, studies, goals, and plans.
We were soon joined by the others, and Grandmaster Landers worked his magic with a great breakfast for us all. Great job, Grandmaster Landers!
We then headed outside for the morning series of clinics I had planned. The night before, Grandmaster Landers had presented each person with a special fighting knife currently used by some of the police departments. He held two sessions that morning with it. The first was how to use this particular kind of knife as a self defense weapon, and the second was a short presentation on knife self defense oriented to how the police approached this type of thing.
Sandan Dwayne Beccue had fixed up an unbelievable pot of chili and another of soup for our lunch. As we ate, I continued with my discussions.
I was also able to meet privately with a couple more of the disciples prior to heading back outside for the afternoon training sessions.
That afternoon included clinics on kicking theory, grabbing attack self defense, forms application from a generalized standpoint as well as some of the more sophisticated and embedded hidden nerve and muscle striking techniques, assorted other topics.
I held a private review of the Master's animal forms where we were all able to share different characteristics of each animal. It was interesting to see the different perspectives each Master had for their animal, and how they integrated the various movements into their form.
Following this clinic, the Master's presented their form to the entire group. In conjunction with this, I spoke at length about "Rose Crane Spreading Wings At The Break of Dawn" and how to effectively integrate this form into the more linear structure of our karate system.
We drove into Effingham to Rexroats Distinctive Dining for dinner. The folks there had put together a huge block of tables so we could all sit around them facing each other. It was a great time and an opportunity for everyone to get to know new friends. And I had one of the best Angus steaks ever! Of course, I was in the perfect area to do that!
Prior to getting down to the evening's business, I had an opportunity to take a couple more of the disciples out for a walk and some private time. With only the night sky to light the way, we were in a beautiful pitch black environment with no other sound than the occassinal rustle of brush as some animal scurried away as we walked along and crunched against the gravel road. This was about as far away from anywhere as you can get without being in the wilderness. It was terrific. We had another late night in the great room sitting around the fire, discussing a variety of topics, and going over the training sessions from earlier that day.
On the way to the airport, we stopped in Effingham for breakfast and coffee on the go, and then at the airport we had lunch while waiting for the flight out. Nidan Downs had beat me pretty bad at backgammon at 32,000 feet on the trip out, and he was looking to tangle with Sandan House on the way back. So they entertained themselves while the rest of us chatted and just relaxed.
It was a great time, and I appreciate all of the effort that went into hosting us out in Illinois. It was my honor to meet so many of the association's Midwest students, and to get to know a few of our disciples I had not as yet met.