Tom Lewis and Sherman Harrill at a seminar in Derry in 1997 where Wansu kata was the topic.
Perhaps my personal experiences with clinics and seminars would be of some interest. I first attended a seminar back in 1980. And walked out gaining little in the process. Was it worthwhile, well if you gain one new idea or technique or meet someone new, that is a 100% gain in your life. But there is a great variety of clinic/seminar experiences to consider.
At times those experiences were in new arts to me, at times in arts related to my own study, perhaps a chance to hear someone whose writings I had only read. Or even with very experienced instructors in my own system.
So I have attended clinics with:
Chinese form studies in N. Mantis, N. Shaolin, and others
A Bando camp weekend with multiple arts shared
Shotokan bunkai studies (not the same as current shotokan useage)
Chances to train with Yang Jwing-Ming, Dan Insanto
In depth application studies on the Isshinryu kata with Sherman
Harrill and his senior student John Kerker
Very quickly I realized that clinic was a once in a lifetime chance to gain something that probably would never again be repeated. Learned a lesson, what you can’t practice becomes vapor wear. As well as a great many other things. This was before current video sources. The only ‘recorder’ was the ability to take notes.
So I began to take notes, then quickly learned a lesson. Taking immediate notes does not mean they will make sense the next day. By placing some time between you and the ‘experience’, you take notes on that you remember, which have moved from short term memory into longer term memory. Waiting a part of a day or a day meant you were taking notes on what you did remember and made more sense to you in the long run.
Of course what you remember is not necessarily the same as what you experienced, but was probably influenced by that event.
Now let’s assume what you experienced was the greatest thing since cream cheese. Unless you are an instructor, it is unlikely that you can practice that in class. Then time passes and it becomes a memory. Still worth the experience, but without repeated practice no one keeps things forever.
And if you are an instructor, no matter how good what you got there was, it is unlikely that you will change your whole program to begin doing what you learned. After all your program has a lot of logic behind it, and you are unlikely to throw that which you know away. So again the vapor ware.
A more realistic answer, is you spend time to really learn that material, say 5 years, assuming what you got was worth the time. Then as you repeat into your own practice, begin to determine where that material is to be placed in your own program. Even a great clinic does not replace the effort of learning. And if you don’t know it intimately can you really teach much of it.
I have detailed notes from many clinics where great material was covered. And today as I read them, there is much I have never been able to incorporate into my program. Than does not mean they were not worth the effort, knowledge is worth its weight in gold. But it does suggest that everything one wishes is not always possible.
The deepest seminars were with Sherman Harrill. Between my notes, and video I was allowed to make at clinics I hosted. I learned a great deal. But on his passing I was no sad, that I finally took the time to compile complete notes of what he had shared. A 3 month effort. And that ended up a document of over 800 technique studies shared.
I have that document. Retained privately always honoring Sherman’s trust. And it certainly has formed the basis of my ongoing studies,
However, as valuable as that is to me, still much of it has not made its way into my own program. It has influenced me in many ways. But at the same time what I share also has its own logic.
I have forms to this day I got at one time clinics. Perhaps not 100% of what was shown, but good enough for my own work and understanding.
Application studies from different styles of training. And much, much more.
It is up to you to make the effort and gain from such experiences. No one is going to hold your hand.