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Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Gathering 2010!!!

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a martial arts "gathering" so to speak. It is hosted by the Martial Arts Collective Society and is the brainchild of a great man by the name of Hanshi (title) Bruce Juchnik. For more information click here: The Gathering. I have been going to this event for several years now and sometimes it seems like the message of the whole thing has been lost. Allow me to give a little background on what exactly this event is all about.

Our dojo started attending The Gathering in 1999. My Dad and my brother were the 1st out of the dojo to attend having heard about the event through Hanshi Juchnik himself. According to the  website the Gathering was created "as a venue for martial artists from all disciplines to share their knowledge and experience." Masters and Grandmasters from all over the world have shown their faces and spread their knowledge at this event. Such greats as Professor Wally Jay, B.F. Lau, Professor Imi Okazaki-Mullins, Professor Libert O'Sullivan, etc...And the list goes on! There have been several different venues for this Gathering including San Diego in 2000, Portland, Reno, and now it has been held in Sacramento for some time now.

I have had the pleasure of working with some incredible instructors and have soaked up a lot of information over the years. Unfortunately, there has been quite a few instructors who have passed on and are no longer with us.They're dropping off at an alarming rate.Because of their unfortunate demise several of the next generation students have taken over.I do believe that with the gradual shift and evolution of the Gathering that the message has been lost. Let me put it in bold letters for you: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT'S ABOUT THE STUDENTS!!!

I have always considered myself a perpetual student not only in the martial arts, but also in my culinary career and in life in general. I'm always striving for more knowledge and more expertise to add to my repertoire.I always like to add that new, juicy tidbit and be able to employ it in my everyday life.Now that things have shifted in the martial arts world, the new generation of students are now becoming teachers.My Dad, my brother and I are perfect examples of that!

It's my belief that my Dad should've been up on that stage with all those masters some time ago, however he will argue with me to the death!The amount of knowledge that he has not to mention time in the martial arts is astounding!He is a true studier of life as well and his massive amount of knowledge for the martial arts is absolutely impeccable.That coupled with the fact that he's an absolutely incredible technical practitioner and instructor makes him a Professor in my eyes and I do believe that he should get a lot more recognition for what he does.He has the golden heart and the passion for it more than anyone I know and he has strived so hard to overcome hardships and tribulations that he deserves to be in the front row of that stage with all of those masters.

With that said we are the next generation and unfortunately with that has come A LOT of ego and arrogance. The Gathering was swimming with that arrogance, so much so that I could feel it on my skin.People have lost the message that it's not about YOU anymore.So you're an 8th degree black belt or higher!Good for you!You have had your time in the limelight!It's not about you at all anymore, it's about being able to perpetuate what has been given to you.A lot of these so-called masters have had arts handed down to them from their instructors who were ill, who have passed on, who were physically incapable, or just wanted it in better hands.Well take that and run with it my friend, you have been given a gift.And that gift deserves to be passed on to generations and generations.It ceases to be about you anymore when you're solely responsible for carrying on your master's/instructor's wishes.That information needs to be passed on as a precious gift not one filled with arrogance and the typical macho attitude.Yes, you have reached a milestone and it's very important, but as my Professor says, "Does being a 10th degree black belt make your food taste any better or come any quicker?" No it doesn't!And he's right!You're no better on the mat then you are off the mat and that presence should ring true when you're teaching.Unfortunately that doesn't happen very often.

I kept saying all weekend long how so and so just DOESN'T GET IT! You can't even imagine how many times I said that this weekend.But it's so true!Being in that kind of environment and being given the opportunity to teach and spread your knowledge is an absolute honor and should be treated like one.Instead of trying to out-do your peers/instructors, you should be listening to what they have to say and watching one of their classes.No one is ever beyond instruction or learning, in  my book.Just because you're a high ranking instructor doesn't mean that you're at your peak of learning.It has to be a constant evolution of material and maybe learning a different method of teaching.That's why when I go to the Gathering I hand-pick the people that I want to learn from and the one's that I want to associate with because guess what: those are the one's that GET IT!!!

