“Hey, I was up in you neck of the woods,” said Big Jon Crain, an Isshin-Ryu karate practitioner from the other end of the phone. “I was up in the Okanogan and was looking for a dojo to work out at and I walked into one and who was running it but Dan Keith!”
Big Jon Crain taught me how to break rocks and Dan Keith I had trained with back in the early eighties, now these two connected. When Dan walked into the dojo he said, “Jon what are you doing here?” (They had met at Martial University, a now-defunct yearly seminar I used to run) and Dan had Jon teach a weapons form to his students.
Earlier that week I was having dinner with Matt Stone and a Vince Hardy (YiLi Chuan Kung Fu) and they had hooked up with Lawrence Kane, my co-author on several books, to do a fundraiser for a very ill teenage boy. A couple days before that I got one of my parents saying, “I train with Sifu Dejesus; I’m in your latest book!” Sure enough, he was right there in the pages from the shoot we did at Sifu Dejesus’ school.
What makes this work – Isshin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Tae Kwon Do, Gung-Fu – how is it all linked up? Jon will say it was Martial University, I say it is good people meeting good people. Each person mentioned is an open-minded seeker in the arts – that is good in my book. Not one of them has forsaken their base art, not one of them is threatened by another’s art, and not one of them has an agenda other than the art(s).
Here are the keys, in my opinion, to having a strong and open architecture:
1. Little ego. Everybody needs an ego to survive, but can you make it small enough and pleasant enough to be around?
2. Be quiet. Are you learning or broadcasting? If you mouth is open, other than to ask a question, you aren’t learning.
3. Good manners. If you would not behave that way at a dinner party then don’t do it.
4. Laughter. Each one of these people has a sense humor about themselves.
Every person mentioned in this post follows these basic guidelines and if asked they might have an addition or a change but frankly, I do not think they even know it because it is just part of them.