It feels great to be back in light and warmth with internet and cable to keep me company.  It was quite an interesting time here in New England and many towns are still recovering from this autumn storm.

Here’s how my town (West Hartford) looked after the storm:

I had a lot of time to think and write during those days in the dark which in many ways was a blessing in disguise since it gave me an opportunity to assist Master Pearson in the immense task of bringing his manual nearer to publication.  It is really cool to be a part of this project and I am excited to see the finished product when it hits shelves in early December!

Below you’ll find a brief excerpt from a description of the various ceremonies that are part of the Shin Ho Kwan Curriculum.  For those of you who have attended our winter retreats in the past, you know that the Opening Ceremony is a highlight of the weekend and if you’ve ever participated in it (AKA Killamanjaro!) then you know what a powerful and meaningful experience it is each year.  Perhaps though, you have wondered why it is that we commence each retreat with a ceremony at all?  The manual section on Ceremonies aims at tackling that very question.  Enjoy!  And your feedback is welcomed!

Ceremonies:

By definition, a ceremony is a formal, ritualized activity performed to mark a particular occasion.  Though we often relate the term to some sort of religious event or sentiment, the ceremonies found in the Shin Ho Kwan curriculum are secular experiences and practices, void of any religious significance, and designed to enhance, contribute to, or transform a martial arts event, such as an annual or seasonal retreat.  Ceremony also has the ability to distinguish or alter a particular space.  For example, the purification ceremony might be performed prior to a meditation event being held on the training floor.  The ceremony is believed to literally and figuratively transform the space from one type of energy (characterized by the continuous physical activity occurring in that space) to another (the energy we would prefer for an event focused on the mental aspects of martial arts).

These ceremonies are an important practice mainly because, when executed properly, they are ritualized and repetitive.  The opening ceremonies for retreats and classes for instance, set the tone for the duration of the class or retreat and can quickly become a welcomed, and expected aspect of each event.  Additionally, these ceremonies, though perceived differently by each individual, effectively constitute a collective experience.  Such unity, and the pursuit of a common goal, helps achieve what is known as group mind.  This is an important mental attribute in the martial arts.  To be able, for instance, to move as one, during a ceremony, completely interconnected both physically and mentally with one’s martial arts classmates, can and should translate easily to other elements of training, such as forms, two person forms, demonstrations, etc.

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