I had the opportunity and privilege to teach at the Gathering this year.Most of the time the Klaff kids a.k.a. my brother and I are always the one's who get to teach the little kiddies.This year we did get to teach the kids (who were absolutely precious by the way) BUT we also had the opportunity to team teach as a family.I've had a saying lately that says: "The family that trains together and tattoos together, stays together!" LOL! Well now you can add, "The family that trains together, tattoos together and teaches together, stays together." When we're here teaching in Phoenix to our students we are the big fishes in a small pond.We cater to our audience and we're the one's who essentially run the show.Well at the Gathering we're definitely the small fishes in a big pond.There are quite a few really terrific masters/instructors there who definitely deserve to be there.I've noticed you can divide the Gathering into quite a few sections so here they are:

1. The old-timers: These are the masters, grandmasters, professors, etc...who are the legends of the martial arts.These are the one's who truly deserve to be up on that stage for their amazing tutelage and knowledge that they have shared for years.Professor O'Sullivan happens to fall into that category as many others should. Unfortunately, some of those "old-timers" don't necessarily belong up on that stage in my opinion because they're involved in too much politics and haven't contributed as much as some.However, most deserve to be up there and unfortunately so many of the GREAT ONES have passed on who can no longer be up there on that stage.

2. The peacocks: These are the instructors who like to strut around and show of their peacock feathers.Most of these can be spotted a mile away because their ego's and big heads hardly fit through the door.These are the teachers who are first up on the stage to get a seat when really those seats belong to their seniors. This is the teacher who takes the floor to teach in front of one of his seniors.This is the teacher who complains about everything and who scoffs at the fact that he had to pay his own way there.God forbid!This is also the instructor who espouses the greatest nonsense ever that students can easily recognize as bullsh**!!! These particular types of people are the one's who don't ever need to be invited again!!!

3. The inspirational ones: These are the teachers who actually do GET IT! These are the one's that the student should seek out to learn from. Not only are they incredibly knowledgeable in their art and studies, but they show a sense of leadership and show unbelievable humbleness.These are inevitably the teachers that are sitting in the back row of the stage, or hiding in a corner not wanting to be acknowledged in front of their Seniors.These are the one's that deserve the recognition but shrug their shoulders when asked to come up on the stage.These are the particular types of instructors I love to be surrounded by.The one's who possess the skill and knowledge but are so ego-less.I have had the privilege to train with many people in this category and will give thanks to them later.

4. The social butterflies: These are the types of people that come to the Gathering solely on the purpose of socializing.These are the one's who bounce around from group to group only "looking" at what the instructor is teaching but not "doing." When asked if they need a partner, the social butterfly will merely reply, "No, I'm okay, I'm just watching!" This is also the same person who will do the technique 1 or 2 times, say they've "got it", and stand there with the partner discussing the technique.Far be it from me to criticize, but I didn't spend all that money to come from AZ just so I can talk.Train, sweat a little, work hard, do the technique, acknowledge your instructor, put a little effort into it.That's not a lot to ask for is it?But apparently, you'd rather watch then do!Well no offense but that makes you a crappy martial artist in my book!!!

The list can go on and on of all types of people, students included.There's the newbies that have never been to the Gathering and the whole concept and experience to them is so overwhelming that they don't know what to do, where to go, who to talk to.Those are the most fun because they have such a naivete and are so innocent in their training.There's the know-it-all student who doesn't ever need to be corrected and somehow is always doing the technique right, and never needs criticism. Plus when asked if they understand the answer is always, "Oh, I've got this." Well guess what if you had it, you'd be a Grandmaster by now, but you're not! Then there's the perpetual student that is always there to study.Instead of waiting around for information they seek out the information and go to different instructors and seek out the knowledge.These are the one's who are always doing the technique no matter if they're doing it 100 times over and over. This is the student that when critiqued by an instructor always replies, "Thank you Sensei." This is the student that GETS IT!

Having the pleasure to team-teach with some great instructors was AWESOME!It was unbelievably gracious of my Dad to throw us in the mix and allow us to teach.Our group of instructors was pretty dynamite and we had everyone moving and going to town on techniques.I actually saw for the very first time that I was an inspiration.I have seen it slowly develop from time to time,but on my own home turf with my own students.This time I was in a different realm, in an arena filled with males and high ranking males.Well a couple of instructors pointed out to my Dad how great it was to have such a strong, good female presence at the Gathering because there really wasn't.Especially one who was teaching ground work.I actually got to see how my teaching affected everyone.Young girls came up to me thanking me and not only complimenting me on my personality, but on my teaching skill as well.I actually inspired young women to want to continue to pursue Jujutsu training and so far as turning one young ladies attention to doing Jujutsu again after an injury. That was the most humbling and awe-inspiring thing to me.I have never been a role model or an inspiration and I finally got to see it for the first time ever.

