‘No Wrong Way’ – Downey’s Taekwon-Do Seminar with Grand Master Laquerre
November 18th and 19th, 2017
I learn a lot in every Taekwon-Do class but I relish our annual seminars because with the extra time, I can really focus on developing my skills. This year’s seminar with Grand Master Laquerre was no exception. I had a lot of fun, I worked really hard, and I left with my brain and my muscles full of expanded approaches to sparring.
Grand Master Laquerre is an engaging and extremely knowledgeable instructor who can strike an excellent balance between being authoritative and being approachable. While it is naturally intimidating to work with a unfamiliar (and high-ranking) instructor, Grand Master Laquerre’s teaching style invites you to learn and to try new things without feeling like you are risking making a fool of yourself. Grand Master Laquerre’s ability to create a comfortable learning environment is direct evidence of his significant interpersonal skills and you can tell that he wants to meet you at your skill level and help you to improve at your own pace. The fact that he selected students of various skill levels and experience to help demonstrate techniques reinforced the feeling that we were all there to learn and that making mistakes is part of the process.
Our seminar was divided into two groups with most of the coloured belts attending on Saturday and the majority of the red stripe to black belt students attending on Sunday. There was a real advantage to this division because we were all able to focus on improving at our own skill level rather than having to address a range of levels in every exercise. In addition, having two groups meant that each seminar had fewer students in it so it was easier for everyone to hear the instructions, to participate fully, and to get one-on-one assistance if needed.
Also, rather than starting our seminar early in the morning, our session ran from 2pm-6pm. I particularly enjoyed that timing because I was able to do my other, non-Taekwon-Do-related tasks before attending so I came to the seminar more fully focused. Obviously, it would be ideal to always attend a class or seminar fully focused but when you have a lot of other family and work priorities, it can be challenging to leave those outside the room. An afternoon seminar not only allowed us to have greater focus but the compact timing allowed us to continue without a significant interruption so we didn’t lose momentum over a meal break.
Our seminar was primarily focused on sparring but with some self-defense included. I really enjoyed the range of exercises and drills that we practiced for both sparring and self-defense. I especially appreciated that Grand Master Laquerre stressed knowing a variety of ways to accomplish the same thing – whether that was scoring a point or evading an attacker.
I was expecting to do a lot of ring sparring at the seminar, which would have been valuable in its own right. Instead, however, we did a lot of individual drills and exercises which were much more useful to me personally. If we had spent a lot of time arranging rings, there would have been a lot more time spent waiting for our turns and watching others spar rather than in direct learning. By focusing on drills, mental preparation, and physical conditioning in an anaerobic state, Grand Master Laquerre kept us moving, gave us more control of our learning, and helped us to expand our capacity for individual practice. It was especially valuable to me to be able to note where I needed to do more work, something that would not have been obvious to me in a ring-sparring-focused seminar.
One unexpected benefit of our smaller seminar this year was the opportunity for us, as students, to witness our very skilled instructors learn from a Grand Master. Watching Master Downey and Master Downey observe, ask questions, and request demonstrations was a valuable reminder that even senior practitioners of Taekwon-Do are still students – they are still learning. Understanding that we are all seeking to improve is a useful way to help deal with the frustrations that can arise when developing new skills.
While I found Grand Master Laquerre’s seminar to be useful and interesting as a whole, his reminder that there is no ‘wrong’ way to score a point in sparring was especially valuable for me. I am a rather self-conscious student (yes, I’m working on moving past that) and I want to do things the ‘right’ way. If my instructors have told me that a side kick is a good way to score a point in a particular scenario, I want to use it. I want to spar in the ‘right’ way and I want to demonstrate that I respect their opinion.
My over-awareness is a little foolish, of course, because my instructors just want me to spar with respect, safety, skill, and speed, and the specific details are not particularly important. Master Downey and Master Downey have reminded me of that fact many times but I haven’t been able to stop myself from overthinking. Grand Master Laquerre’s reinforcement of that important point came at the right time, in the right context. As a result, I was able to move much more quickly in the drills that followed because I wasn’t pausing to evaluate what I ‘should’ do, I just punched or kicked or dodged. It was a great feeling.
I have come away from Grand Master Laquerre’s seminar with a variety of new drills, a renewed understanding of how to prepare and practice my sparring and self-defense techniques, and a greater appreciation of the role that mental preparation plays for me when sparring. I am looking forward to putting all of that into practice in classes and in competition.
Thank you so much, Grand Master Laquerre, Master Scott Downey, and Master Cathy Downey It was an excellent seminar.