Part 1 – What’s all the Paddy about?

For several years I had been hearing about the Paddy Crean workshop in Canada from my friend and colleague Tiffany Antoniuk.  Tiffany came over to the UK in 2004 to continue her training and qualify as a BADC teacher, through clever planning or happy accident (I tend to believe the latter) we were thrown together for a large chunk of our training for a few years.  Tiffany had mentioned the Paddy to me and expressed how much she loved her experience and how much she pushed herself and learned. From that moment I knew that this event had to be put on my combat ‘bucket list.’  As the Paddy is only held every other year it is very easy to keep missing it, but finally after so many year of not being able to go I finally got that chance in December 2012 when a whole bunch of us from the UK made the pilgrimage.

The venue is in the stunning Banff Centre, just outside of Calgary. The Banff Centre is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and you see so many deer and elk that by the third day seeing a herd just wander by is a normal sight. You also meet the most amazing people and practitioners of the art who are all so generous with their skills and knowledge.

Let me take you through an average Paddy day:

Breakfast at the crack of dawn, you would be offended if you were not presented with a sunrise over the Rockies and a gourmet breakfast. Seriously, as Bryce Bermingham, one of the co-coordinators says, “come for the combat, stay for the food.” Everyone (well everyone with a penchant for torture as the week goes on) makes the trek to warm-up, which is usually lead by either an intern or a teacher and as the week goes on a great way to say good morning and work on those glorious aches and pain.  You then have your fist two sessions of the day, then another fantastic lunch and then your last two sessions. After session 4 there is the mad sign up for classes the next day. Now when I say mad, it’s because after a month of careful study you desperately want to get the classes you have craved and dreamt about.  You have slightly psychotic thoughts like ‘if I don’t get Russian Special Ops with Spencer Hum or Nuclear Small Sword with Ian Rose I WILL JUST DIE’ or ‘I SWEAR, I will stab someone with my pen like I learned in Multi Attacks with John Lennox and Steve Huff. I know how, they showed me!’ However, you soon realize that every class is a gift and no matter what, you can learn something of value. Spoiled for choice, like a kid in the proverbial sweetshop, however our drug of choice is combat. After sign up, it’s another glorious dinner (expect things like roasted Bison and Thai curries to be on offer as well as a host of dishes for veggies, vegans and those with food allergies) and all to be enjoyed as the sun goes down. In the evening there are social events, hot springs and X-Classes, which are chances for the teachers and students alike to try out leading a class they have been working on.  There were options like Bartitsu, tricking and acting technique, so there is no need for boredom on an evening.  And if you can’t be tempted by any of this, there is always the pub!

And there are five glorious days of this!

When I came to the Paddy I knew it was going to be special, but I had no idea how much it would change me. Not only did I get to room and reconnect with my friend Tiffany, and opportunity that never happens, but I also made so many new friends and got to put faces to names that I had only spoken to via e-mail. It reignited my passion for dramatic combat and it reminded me of something that I must have forgotten, that I am good at this. The support of the faculty was enormous, everyone was there to learn and grow. Egos were to be checked at the door. You would find yourself talking a class during a first session and then partnering that same teacher in a later session. It made me firm in my belief that we never stop learning and growing in our arts. Everyone has something to give and learn in equal measures, so take every opportunity to keep developing your combat skills, if I am far from done as an accredited teacher, the person next to me sure isn’t done after their first exam or workshop.

The Paddy is an investment in yourself, if you consider yourself a combat enthusiast then go, don’t hesitate. I thought, that I would only get to do one Paddy however I am hooked…. hello my name is Jessica and I am a Paddy-holic.

In my next blog I am going to go into details about the classes at Paddy and give you my top 10 of not to miss workshops.

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