Needless to say I had a blast at The Gathering.I established some amazing relationships with kids, adults, instructors, peers, etc...I haven't felt that kind of camaraderie and close-knit family type relationship in a long time, but I wouldn't give it up for the world.I think the message of the Gathering needs to change in order for our younger generations to fully understand what the martial arts is about.Unfortunately, if we keep having ego-filled teachers and one's who only care about themselves instead of their students, then I think the message will slowly start to dissipate.I, for one, am on a crusade to make sure that it doesn't happen.I'm only one person though and I can only do so much.I want to make sure that the legacy of my teacher's lives on through my teachings and I want to be able to preserve as much as I can so that future generations can experience the joy that I have experienced in my martial arts training. I'd like to thank the following people:

1.Well 1st off I have to thank my Dad for being my mentor, instructor, leader, inspiration, role model, amazing father, friend, and confidante.Without him, I would not be the woman I am today.You have single-handedly molded me as a martial artist and as the strong woman that I have become.Without your intense instruction and tutelage I would not be where I am today.You're an amazing instructor and I have learned so much from you material-wise, and how to be a great teacher.You deserve to be up on that stage more than anyone in the world and I believe that in my eyes you're the best instructor I've ever had.As a Dad I couldn't ask for a better one.You have helped me in so many ways and I thank you for your love and devotion to me as a daughter.I am humbled by the fact that I've been fortunate enough to go on this wonderful, crazy, sometimes bumpy, and treacherous journey with you, but I hope that I get to continue this journey with you for as long as we both possibly can.I love you Dad and Sensei!!!!

2.I obviously also have to thank my mother.Although, you've never been able to continue with your martial arts training you have never stopped supporting it ever.You have been there for so many years for me and for that it makes you not only a MAGNIFICENT mother, but also my best friend.When it was up in the air that you might not be able to make it this year, you don't know how devastated I was.I'm so glad you got to come, because it wouldn't have been the same without you.We have taken you to so many places on our martial arts journey and I'm so happy that you were along for the ride.I really wouldn't have it any other way. We're a team and the fact that you support us and will do anything for us makes you an amazing person!I'm indebted to you for being so supportive and I hope one day I can show you the love and devotion that you have shown me all of these years.You should have an honorary black belt for all the places that you have been, countless techniques that you have seen, and numerous times that you have supported our dojo.So because of all that I love you the greatest Mom in the whole world and honorary Sensei!!!

3. My brother needs to be shown some thanks here as well.Early on in the martial arts it was just my Dad and brother training before I came along.I was always a bit jealous that it was something they got to do together.Well finally when I stepped in it became something the 3 of us could do and then it turned into something that I cherish so much.I think of us like the 3 Musketeers.It might be cheesy, but it's true.We travel in a pack.It's the Klaff family clan!I know that we've had our sibling rivalries and that it wasn't always easy training with your whiny ass sister, and it wasn't easy for me being instructed by my brother or criticized.I have grown to love you as an amazing man and an incredible brother.Unfortunately, we don't get to spend a lot of time together anymore but the time we do get to spend, as little as it might be, I have grown to relish and really appreciate.The little things like team-teaching the little kids at The Gathering this year was so much fun.It's like I'm your wing man, and to me I always will be.I love the fact that I have been able to travel on the journey with my older brother and to experience so many memories with you.I look forward to creating more with you in the future.You're always going to be Maverick and I'm always going to be your Goose. I love you man!You're an amazing brother, martial arts practitioner, and friend!I love you so much!

4. Professor O'Sullivan needs to be thanked for making me want to be a better person.He just has that aura about him that everyone flocks to.He is by far the nicest, most generous man I have ever met in my life.He makes you want to strive to be a better human being and I'm trying to on a daily basis.Not only is he a fantastic instructor and has passed along so much information to me, but he's been the grandfather figure that I need in my life.I'm so glad that he and his family have adopted all of us into their Ohana. We are all so lucky and blessed to have even had a little slice of Professor in our lives.He brings so much joy with him no matter where he goes and I absolutely cherish the time that I've been able to spend with him.I will do whatever it takes to pass along his tutelage and preserve the knowledge that he has so graciously passed along to me and my family.We will forever be indebted for his knowledge, experience, and love for what he does.Thank you for all that you have done and for making me want to be a better person on a daily basis.I love you Tutu Kane!!!

