A Big Night, One State to the Right
This past weekend we had the pleasure of heading East and visiting the great city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The trip was a bit of a whirlwind experience, and the drive was long and draining (far more than our trip to California, last year), but we still had a pretty good time. I took a bunch of pictures during our stay, and I’m sharing some of them here. (I would have taken pictures during the trip, but picture after picture of desolate shrub-land would get kind of depressing. The “City of Elephant Butte” sign was really tempting, though.) Watch for falling alt-text, and click through for a larger image.
We were in Albuquerque to attend the annual AKKA Academy Awards Tournament and Banquet. It gave our children a chance to participate in another tournament, and all of us an excuse to play dress up. We stayed at the Days Inn Albuquerque Northeast, which was a fine hotel for the price. It had all of the important amenities: ‘Free’ Wi-fi, deluxe continental breakfast, and an indoor pool.
The kids spent the one afternoon we had free in the pool and enjoyed themselves immensely. Since the temperatures in Albuquerque got up into the blustery mid-fifties, they especially appreciated the warmth of the jacuzzi.
The best part of the room was the scenic view it offered. Each morning we got to step out of our door and gaze out upon the architectural beauty of the French Funerals Lomas location, pictured below. The first morning, I had the pleasure of witnessing a lovely ivory casket being loaded carefully into the back of a waiting hearse. A truly inspiring way to start the day.
With that, we were in the right frame of mind to head out to the day’s opening event. The tournament!
Tournaments are a big deal in the AKKA system. They’re a requirement if you’re planning to test for Black Belt, because every candidate is expected to be able to handle the pressure of that kind of event well. We’ve participated in several of them over the past few years.
Each tournament starts with an explanation of how the competition is structured, and the fundamental rules of each part of the event. Mr. Davis has headed up these every time I’ve been to a tournament, ever since my son was a Little Dragon seven years ago. He clearly has a gift for it.
Our kids were split up into two separate age groups, which were competing in diametrically opposed corners of the floor. That meant I spent my time at the tournament walking back and forth, stepping over and around parents and spectators, trying to take pictures at the most opportune moment for each of them. Most of the time, I failed. Thank God I decided not to compete, because that would have made it a nightmare.
Steven misplaced a fairly critical piece of sparring gear, so he was unable to compete in that part of the event. He did perform a kata, but there was a lot of stiff competition, and he didn’t place. Afterwards, though, one of the senior ranking leaders of the organization, Mr. Gilbert, asked to see him repeat the performance and he gave Steven a number of really valuable tips on how to improve for next time. We were all very grateful that Mr. Gilbert took that time out from the tournament to counsel him.
After the tournament, a quick trip back to the hotel. Showers were taken, clothes were changed, and we were all ready for the evening’s main event. The Awards Banquet!
Not everyone could see what the big deal was.
The national Demo Team put on quite a show for us all. Their routine covered the entire AKKA system. Before I started training a couple of years ago, these always seemed a bit jumbled and hard to understand. As I’ve learned more and more of the system, though, I’ve really come to appreciate the choreography and precision that is at work as they perform. Especially with all the distractions (like flash photography) going on.
The demo team also performed a seriously impressive lion dance routine. There was a great deal of athleticism and puppetry involved. The kids loved it.
Finally, we were all introduced to some new students that were joining the system in order to learn how to protect themselves. Proving that there is never a bad time to learn how to keep yourself safe in a dangerous situation.
Wrapping up the evening, awards were distributed by the organization and the head of each school. Top students from every age group are recognized for their efforts. An award is usually handed out to the student that has shown the most improvement. And one family from each school is recognized as Most Supportive. This year, my family was honored and humbled to receive that award. Thanks to Mrs. Thibault and our other instructors for allowing us to serve each of you as we were able.
We didn’t get to do any “sight-seeing” this time around, but there’s a good chance that we’ll be returning to Albuquerque later this year. Anyone have any suggestions of what we should take time out to see next time we’re one state to the right?
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