Cuong Nhu Etiquette: West Coast Training Camp Edition

Each year, Cuong Nhu instructors from across the country come to the Bay Area to teach classes at West Coast Training Camp. With a full schedule of classes ranging from soft-style katas to advanced weapon training, balanced with meal times spent socializing with fellow Cuong Nhu practitioners (not to mention the famous cookie break!), students of all ages always love the experience.

As you get ready for a fun filled weekend, here is a review of some of the rules of etiquette in Cuong Nhu. Cuong Nhu Redwood Dojo is a traditional martial arts dojo; the customs in Cuong Nhu help students respect each other, their instructors, and the art. Once you know what is expected, you can focus on your training. Whether you are a new student or have been studying for years, a student yourself or a parent of a student, will be attending West Coast Training Camp or not, it is worth reviewing these guidelines.

Bowing

The Cuong Nhu bow is a sign of respect that is used frequently. When you are bowing to a person, both people bow to each other simultaneously. Some of the most frequent times we bow are: when you enter or leave the dojo (or training space); when you begin and end class; when you begin and end partner work; when you begin and end a kata.

Speaking to Black Belts and Instructors

Black belts are called “Sensei” in Cuong Nhu. If you are speaking to a black belt in class, weather they are your instructor or your partner, you should address them as “sensei” or “sensei <first name>.” This title does not mean they are better than you, it simply acknowledges their rank. Those who hold the rank of sixth degree black belt or higher hold the title of “Master.”

Asking Questions

There is a time and a place to ask questions, and there are lots of times in class to NOT ask questions! When you are in class, it is always best to focus on practicing even if you have a question or two. There will be a time to ask these questions, either at the end of the drill or class, if the instructor asks for questions, or outside of class time. Questions to clarify how something is done are much more useful than questions that begin with “but what if they …” Be thoughtful about your questions. Is there something you don’t understand or do you just need to try it a few more times to figure it out?

At events like West Coast Training Camp there are also lots of opportunities to ask questions about Cuong Nhu from experienced instructors who have lived much of its history. You are encouraged to attend the dinner on Friday and the party on Saturday evening to get to know the out of town guests. In these non-class setting, questions and conversations are encouraged!

Wearing Your Uniform

Make sure your uniform is neat, complete, and put on properly. You should wash it, and if needed, iron it regularly. A complete gi top includes the Cuong Nhu patch (left side) and your first name (right side). If you have a stripe on your belt, it should be sewn on and should be on your left side when your belt is tied. If you do not yet have your patches or name on your uniform, get them done before training camp!

All Redwood Dojo students below the rank of black belt wear a white gi. You may see instructors or students from other dojos wearing other colored uniforms during the classes at West Coast Training Camp.

Your uniform should not be worn outside the dojo. If there is a place to change (like there will be in the Alameda High School gym for West Coast Training Camp), you should arrive in your street clothes and then change into your uniform. Similarly, when you leave you should change back into your regular clothes. When you put your uniform on, ensure that you don’t have other clothes sticking out (for example, your shirt should be tucked in). Do not wear a watch or jewelry in class. At Redwood Dojo, since we do not have a full changing room, you may arrive in your gi pants and a shirt. You should put your gi top and belt on after you are in the dojo.

Joining Class Late

If you are late to a class, you are still encouraged to join in! Stand in natural stance on the side where the instructor can see you. Once they bow to you (you bow to them at the same time), just join the group and listen carefully to find out what is happening. If for some reason you need to leave a class early, you should let the instructor know and bow out of class before leaving.

Working with a Partner

When you are working with a partner in class, either at training camp or at your home dojo, remember to show your partner respect and focus on practicing. You should not talk with your partner. You should not instruct your partner. This is true no matter what ranks you and your partner hold. If someone is a lower rank do not assume you know more than them. It is not your job to instruct; it is your job to practice and to allow your partner to practice.

The only time you should give your partner feedback is if you were specifically instructed to do so for the drill or if you feel unsafe. If your partner is doing something too hard, you may ask them to lighten up. Similarly, if you are practicing and your partner asks you to go lighter, then go lighter! Safety is always of the utmost importance. Do not let you or your partner become injured.