5.Professor Ron Esteller is another man I need to give a shout out to!You're such a sly little devil and you know it!This man was hiding at the Sacramento airport with his son, daughter, and one of his students.He came to surprise us and help take care of our luggage and rental cars.This is the kind of man that he is.The man that would give you the shirt off of his back and probably his shorts and shoes too!I pretty much spent almost every waking minute with him, his son and daughter, and his students.You truly possess a quality that is non-existent in so many people.You are gracious, loving, stubborn, charismatic, sneaky, mischievous, etc... I have never felt as much love as I have then when I'm around you and your students.I fell in love with each and every one of them and you can see it in their personalities and there humbleness how much of a truly amazing instructor you really are.I had the most amazing time talking with you, listening to you, learning from you and just generally spending time with you.My only regret is that it could have been longer and that we live so far apart from each other.I am a better person because of your love, your teachings, and your absolute devotion to the arts.You are what it's all about and your students epitomize what the martial arts should be about.I adore all of you and am blessed to be a part of all of your lives.I hope that you all continue to be a part of my family for as long as well shall live.

Finally, I'd just like to give a shout out to some other's that I had an amazing time with.Hanshi Juchnik, it's always great to see you and to be a part of the Gathering.I know it's hard work, but I always love seeing you and I would love to be able to spend more time with you.Megan: You're like an older sister to me.I love the camaraderie that we have and I love spending time with you and trash-talking!LOL!I hope that we can spend some more time together at some point maybe outside of the Gathering-realm! Uncle Larry: It's always a pleasure seeing you.You bring a smile to my face every time I see you and you also make me want to be a better person.You always have such humbleness and are always so willing to give me information and knowledge.Thank you for working with me and for being an important part of my life. Nataniel Ortega: Although we only had the opportunity to spend a short time together I can already see that we have established a great relationship.You are an amazing man and so humble.The small amount of knowledge that you shared with us is already being put into use.Thank you for being such a kind man and for establishing such a great relationship with my family.I hope that our friendship lasts a lifetime.Patrick: I had such a great time teaching with you.You're a great instructor and an amazing man.I hope that our friendship will last long as well.It has been a pleasure getting to know you and spending time with you, but hopefully we can do more of that in the near future.

And last but not least a shout to my new favorite Kaju family...D.J.: You know that I had a blast hanging out with you.I had such a great time.I'm so glad that our family-relationship has continued and I'm blessed to have you in my life. Rachel: It was so great meeting you for the first time.I'm so glad that we had such a connection and that we've established a great friendship.I think you're a BEAUTIFUL young lady with an amazing spirit and a great head on your shoulders.I love ya little sis! Rachi: I'm so happy I got to spend a little bit of time with you too!You're a fantastic young lady with lots of great ambition and aspirations.I'm happy that I had a slight influence on you and I hope that our friendship will continue.And I enjoy our chats so much! Kayla: You're such a strong woman and I'm happy that I had the opportunity to experience that and to be a small driving force behind that.I look forward to more conversations with you and to hopefully seeing you soon. Angelique: You won over my heart little lady! I think you're just precious but funny, smart and definitely a strong-willed woman.I have a lot of respect for you and I hope that you continue with your training because you already have a good head on your shoulders, but this will help you so much in life. And finally to the little one's who have officially taken my heart over and pulled at my heart strings: Jazzy, Zach and Colin.I hope I get the opportunity to see you soon! I love all of you my favorite Kaju family!!!!

Well that's all, as well it should be.It' s pretty novel-worthy!Hope you enjoyed it!

<3 Stace <3

Here's some more info on the Gathering 2010!!!


  1. Nicely written; this was my first Gathering and it was a great pleasure. I did not get to meet you personally but I did see you instructing, nice, I was impressed. Best, M. Smith

  2. Luv it my sista'. Always enjoy seeing the whole, family, especially you. We definitely need to spend more time outside the Gathering. The weekend never seems to be long enough for the ones we love.

    Love you!