Bamboo Spirit is moving on!
Most of you know that I moved up to Toronto from Ohio in June of 2007. Being new to Oshawa, I did not know anyone except for my wife and her family.
Without any connections to the local martial arts schools and because my wife and I lived 10 minutes from the Legends Community Centre, I decided to start teaching there in February 2008.
I’ll never forget the first class. I advertised the class on a couple of martial arts forums and kijiji.com. Remember, this was long before social media became a dominant feature of our lives. I did not have a website. To my amazement, five showed up for the first class. The attendees included my wife, Chris, Jon, Jason, and an older gentleman who shall remain nameless.
The nameless gentleman made this class memorable. He was in his late 50s and had a gruff demeanor. After walking in, he immediately asked if I taught Brazilian Martial Arts. I politely informed him that I teach a Filipino Martial Art called Modern Arnis. “Would you like to give this a try?” He answered, “Sure why not?”
None of the attendees had any experience with Filipino Martial Arts. So I started with the twelve angles of attack and then moved on to the block, check, counter drill.
At this point, Mr. Nameless raised his hand, demonstrated an imagined attack, and asked: “What if someone attacks me this way?“
“I will address your question after we get through this drill,” I said politely. To address this question required that the participants learn the block, check, counter drill.
He appeared to settle back into the drill. Moments later, he asked yet another question revolving around a “what if?” self-defense scenario. We had not yet finished the block check counter drill.
“I will answer your question when we finish this drill.“
At this point, Mr. Nameless exclaimed: “FUCK IT!” and slammed his loaner stick on the floor and walked out of the room.
Everyone was shocked. As he walked out, my wife recovered and called out to him: “It was so nice meeting you!“
Of course, we were all better off without him. But I have to thank him for making my first class unforgettable!
February 2008. From left to right: Jason, myself, Mary-Anne, Jon and Chris. Mr. Nameless not included.
Starting with one class a week and later expanded to two classes per week, I have taught at the Legends Centre for the past ten years. I formally incorporated Bamboo Spirit in January of 2009. My hope, like many martial arts instructors, was to attract a sufficient number of students to move out and start my school.
My goal was to average 10 per children class and 10 per adult class before moving out of Legends. Like many, I wanted my own school. I started tracking the class metrics on a spreadsheet, compiling several years of statistics.
Alas, I could never reach that goal, despite advertising and outreach. Sure, there were some peaks, but the metrics seemed to revert to the mean. Many times, I had just four or less attend the adults class. A change was needed.
What prevented me from reaching my goals? I can think of a few reasons:
(1) It is possible that the stigma associated with community center martial arts programs inhibited the growth of Bamboo Spirit. Unfortunately, community center martial arts programs are perceived as inferior to those offered by martial arts schools.
(2) Another possibility is that I was swimming upstream in establishing a Filipino Martial Arts program in a city steeped in hockey culture. Many of you have probably noticed hockey action in the background of many of my YouTube videos. The Legends Center has four NHL sized hockey rinks.
(3) Another difficulty may be the unfamiliarity of Filipino Martial Arts to the general population.
I suspect that a combination of all three factors contributed to my failure to reach my goals. That said, it’s on all me. It’s nobody else’s fault. I cannot deny the cold hard numbers in the attendance spreadsheets that I’ve kept over the years. I began considering moving out of Legends about a year ago but put that on the backburner to deal with my parents’ situation.
While teaching at Legends over the years, I had the opportunity to host some Modern Arnis seminars at the Harmony Martial Arts Center. Also, I started teaching a Friday night class there in January of 2016. Over the years, I developed a relationship with Renshi Raymond and his wife, Helene, the owners of Harmony.
Two months ago, Harmony opened a 2nd smaller dojo in the same building. As a result, Renshi Raymond offered me the opportunity to teach three classes per week in Harmony (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).
I could not turn down the opportunity.
In the past couple of weeks, I broke the news to my children and adult students. Not surprisingly, some will not be able to transition over to Harmony due to the distance between Oshawa and Pickering. Many have committed to attending my classes at Harmony beginning in March.
To be honest, this is not a case of having achieved success and moving on to bigger and better things. Having not achieved my goals required me to assess the situation with objectivity and deciding that I needed to move out of Legends.
At the same time, I do not view my experiences with Legends as a “failure.” I gained valuable experience at the Legends Community Center. The Legends staff was excellent and accommodating over the years. However, I am looking forward to a change of scenery and hope that this leads to positive results.
The last class at Legends will be on February 27th. Instead of two classes per week at Legends, I will be teaching three times per week in Harmony. I have a strong feeling that the potential for growth will be better at the Harmony Martial Arts Center compared to Oshawa.