Learning a Weapon

West Coast Training Camp gives you exciting opportunities to learn weapons and other techniques or katas that would normally be beyond your rank. While you should absolutely take advantage of this opportunity, you need to understand and respect the weapon.

Treat the weapon as real even if it is a practice (or blunted) weapon. Do not play around with it, hold it inappropriately (for example, by the “blade”), or hit it against anyone or anything. You will learn the proper way to use the weapon in class, and this is how you should use it at any time. Practicing outside of class is great, but not to show off or goof-off, especially with a weapon.

During Breaks

Keep in mind that if you are in the dojo, the expectations of control and respect always apply. Break times do not give you permission to run wild and ignore the rules. Be aware of what is happening around you. If you see something that needs to happen, take responsibility for it. This can be anything from cleaning up spills or helping set up chairs to reminding kids to not run in the dojo.

Parents Watching Class

Parents, you are a big part of your child’s training and we thank you for it! The classes for children at West Coast Training Camp are great and taught by highly skilled and experienced instructors. As is true at Redwood Dojo, you may either stay and watch or you may leave your child and come back to pick them up at the end. If your child must leave before the end of the event, please be sure that their instructor knows when they are leaving.

If you are staying to watch, please keep in mind that your child should be focused on their instructor. Do not advise or coach your child from the sidelines. Similarly, your child should not just leave class to go to you. If they need something, they must get permission from the instructor before stepping out of class.

Please keep in mind that the we are teaching your child that the dojo is a place of respect. You can do a great deal to support this lesson; while you are in the dojo, model respectful behavior and help other children or visitors do the same. If you have younger children with you, ensure that they are not disruptive and please refrain from loud conversations during class.

When in Doubt

If you have questions about etiquette, the safest bet is always to do whatever is more formal. You can also ask a senior student (brown belt or higher) or an instructor outside of class time. In Cuong Nhu, we have many rules and traditions to follow. If you make a mistake, simply fix it and move on.

West Coast Training Camp is about learning new things, getting to know other members of Cuong Nhu, meeting talented instructors, and enjoying a great workout. Review these guidelines before you go, and then allow yourself to focus on the fun weekend of training!

Register for West Coast Training Camp.

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Holiday Schedule

We are coming up on the end of 2017 – our 26th year!  For the end of December and beginning of January the Redwood Heights Recreation Center will be closed.  Our last class of the year will be Saturday, December 23.  Classes will resume at Redwood Dojo on Thursday, January 4 for current students.  New students will begin on Monday, January 8 or Tuesday, January 9.

But don’t worry, you will still have the opportunity to practice over the holidays!

It is a Redwood Dojo tradition for students to visit Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate (Rohai Dojo) over the holidays, to meet new friends and practice Cuong Nhu at our “sister school.”  All students are invited and encouraged to attend make-up classes Wednesday, December 27 through Friday, December 29.  Kid/Peewee classes are from 5 to 6 PM and Teen/Adult classes are from 6 to 7 PM.  See the schedule below for details.

2017 holiday sched2

Rohai Dojo is located at 1819 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, 1.5 blocks north of University Avenue, between Hearst and Delaware.  Whether you go to Berkeley or not, don’t forget to practice!

We look forward to closing out a great year at the dojo, and then…

We’ll launch into 2018 with a 26th Anniversary Celebration!

January 21: Be sure to mark this exciting event on your calendars!  The Redwood Dojo celebration will include a demonstration by students and a potluck party.  We want all students to participate in the demonstration.  Family and friends are invited to watch, and then join the party fun.  Keep an eye out for more details to follow.

Fall 2017 happenings…

As summer draws to a close all too soon, and kids get ready to return to school, we at Redwood Dojo are looking forward to returning to our full schedule, starting on Monday, August 21st.

If you’ve been away for the summer, we look forward to having you back! Stop by and let us know you’ll be in class, so we can save your space and make our lesson plans. If you’re a former member of “peewees” now ready for “big kids’ class” (age 6-7), plan to attend on Mondays at 5 pm and Thursdays at 4. All new and returning students – check the class schedule here, and let us know if you have any questions about which class to attend.

Sensei Lara is in the house! If you trained in the dojo this summer, you had a chance to take class with Sensei Lara Tribe-Jones, and she’s now going to be a regular instructor at Redwood Dojo. Sensei Lara grew up in the dojo (so to speak)! That is, she began training here when she was a young student at Redwood Heights Elementary, earned her black belt with us, then went away to college after graduating from Oakland Tech.

