Having been to over 50 martial arts camps, I’ve learned ways to not only survive a martial arts camp but to also have fun!

For newbies, a weekend-long martial arts camp can seem daunting. How do they digest all the material? The amount of time spent training seems overwhelming. When told that a full day at a Modern Arnis camp can involve 9 hours of training, “OH MY GOD” is the usual response.

Believe me; it’s no big deal.

Let’s transform “it’s no big deal” to “it’s always a blast!

Here are the following tips for surviving a martial arts camp:

(1) Don’t focus on the number of hours you are going to train. Most camp sessions are broken up into an hour and a half sessions with water breaks. It is typical for a Modern Arnis camp to have two-hour breaks for lunch and dinner. Take advantage of these breaks to step back and refresh yourself mentally.

Chicken Adobo- part of the Filipino dinner, a tradition at the Annual Toronto Modern Arnis Camp.

(2) Relax. You’re there to have fun!

Looks like Andy is having fun, don’t you think? 🙂

(3) Bring a notebook and/or video camera. For those who want to advance their knowledge of the art they are studying, it is essential that you bring a notebook or a video camera. When you return home, you can refer to these notes, written or video, so that you can practice what you learned. My preferred method is to scribble a few notes either in a notebook or my iPhone. Based on those notes, I’ll make video notes back in the hotel room. 

Master Chuck and Master Ken with Miguel, one of my students, aka “The Real Deal.”

(4) Bring drinks and snacks for the breaks. Refresh yourself and give yourself an energy boost during breaks.

Not this kind of drink, mind you. 🙂

(5) Communicate with your training partner.  “Let’s figure this out;”Let’s go slow.” You get the idea. When I worked with the late Karen Callahan, we always communicated about our objectives whenever we trained together at a camp. She was particular about technique and doing things the right way. She and I often focused on muscle memory and getting it right. Every once in awhile, by agreement, we would go hard. The key is that we communicated. Miscommunications can sour the camp experience.

(6) Train with different partners.  While it can be tempting to train with your best buddy or not wanting to leave your comfort zone, it is critical that you train with different partners. Different sizes, different speeds, herky-jerky partners vs. smooth partners are some of the variables you may come across. Furthermore, the more people you train with, the more prepared you’ll be. That said, mix it up!

(7) Don’t be an asshole. Karma can be a bitch. I have seen and heard stories of people coming to camp to “show who’s boss” and be an asshole. Usually, it does not end well for them. Therefore, don’t be one of these folks. 

(8) Network!  Camps and seminars are always an excellent opportunity to network. You can renew friendships and make new friends.  You never know where the networking opportunities can lead. Hence, it is important to meet as many new people as you can.

(9) If you’re driving a long distance to a camp, carpool with a buddy or two: Especially important for your trip home. Years ago, after an exhausting Michigan camp, I was driving back home to Columbus, Ohio, when I fell asleep at the wheel. Dan McConnell, who was in the passenger seat, realized what was happening and steered my car back onto the highway. We were heading toward concrete pillars underneath a bridge. We switched at the very next rest stop. Scary moment. Hmm, maybe it’s a good idea to carpool eh?

(10) Advil, Motrin, Aspirin, and essential oils:  Some attendees will inevitably encounter some aches, soreness, and pain during the course of a camp. Bring some pain relievers and oils (whether it be Tiger Balm, Dit Da Jow or some similar product) to take the edge off. Don’t forget this!

In conclusion, following the above tips will make your camp much more enjoyable!

 Over to you, do you have any other tips? Let’s hear them!

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5 thoughts on “10 Tips For Surviving A Martial Arts Camp

  • March 16, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Oh your number one is absolutely essential. My first camp experience I was really hung up on all the hours I’d be putting in. Plus promotion. But at the end of it all I was amazed at how much I’d done.

    Here’s my tips:

    1) Sunscreen if you’re outdoors, says the lady who had sunburned skin in a deep V on her chest. My Water Fitness pals got a chuckle out of that.

    2) This goes hand in hand with #1 above – a sweat band or bandana. Sooo ’80’s but sunscreen-laden sweat going into eyes is not fun, especially if you wear contact lenses.

    3) Oxiclean to get grass stains out of white gis. The spray is handy – spray both sides of the fabric, let it sit for an hour. Wash. Repeat until the stains are gone, then dry the gi.

    4) Ladies – you know what supplies you need and why you should bring extra gi pants. If you don’t need ’em, someone else might.

    • March 17, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Great additional tips!! Thanks for chipping in Joelle!

  • March 20, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Febreeze. You do not want your hotel room smelling like a gym locker.

    • March 20, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      Excellent tip! 🙂

  • July 15, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Excellent suggestions!

    Leave your brain some time to switch gears. For example, when you’re at dinner with your friends, talk about things besides training/martial arts/etc. Be “in the moment” for *those* moments as well, not just for the ones on the training floor.


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