Saturday, February 14, 2015

Action Martial Arts Convention Review - The Great, the Good and the Ugly.

Background: The Action Martial Arts Magazine & Hall of Honours Convention is an annual event in Atlantic City. Put together originally by Master Alan Goldberg it now is one of the largest gatherings of Martial Artists around the globe.* Knowing that several of my friends were going to be teaching at the convention I couldn't wait to check it out.

The event was a fantastic time which had some solid highlights and good general qualities. However, like any event there were some parts that need improvement. I will cover the great aspects of the conference, the good aspects and the parts my friends and I thought were ugly.
My friend Sifu Tom Lugo drives a punch into my solar plexus.

The Seminars: One of the major strengths of this convention was the fact that you had so many Martial Artists getting together and exchanging knowledge. I had the privilege of training with some very well known people like Robert Samuels, Bill "Superfoot" Wallace and Michael Jai White. Certainly star power was on hand giving seminars.

However, it wasn't just the star studded seminars that stood out. I attended a great seminar on Knife Defense Instruction with Nik Farooqui and another on Superior Striking with Tom Lugo. In fact all the teachers whose seminars I attended were great. This speaks a great deal to the vetting process that Master Goldberg puts into selecting who will teach.
My wife and I hanging with Bill "Superfoot" Wallace. 

Adaptive Martial Arts Association: Adaptive Martial Arts blew me away. A huge component of Martial Arts is physical fitness and strengthening your body. Yet, so often we forget that there are people who are challenged mentally and physically but would love to participate in Martial Arts. If Martial Arts is truly for everyone then it actually has to be for everyone which means catering to the deaf and blind, those missing limbs and the autistic.

This is where Adaptive Martial Arts comes in. Not just showing that anyone can be a Martial Artist but acting as a portal to connect people. On one end Adaptive Martial Arts helps people with challenges find schools that can teach to them. Should an instructor want to help people they may not have the resources to do so despite their desire. Just as Adaptive Martial Arts connects people to each other it also connects instructors to tools on how to teach. I highly recommend you look them up.

The Vendors: The convention had numerous vendors, many of whom had amazing products. However, their were some that rose about the rest.

Damsels in Defense: If you have ever tried to get a woman into Martial Arts you quickly see that the industry is extremely one sided. There are pages of "Men's gear" online and "Women's gear" is typically confined to a single section or tab. Although some people might laugh at Damsels in Defense with their bright pink kubatons and other accessories one cannot deny that in an activity dominated by men this is a company that caters to women. If you are a woman or interested in getting more women into Martial Arts Damsels in Defense is a great place to start.
Sam and the Damsel in Defense Julie Greene.

AquaBag: Punching bags haven't changed much since their inception. Virtually every Martial Art has a history of filling sacks with a semi-pliable substance from sand to beans and hitting it. AquaBag moves away from the traditional fillings and created a bag filled with water. The first benefit is weight. Water weighs more per volume than grain or sand which gives you a good target without having an enormous bag. Second, because a bag filled with water is more forgiving you don't need wraps and wrist injuries are reduced. It really felt good to unload on. (My wife liked  it too!)
AquaBags felt seriously good to hit.

JiuJitsuThing: I have seen a lot of "Martial Arts shirts" over the years and they are pretty standard. They will have a famous quote from someone like Bruce Lee that the maker found on the internet. JuiJitsuThing goes above and beyond by showing they clearly do Martial Arts as well. Their jokes are a subtle blend of geek culture and Martial Arts references that real Martial Artists will get a great laugh out of.
Some of the awesome shirts that JiuJitsuThing sells.

The Networking: I would never have met gentlemen like Sifu Paul Cheng or other any of the other fantastic crew at Blue Phoenix Entertainment. There is something to be said about the people that you can meet at the convention. The seminars were a highlight but the downtime that you get to spend just talking with various people is certainly made the trip to the convention worth making. I now have contacts in cities across the country to work with.
Myself, Sam and the awesome Blue Phoenix Entertainment crew.

The Experiences: There is certainly something to be said about the experiences that you will have at the convention. Just getting the chance to talk to former WBO Boxing legend Ray Mercer was worth gold. Watching his face light up as he talked about knocking out former UFC champion Tim Sylvia and the joy at shutting him up after "all the shit he talked" was amazing. You could see the fire that built a champion Boxer.
Hanging with Ray Mercer

The Organization: There isn't much bad to say about the overall experience. However, like any event there is room for improvement. Some instructors had their classes mislabelled and the times weren't always accurate. This led to some confusion as some instructors found out they were teaching seminars on subjects they had no qualifications in. It would also be nice to have an interactive schedule they gave me an instructor bio and their credentials. Otherwise I was forced to pick people by how cool their name sounded.
Jeet Kune Do Instructor NiK Farooqui is promoted to Krav Maga 
instructor and is giving a 7 hour seminar?

They claim to have five tournaments but I couldn't find any registration for the "Sticks of Thunder" tournament. It must have been one of the secret tournaments that they have in Martial Arts Movies. The "Main Stage" was similarly hidden so I had a hard time seeing any of the demonstrations. However, with the map being mislabeled it could have been my own lack of literacy that lead me astray.

Conclusion: All in all the Action Martial Arts Convention was a good event. I am not sure I would make it an annual pilgrimage unless the organization improved dramatically. However, to check it off every few years or if you have never been before it is worth it. I will certainly be curious to see what they do next year.

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

*I don't have numbers on other conventions so we will take them at their word. 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. 

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