Demo at Sarah's Science "Ninja Science Week"
Sensei Lara prepares a group of Redwood and Rohai Dojo students for a Cuong Nhu demonstration at Sarah’s Science camp in Roberts Regional Park.

Luckily for Redwood Dojo, she returned to Oakland after college and continued her martial arts training while earning a masters degree and teaching middle school math in OUSD. Now we can all benefit from her considerable talents as an instructor. Just one more good reason to come take class.

West Coast Training Camp is on our calendar; be sure to put it on yours! Every fall, the Bay Area Cuong Nhu community hosts a martial arts training weekend for all ages and levels, featuring Grandmaster Quynh Ngo, Cuong Nhu’s head-of-style, and many of the top instructors in our organization. This year it’s scheduled for October 6th & 7th. Classes are held on Friday evening and all day Saturday (including a catered lunch), at nearby Alameda High School. Children age 6 & up are welcome (we make a point of bringing in instructors who love to teach kids), and of course, there will be a wide range of special classes for adults and teens. Details can be found at Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate’s website, or on the Facebook event page. Don’t miss it!

Welcome, and welcome back! Fall schedule under way.

As promised in the previous post, our full class schedule resumed last Monday, August 22, and Sensei Didi is back in the dojo full time, hoping to see everyone back in class again. All sections are open to new students at this time. Let’s get started!

And West Coast Training Camp is coming up, too! This very special martial arts seminar for all ages and levels takes place every year near the end of September, and we encourage everyone – including kids age 6 & up – to take part. We bring high-ranking Cuong Nhu instructors from across the U.S., including head-of-style Grandmaster Quynh Ngo, to the Bay Area, so all of you will have the chance to meet them and take class. (This is much easier for most of you than attending Cuong Nhu’s annual training camp in North Carolina.)

For more information please CLICK HERE to read about it – and register! – on Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate‘s website. Or visit the Facebook WCTC Event Page.

Spring Tournament: New Event for Parents!

Rohai Dojo’s Spring Tournament (which this year takes place the day before Spring, on Saturday, March 19) has always had a special division for Family Team Kata (parents and kids performing kata together). In the past, though, it has only been open to parents who train in karate. This year, for the first time, we welcome ANY parent who wants to compete alongside their child or children to enter a special division. Come in for a few classes to learn a basic kata from your child’s instructor – or work with your child to create a kata, and come in to get some expert coaching in the lead-up to the event. Families at Rohai Dojo are invited to attend the Wednesday 6 p.m. Family Class to practice together, if they cannot attend together at other times.

At Redwood Dojo, Sensei Didi will be coaching family kata during the Saturday Morning class on March 12, and/or at other times arranged by interested families. Saturday morning class meets outdoors, so dress warmly and wear waterproof shoes! As of today, the weather forecast predicts that it will not rain before noon on Saturday, so all should be well. However, if we do get rained out, family team kata groups should attend anyway, and we’ll find somewhere we can sneak inside and practice quietly.

Try it, parents! This is going to be fun.

If you have not yet registered for the tournament, or did not receive a flyer or hear announcements during class, please visit the Rohai Dojo website for complete information. https://rohaidojo.com/2016/02/22/twentieth-annual-kata-tournament/

You may also click HERE to register online. Note that more than one family member can be signed up with a single transaction; to do this, click the “sign up a friend” button after entering the information for the first registrant.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Sensei Didi at redwoodojo[at]earthlink.net.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Saturday Class at Redwood Dojo on March 19, as we will all be at the Tournament. See you there!

Don’t Miss West Coast Training Camp!

WCTC is coming up soon! This year it takes place on Friday evening, October 2nd, and all day Saturday the 3rd, at Alameda High School, just 15 minutes away. As always, we’re bringing in some of the top instructors in Cuong Nhu, including head-of-style Grandmaster Quynh Ngo, to teach students of all ages and ranks. This is your chance to get a taste of international Cuong Nhu, without having to travel to North Carolina for the annual international training camp. Don’t miss it!

