Gathering of the Tribes, May, 2009
by Chuck Pippin, Innovative Martial Arts
Well, it’s happened again. The annual Gathering of the Tribes has come and gone…leaving many smiles and fond memories in its wake.
I would like to take a moment to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended and made this remarkable event a success…the behind the scenes as well as on the mats.
The Gathering was started in 2001 with the intention of bringing like minded people together for the purpose of building community and sharing knowledge in an atmosphere free from ego and politics. It’s just completed its ninth year and I’m already looking forward to the big “One-Oh”.
For myself, I love the opportunity to get together with friends and family I only see a couple times throughout the year and catch up on events, forge new friendships, and build existing ones even stronger.
This year was no different…in fact; it was the best one yet. Many new faces were seen at this Gathering and welcomed to the family. I am in constant amazement at the high quality of persons that we interact with. Great training, good food, and excellent conversation were in abundance over the holiday weekend.
We had excellent weather, and in spite of the Michigan State Bird’s (the mosquito) attempts, we managed not to have anyone carried away this year. (There were a few close calls…but that’s for another day…)
One of our core members was missing this year due to a back injury. Bobbe, we missed you, but trust you realize that though you weren’t here…you were most definitely NOT forgotten. Indeed it felt like you were lurking around every corner…
Since some of our Core Peers at the Gathering always do such excellent reviews of the weekend, I wanted to share some of the thoughts, insights, and observations from some people we don’t normally hear from. Most of them are from the Michigan or Innovative Martial Arts arm of the Tribe Family…a few newcomers from other tribal families…
Amberly “Pixy” Fletcher (I.M.A.) :
Five things I learned at the Gathering:
1. Don has a great angry face.
2. Chuck can scream like a girl, given the proper motivation.
3. Most, if not all, instructors that attended/taught are more than slightly crazy.
4. Mosquitoes suck, and Chuck is farming them in his back yard.
5. I had a great time.
In addition to my list, it was a great experience. Everyone who attended was warm and welcoming, even when the beatings commenced. As I have a limited exposure to martial arts and this was my first time, the Gathering gave me the opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from a dynamic group of people with a wide variety of experience. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, but also supportive and focused on giving each attendee the skills they needed to learn. The willingness of each person to help those with less experience was a significant point for me, as I am a beginner. Each of my training partners took the time needed to help me learn a new skill or move before we progressed into sparring, with no condescension, but positive and supportive critiques. Overall, I would recommend this, and any other seminar hosted at IMA, to any martial arts student from beginner to instructor, as each individual will learn and grow, and go home sore. :)
Tina “Keet” Gray (DM, Iowa, KSMA Branch)
When you walk into a gathering of people and feel only warmth, acceptance, passion, energy and love, you know you have discovered an amazing event. I met so many super cool people at The Gathering. I learned some very cool techniques. The openness and willingness of the instructors to share life experiences and knowledge with the group was endearing and greatly appreciated. I’m honored to have been accepted into this very special family.
The atmosphere was probably the biggest thing I took away... I haven't felt that carefree, light, happy, loved, cared for, worry-free all at the same time. The energy and positive atmosphere just floored me.
Mike “Swan Dive” Parrent (Northern Michigan Martial Arts, Alpena MI)
Memorial Day weekend is usually composed of working and more working for me, but this year was quite different. I was able to enjoy something that few people get a chance to; The Gathering of The Tribes.
This being my second time attending I had high expectations for the custom blend of martial arts seminars that I would be attending through out the weekend, and I must say that all of the high hopes I had for the weekend were blown far out of the water. The vast wealth of knowledge that was passed around in those 72 hours was unsurpassable by anything that I have ever experienced. Each seminar built off of the last, further grinding each lesson in to my mind and leaving me with a sense of really understanding everything I learned. I was even able to gather a small insight into the world of blade-smithing as I worked on my own hand made knife.
Many people who I hold in high regard attended this year, and many more that I have never met, and now consider family, made the whole experience unforgettable. If you are ever given the chance to attend the Gathering, do it. Whether you practice martial arts or not, it’s an opportunity to train side by side with masters of various martial arts presented there, learning new techniques and blending them in with your own abilities and ideas, being able to bounce ideas off of your peers in ways that you normally don’t at the dojo each week.
Most of all I walked away with some great memories and pictures (as in a leap of faith that ended in a face plant onto the crash pads in chucks dojo, or the balloon animal discussion), as well as some amazing friends.
