1. The IMA's stated primary aim is to bring martial artists together to cross-train and share knowledge. What value would you place on this aspect of what the IMA does — what has it done for you personally as a martial artist and instructor?
After cutting my teeth on hard karate styles ‘Goju, Kyokushin & Shotokan' my view on martial arts was it had to be hard, fast and brutally powerful. There was no room in my mind for soft and circular – Aikido, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, etc. I was ignorant and dismissed other styles if they didn't look a certain way on the surface.
As my experience in martial arts grew and my mind began to open to other possibilities, I formed the IMA Circle of Knowledge so that instructors from all schools could come together and share their knowledge and unique skills with each other.
This process opened my mind, not only to new techniques but also to new philosophies and cultures and has been one of the most important elements in my growth as a martial artist. Many of our members report similar experiences to me.
2. How is this sharing facilitated? (Describe how the IMA works in this capacity)
We hold our well-known “Circle of Knowledge” open training sessions where various instructors will teach their favourite topic for say twenty minutes at a time over a 2-3 hour session. Everyone who attends is free to accept or reject anything that is presented, no egos, just friendly training.
Imagine performing a technique you thought was very effective and when you tried it on a person from another style it didn't work? This is a fear many instructors face when they move outside of their comfort zone but, for martial arts, we need to get out of that space if we want to learn and grow.
At our training sessions everyone comes in on an equal footing and the structure ensures that no one looses face. The atmosphere is open and members tell me that the have fun, learn new things and feel encouraged to introduce those new skills to their own students.
As IMA membership grew we set up these types of training sessions in each state, headed by a regional director. Before we knew it we had numerous schools around the world asking if they could do the same. We have since had instructors travel from one country to another, training at various IMA flagged schools and being warmly welcomed.
Sharing knowledge is the founding concept of the IMA and as our membership has expanded we have developed the model to provide a complete range of services for our members and their schools. As a large association we have been able to search out and negotiate better deals on everything from insurance to martial arts equipment to industry specific training courses and so our initial idea of sharing knowledge has expanded to help instructors with their business as well as their training.
3. Give us an example of a great experience you've had as a result of this…
I've been running the IMA and the Circle of Knowledge for over 15 years now and every time we meet and share our skills I come away with something new that makes me re-evaluate and improve my art. That's a great experience to my way of thinking. Recently though, being involved with the IMA has opened the way to some interesting experiences.
I've trained in the Shotokan katas for 30+ years but haven't had a direct teacher since 1988. Anyway, for some years I had heard about a very interesting teacher in South Africa. I then read some articles about him, watched his videos and thought that I would love to learn from him. He used to run a huge karate group over there (20,000+ students) and then he immigrated to Australia. I'm talking about Sensei Stan Schmidt. Being part of the IMA led me to being invited to another association's function where I met Sensei Schmidt.
I'm always bringing instructors together and arranging for people to train so it's nice when it happens to me. Now I have private lessons with Sensei Schmidt and have found a new appreciation for Shotokan karate and how to apply my technique with more impact. I'm always looking for new ways to improve.
Here's another recent anecdote. I'm always inviting members of other associations to come to our training sessions and functions. Because we are always offering the hand of friendship and cooperation we often find that spirit reciprocated in kind. A few years back the Bob Jones Corporation invited me to one of their national weekend camps. I was the only outsider to train on that camp and it was a fantastic experience.