It’s a great event for kids, and a great training opportunity for adults of all ranks, including beginners. WCTC2014For full details, please follow this link to Rohai Dojo’s website. If you’d like to go directly to registration, click on this registration link. At the bottom of the registration page, after you send in your information by clicking “submit,” you’ll find a link that will allow you to pay online by credit card if you wish.

Can you help by hosting an out-of-town guest? Every year, people travel from as far away as Florida, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Georgia to take part in our event. Most stay at the official WCTC hotel in Alameda, but some prefer to stay with a local family, to make new friends (and save a little money on travel costs). If you can host an out-of-town guest and help them get to Alameda for the events Friday and Saturday, please let us know by emailing Sensei Didi at redwoodojo[at]earthlink.net.

Thanks, and see you at the event!

Here are some of the folks who came last year. Make sure YOU are in this year's picture!
Here are some of the folks who came last year. Make sure YOU are in this year’s picture!

P.S. Did we mention that WCTC is the only national training event with an official Cookie Break? Register today!

Special Event!

Master Nguyễn văn Nhân, head of Cuong Nhu in Vietnam, will be teaching in Berkeley and Oakland on Monday and Tuesday, June 1-2. MasterNhanThis is a very special visit, creating a bridge of friendship between the Cuong Nhu schools founded by O Sensei Ngo Dong in the U.S., and the Vietnamese “descendants” of his original schools in Vietnam. Master Nhân attended the Cuong Nhu 50th anniversary training camp in Raleigh, North Carolina, over Memorial Day weekend, and since then has been visiting Cuong Nhu schools in Florida, including the National Headquarters. He is now honoring us with a visit, and I hope everyone will be able to attend and take class.

The schedule will be as follows (adults in particular are encouraged to attend on both days):

Monday, June 1st, at Rohai Dojo in Berkeley (aka Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate)

4 to 5 p.m. Kids purple belt & above
5 to 6 p.m. beginning kids
6 to 8 p.m. class for adults and teens (all ranks), and kids green belt & above
Dinner after class (details tba)
Location: 1819 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, 1.5 blocks north of University Avenue
Call 526-4880 for directions

Tuesday, June 2nd, at Redwood Dojo in Oakland

4 to 5 p.m. beginning kids
5 to 6 p.m. kids purple belt & above
6 to 7 p.m. teen class (adults welcome)
7 to 8:30 p.m class for adults and teens (all ranks), and kids green belt & above
Dinner after class (details tba)
Location: Redwood Heights Community Center, 3883 Aliso Avenue, Oakland, just off Highway 13 at Redwood Road.
Call 482-7827 for directions

Note to Redwood Teens: You are strongly encouraged to stay for the adult class.

Note to kids age 6 & 7 who do not normally attend on Tuesday: If you would like to take class from Master Nhân, you may ask Sensei Didi’s permission to take part. You may also attend class just to watch. VietnamStudents-narrow

Train for Berkeley’s Spring Tournament

Rohai Dojo’s annual Kata Tournament is coming up soon – on Saturday, March 15th. In case you didn’t receive a flyer and registration form in class last week, it’s now possible to download them from Rohai’s website at this link:

The Spring Tournament is Coming

They’re also offering an online registration and payment option this year. That should make it easier to get registered before the late fee kicks in on March 5th! Visit their website and follow the links to use this option.

We’ve been practicing “tournament style” in some classes, and hopefully students of all ages and ranks will be inspired to train to a new level. That, after all, is the point: trying to be the best we can be!

Let Sensei Didi know if you have any questions about the tournament, registration and payment… or anything else concerning your or your child’s training.

Upcoming Tournament, Holiday Schedule and More

What a great month November was! Nearly 75 students tested for rank on the 21st, demonstrating their hard work and accomplishments before an overflow crowd.

Way back on the 16th, we had a great group of competitors attend “Spar Wars” at Rohai Dojo in Berkeley, for padded sword sparring, team sparring, and empty-hand sparring. Some won medals, and everyone had a great time.

Next on the agenda is the Hoa Sen Challenge on Sunday, December 8th, a friendly tournament at our other nearby “sister school” in Emeryville. This competition is open to any student who can perform at least one kata (Bac Dau, Taikyoku or higher); green belts and above may compete in sparring. For online registration, please CLICK HERE. Use the second registration link, and be sure to state that you are from Redwood Dojo. Let Sensei Didi know you plan to compete, and we’ll do some extra practice during class this week.