Will “Buddha” Weatherby (all around)
The 2009 Gathering of the Tribes was the smoothest of The Gatherings
to date (at least of the 7 I've attended now). I was pleasantly
surprised at how well most of the new people were able to blend in
with the usual suspects. I really enjoyed getting together and playing
with many old friends and had a good time working out with some new
folks as well. I became aware of just much our little tribe has become
a knife culture when half of the instructors had to adjust on the fly
to offer something that wasn't another knife workshop...
At lunch with Craig Gray yesterday we were discussing the Gathering
and other events and came to the conclusion that most of the crowd is
already pretty solid in their ability to fight and that what keeps
most of us coming back is the enjoyment of the continued pursuit and
more importantly the community and personal development. Chuck and I
decided that a martial arts seminar is a great excuse for an adult
The community around The Gathering continues to amaze me.
As far as I'm aware this is a very unique event and collective. We are
all to blame for this, but I want to especially thank Chuck and Jeanne
for continuing to host this circus. I also want to thank all of the
instructors and my training partners for sharing what they have and
for giving credit to the appropriate sources as we went along. Much
respect due to the long-range travelers (California, Oklahoma, Iowa,
Kentucky) without whom this would lose a lot.
See ya next year, much love.
Geoffrey “Lost Turtle” Bossman (Lexington, Kentucky)
This was my Gatheringwith this group. Indeed, I knew these folks only through their collective web presence. Any apprehension that would normally occur when heading into the home turf of a bunch of strangers was assuaged by my correspondence with the primary host, Chuck Pippin. I was confident that I was going to be training with like-minded brothers and sisters. The experience exceeded my wildest expectations.
I had signed up for the combat sessions as well as the blade-making class. All instruction was very well thought out and executed without feeling regimented. The atmosphere was so relaxed, in fact, that I never felt uncomfortable, pressed for time or out of place. This, believe it or not, is no small feat. The balance of top notch instruction with a welcoming, accepting and ego-free dynamic is one seldom realized. The Gathering of the Tribes accomplished this effortlessly and with a competence rarely seen.
The combat instruction included San Yun Do answers to bladed attacks from Chuck Pippin and Don Young, the Sword and Shield applications of Maharlika Kuntaw from the incomparable Brian "Buzz" Smith, Pencak Silat Pertempuran Ales material brought to us by Sterling Heibeck, Nick Gutschow Silat Sherif groundwork movement reminiscent of Harimau, Krav Maga from Craig Gray and Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts (KSMA) material (Nick Stick) from the man himself, Jay Carstensen, Terry Trahan brought WeaselCraft to the group with an impressive display of skill and no B.S. self defense. Mel Hebert brought some of his personal flavor of Rossi Kuntao to the group, energizing everyone and facilitating some light entertainment in the form of flying bodies. The instruction was of world class caliber and I was blown away by the dynamic fostered by all who participated.
The bladesmithing class was amazing! Although Mel and I started with forged blanks, there was plenty of work to do to turn them into blades. The instruction was thorough and incredibly enjoyable, taking some of the drudgery out of the process. I'm hooked! Chuck's instruction and guidance was impeccable and detailed. Ian Robbin's depth of knowledge and understanding with regards to the smithing process was a wonder to observe and a pleasure to learn from. The experience has crystallized my intent to start making knives.
The bladesmithing experience segues nicely into the most extraordinary aspect of the Gathering: The generosity and hospitality. Handle woods, tools, machine time, steel and even Chuck and Ian's time can be claimed to have been paid for by the nominal fee. But, the bladesmithing class and the time put in by the teachers was invaluable and more than exceeded what we paid.
The most amazing example of generosity was the lodging, food and acceptance that was offered to all. Chuck and his wife, Jeanne, took in a complete stranger and treated him as though he were royalty. I pulled into Chuck's driveway and was greeted like an old friend. Perhaps I've gone soft in my stable, comfortable old age, but I've never felt so welcome and accepted in my entire life. Jeanne was amazing! She was the rock upon which this whole shindig was built. She kept us well fed and happy and opened up her home to the rabble that are the warriors that descended upon it.
Overall, the Gathering of the Tribes 2009 was an experience of a lifetime. I feel like I left there with an entirely new set of brothers and sisters for life. Thank you to all who made that weekend one that I will always recall with fondness.
Mel “Disneyland” Hebert (Rossi Kuntao, California)
Upon arriving on Thursday Chuck Pippin picked me up at the airport. He had a warm greeting of welcome. I immediately felt a sense of acceptance.
