Kids are not Marine Corp recruits. This is going to be a disaster, Sensei A. J. Advincula spending the next several hours teaching more than 40 kids. These are not Marine Corp recruits. These are sensitive, if not always disciplined 6, 8, 10 year-old boys and girls. A. J. Advincula, however, is a former Marine Corp instructor. And from my limited experience, Mr. Sensitivity he is not.
The impending disaster was part of an Advincula seminar, a two-day Isshin-ryu event sponsored by the late Sensei Tom McDonach of Mission, British Columbia. I spent half a day driving to Canada for the event.
This was my third Advincula seminar. Experience taught me to be expectant. And I was not disappointed. The first night's seminar centered on Bo and Sai. Even after more than fifty years in the martial arts, Sensei Advincula continues to go back to Okinawa to study weapons.
The second day's seminar would center on Isshin-ryu kata basics and bunkai. But first, Tom McDonach was having Sensei Advincula put on an early afternoon seminar for Isshin-ryu students under 14 years, a big mistake in my opinion. Area students from half a dozen Isshin-ryu dojo were there. This seminar, however, would cut the youth membership down to nothing. And Tom would spend the rest of his time apologizing to 40 sets of parents and half a dozen Sensei who brought their young students to the seminar.
I did not base my thoughts on any disrespect for Sensei Advincula. Early in 1969, at the age of 32, I started practicing Isshin-ryu under America's Sensei, Steve Harry Armstrong. I have continued to practice Isshin-ryu almost every day since. Yet, it wasn't until the mid-1990s, when I attended my first Advincula seminar, I started to learn, understand, and appreciate the finer aspects of Isshin-ryu karate.
When I returned home from that first seminar, I demoted myself. I decided I would not acknowledge a higher rank until I had reached a level of better understanding. I would learn as much as I could absorb from this man, whenever I could.
A. J. Advincula teaches no nonsense karate in a no nonsense way. If he had a dojo I could attend, I would be there. But I am a thick-skinned adult. These were kids. This seminar was going to be a disaster.
Tom had the kids warm up. He then introduced Sensei Advincula. Advincula gathered the students in a semicircle and sat them down. Then it started. "Who wanted to be first to perform a kata?" Not just in front of one's peer group mind you, but everyone in the entire building. Of course I would not want to. Would you? Well nether did any of the kids - at first.
By the time the seminar was over, not only did every child there want to do the kata he or she knew, but any kata or self-defense technique Sensei Advincula suggested. The seminar went from no hands raised, to half the group at any given time excitedly raising their hands. Every face changed from apprehension to eager excitement. Six and seven-year old students were begging to do KuSunKu or take on Sensei Advincula in a self-defense technique.
I said earlier, this seminar would be a disaster, these were not Marine Corp recruits. I forgot. They train Marines to win. Sensei Advincula knows how to train winners. Patiently, step-by-step he built up each child's confidence. Every student left with a high level of self esteem, a positive feeling of being a winner. By the time the seminar was over, every young student there would have followed Sensei Advincula into the face of their worse nightmare. Each student knew he or she was a winner. Each student wanted the seminar to continue.
You Must Care
Teaching young people is not easy. If you want to learn how to do it successfully, watch A. J. Advincula teach a group of 6, 8, 10, and 12 year olds. If Sensei means teacher, that he is.
To succeed, however, you must care. He does. During the break between seminars, I overheard Sensei Advincula tell an impressed parent: "...these are some of my children. I have hundreds more across the country." I am sure he does.
I still advise against calling him Mr. Sensitive to his face. But, if you are having Sensei A. J. Advincula give a seminar, make a special effort to have a separate seminar for those under 14 years. If you cannot do both, let the adults learn by watching.
___ Michael E. Odell - A Continuing Student of Isshin-ryu
"The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires."
___ William Arthur Ward
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