More About Testing for Rank

It’s exhilarating to promote a large group of kids to their next rank, as we did on November 21. These large quarterly tests are relatively new to Redwood Dojo; for most of our (almost) 22 years of operation, we have used a traditional “test when you’re ready and when Sensei schedules a test” approach. After this recent test, we’ve decided to go back to the old way.

While the “mass quarterly test” has some advantages, so, too, does the traditional approach. During the coming year, students will be expected (as always) to attend class, work hard, do their best – and NOT ask the instructor, “When do I get to test?” Tests will be scheduled when a student or group has demonstrated readiness by their performance in class. Parents, if you have any questions about testing, now or in the future, feel free to ask Sensei Didi (as long as the question isn’t “When will my child get to test!?” – The answer to that is always the same: “When he or she is ready!”) You may also download a “Test FAQs” page from this website (look for it in the right-hand column of this page, in the box called “flash widget”).

Holiday Schedule: Thanksgiving Weekend and December

Saturday Outdoor Class WILL meet after Thanksgiving
(Saturday morning, Nov. 30, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.). Thanks in advance to Senseis Paul and Jim for teaching.

In late December, Redwood Dojo will be closed from just before Christmas to just after New Years. During the holiday break, students who wish to do so are welcome to attend available classes at Rohai Dojo in Berkeley, where a limited holiday schedule will be in effect. (More details will be available from Sensei Didi.) Our last 2013 class at Redwood will be on Saturday morning, December 21st, and classes will resume on Saturday, January 4th. All classes, including “peewees,” will be back on schedule as of Monday, January 6th.

Rank Testing and Other Upcoming Events

Thank you to a few parents who pointed out that our Session Test Date was not in the Rec Center program book and posted on the bulletin board as announced. Apologies for that; and here is the information:

Rank testing for all students in the kids’ classes will take place on Thursday, November 21, during regular class times. Please note:

– Students will receive written notice prior to that date, indicating whether they are testing for rank, and for which rank.

– On test day, students should arrive for class early, and in a proper uniform with the patch sewn on. Students not in proper uniform will not test.

– Students not eligible to test for rank will instead complete a fun “challenge test,” and work on their skills.

– Classes sometimes run overtime on test days; please be prepared.

There is a fee for testing – to cover expenses, and, as an old martial arts instructor at UC Berkeley once said, “To keep you honest.” The way in which test fees are collected has changed as of this session, so please read the test fee information carefully when you receive your child’s test notice. Test fees should be paid and recorded prior to the test.

OTHER IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR NOVEMBER

The Redwood Heights facility will be closed on Monday, November 11, for Veteran’s Day. On that day:

Peewee Class will meet outdoors from 4 to 5 p.m. Dress for the weather (if it’s cold, wear a warm shirt under the uniform), and wear light-weight sneakers for class.

Karate A (6- & 7-year-old beginners) is cancelled; students may attend a make-up class on Tuesday, November 12, at 4 p.m.

Our Sister School – Rohai Dojo in Berkeley – is offering a “Parent’s Day Off” Camp on the Friday after Thanksgiving (so-called “Black Friday”). Kids – including siblings who are not martial arts students – will be able to spend the day at the dojo while parents get some shopping done, go to the movies, or just relax. The day includes pizza lunch, a healthful snack, and of course, martial arts-inspired fun and games. Sensei Didi will be helping with the camp. If you’re interested, ask Sensei Didi for a flyer, or contact Rohai Dojo directly at 526-4880.

Also at Rohai Dojo: Spar Wars! The annual sparring tournament is coming up soon, on Saturday the 16th, starting at 1 p.m. Green Belts are eligible to compete in empty-hand sparring; purple belts and above may compete in padded sword sparring. Many students have already received flyers; if you haven’t, please ask Sensei Didi.

Hoa Sen Dojo Tournament: The annual kata and sparring tournament at Hoa Sen Dojo in Emeryville is coming up on Sunday, December 8. Kata competition is open to all ranks and ages, provided they know a kata well enough to perform before a panel of judges. All are encouraged to take part – and especially those who are shy and don’t want to! See Sensei Didi for information, and watch this space for a link to more info.