Being the newby at The Gathering I didn't know what to expect. Chuck had me jump in on his Thursday night class and show my view on techniques that he was showing to his students. I was already impressed what he and Don were showing, as he said - add your flavor to it. So I did. This started what The Gathering was all about.
Just having the opportunity to meet most everyone on Friday kept a grin on my face that I couldn't wipe off. If everyone was ever wondering why I said that this was "Disneyland" - It's a simple explanation. There are so many rides at The "Disneyland" Gathering. No 2 rides are alike. But with combat being the main focus, all the rides ended the same way. YOU WALKED AWAY! I was hooked.
I was incredibly impressed with the quality of instruction at "The Gathering". Even after over 40 years of martial arts the approach to what each instructor was showing made me a kid in a candy store all over again.
There was King Buzz Treachery and Terry (the realist) Trahan. Just to name 2. As I get to know the rest of you, there will be other nicknames I will come up with. Nicknames that command my utmost respect.
Any egos were checked at the door. Everyone had confidence without attitude. Superior training and effectiveness rained supreme.
As long as you will have me - I will attend. Thank you for this opportunity.
Nick “Gumby” Gutschow (Innovative Martial Arts, Silat Sharif)
It was a great experience to participate in the Gathering as both a student and an instructor. The opportunity to train with so many creative, insightful, and dedicated warriors and martial artists in an environment free of egoism and focused on the mutual exchange of ideas was truly valuable and memorable. In the coming years I will do my best to make as many future Gatherings as possible.
Of particular note to me, the similarity in outlook and mindset of everyone teaching and in attendance proved to be a rare treat. So often in the martial arts, particularly in North America and other parts of the western world, it is difficult to find practitioners who are highly focused on real world defense scenarios where lives can be on the line. In this case however, much to the contrary, nearly everyone was either already in that mindset or seemed very pleased and willing to consider things from that angle. The result was 14 hours of training over 2 days full of practical approaches to common problems. If someone attended only this one Gathering and trained in only the principles here discussed, their chances of surviving a real world conflict would increase ten fold over an average Joe on the street. There are not too many seminars of which that can truly be said.
Craig Gray (Ronin Martial Arts, Grand Rapids, MI)
Another great year at the Gathering! I enjoyed reconnecting with friends and meeting new faces. The training was superb as usual! I love experiencing all of the different perspectives and styles of the people who came out. It is cool that the various instructors are so open to share what they know not only during their respective sessions, but also in impromptu' training where someone pulls them aside to ask questions. Everyone's willingness to teach and learn is second only to the openness and friendliness found here. I really appreciate Chuck taking the time and effort to put this all together for everyone to learn and enjoy! It is great training, food and friends minus the usual ego that seminars like this often have... and it is so economical!! A weekend like this would usually easily cost four times this anywhere else!
I have to mention that I did miss seeing Bobbe and Cody this year. Although the two dimensional Bobbe was very active and kept everyone laughing the whole weekend! It was almost like Bobbe was really there... and in a way he was! I hope the three dimensional versions of both of you two can make it out next year.
On another note, I would like to extend my gratitude for the honor of being asked to instruct one of the sessions this year. I have never experienced a group of people (many of whom were instructors) who have been so open to new material, enthusiastic and caught on so well. All of the questions and feed back were inspirational! Thank you!
Finally, I would like to thank Chuck and Jay for inducting me as a member of KSMA. I was getting ready to leave when they cornered me. As they first approached me they had that strange look in their eye, a look even stranger than their usual one, if you can believe that! A little on edge after reading The Gift of Fear I was ready to make a run for it figuring they were going to assault me and steal my wallet and gear or do other unmentionable things you only hear about in Turkish prisons, but instead they presented me with a KSMA membership certificate!
All joking aside it is an honor to be a part of such an organization.
All the best to all of you!
Ronin Martial Arts
Jake “Rebo Poots” (DM, Iowa, KSMA Branch)
The weekend of the gathering was an AMAZING experience. Chalked full of great people with great attitudes sharing great knowledge with great responsibility! I didn't know what to expect going into this, but was overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised at the amount of sheer awesomeness exuding from everyone.
No words or sign-language could express how I felt about the weekend, but I feel very lucky to have been able to share in the experiences with everyone. A vacation I won’t soon, if ever, forget. I really can’t wait for next year’s gathering. I want to thank everyone involved! ESPECIALLY Chuck & Jeanne for allowing us in their home and dojo!
THANKS and MAN HUGS for everyone!