Cuong Nhu IATC 2014 Raleigh Survival Guide 1

Carmichael GymThis post is a follow-up to a previous one I made last year about what to bring to (and do at) IATC 2013 in Atlanta. This year, IATC has moved back to Raleigh, NC — and much of that advice still applies, so I’ll re-hash it again here… with some additions and a few Raleigh-specific tweaks.

What to Bring

Your Own Bedding

One of the things I’m most looking forward to this year is staying in the newly renovated University Towers off-campus dorms. The photos and video on their website look great, and they’ve clearly made some major upgrades to the building. And while new linens might be among the things they upgraded, I’m not going to take any chances. I have a set of my own very comfy Costco Twin XL sized sheets I take with me to IATC, and this year I’m also bringing my own pillow and a blanket. If you’re picky about what you sleep on, and you’ve got room in your luggage, I highly recommend bringing some… just in case.

Your Own Toiletries

I’ve heard that dorms are providing soap and shampoo this year (yay!), but if you’re partial to your own stuff, then bring it. Because I like to shave in the shower, I’m packing a small shaving mirror. You may want to pack some tissues, too — and save the toilet paper in your room for when you really need it…

Coat Hangers

You’ll want these for hanging up clothes… but more importantly, for hanging up uniforms to air out and dry. Trust me. 🙂

Extra Uniforms

Training camp is about training, and if you train hard, your uniform is gonna get sweaty. That’s a good thing, but it’s not a good thing to wear that same sweaty uniform for three days straight. You have to have at least one all-white gi for bow in and bow out, and test candidates need to be in all-white gis on Friday night. Colored uniforms are fine all day Saturday and Sunday morning. I recommend bringing at least 2 complete uniforms to IATC.

Casual Clothes

Training camp is also about hanging out and socializing with Cuong Nhu friends, so bring come casual clothes, too. You don’t need anything fancy (unless you feel like gussying up for the final night dance party).

Training Weapons

People are generally willing to share, but it’s still a good idea to pack your own martial arts weapons if you’re planning to train with them at training camp. Some dojos mail them in one large box, but I generally take my tambos on the plane in my backpack (when questioned, I call them Filipino dancing sticks… and sail right through) or check my Bo as “odd sized luggage.”

Sparring Equipment

If you want to take part in the massive brawl sparring class, you’re going to need your sparring equipment and a mouth-guard. Don’t miss out on the fun because you forgot to throw your equipment in your bag!

Swimsuit and Towel

One of the big features of University Towers is the swimming pool. There’s plenty of room in the pool area to swim, lay out, and enjoy the sunshine that often prevails during Memorial Day weekend in Raleigh. So don’t forget to bring a swimsuit, and maybe even a large beach towel.

And while we’re on the subject of towels, you may want to consider bringing your own bath towel(s) with you. I don’t know how the new bath towels in the dorms will stack up, but I do remember that the dorms in Raleigh were very good about replacing them upon request during previous IATCs hosted there. In my experience, college dorms don’t exactly have a stellar reputation for high quality sheets and towels, so plan accordingly.


If this is your first IATC, don’t be frightened off by this suggestion. But you’re going to want some Aleve, Advil, or other favorite pain reliever. Pack the big bottle. Trust me.

I also like to pack some Tiger Balm and heat pads. By Day 3, you’ll probably be needing it.

Don’t forget to pack your vitamins, too.

Athletic Tape and Proper Footwear

The gym at NC State has hardwood floors, so if you’re used to working out on that type of floor, you’re probably already prepared. If not, however, then give serious consideration to what type of footwear you plan to bring. Tennis shoes or Vibram Five Fingers are great for those who like something on their feet. But if you like to go barefoot, it’s probably not a bad idea to pack some athletic tape. Your feet might be used to hardwood floors, but they’re probably not used to working out this hard, for this many hours a day, over so few days.

Some slip-ons or sandals for walking between the dorms and the gym is probably a good idea, too.

Batteries and Chargers

Don’t forget chargers for your camera, phone, or other electronic devices. And if they take batteries, bring extras. Buying them from the convenience stores near campus can get expensive.

Duct Tape

I never travel without it. Seriously. It comes in handy. Have you ever heard the story of Master John Kay and what I now refer to as the “motion sensor incident?” Some duct tape to cover the motion sensor in his dorm room would have really helped him get a better night’s sleep!

What to Do

These are mostly a repeat of last year’s advice, but they’re worth repeating.

Manage your Time Change

If you’re travelling across time zones to get to IATC (and particularly if you’re coming from the West Coast like me), you’re going to want to plan ahead for jet lag. I like to fly in at least a day early and stay the night off-campus — especially if it’s a testing year for me.  This year, however, the host dojos have arranged for anyone arriving on Wednesday to be able to spend the night at the dorms for a nominal fee (you can select that option when you register).

Also, the week before IATC, I start to wake up a bit earlier, and try to fall asleep a bit earlier, just so the early mornings aren’t so brutal. Waking up at 6:30AM in Raleigh is the same as waking up at 3:30AM in Seattle, so I try to wake up at 5:30AM in the week leading up to camp. I’ll use Ambien to zonk myself out at 10PM on Wednesday night, since that’s only 7PM back home. Then I’ll wake up and have breakfast at a “normal” time on Thursday, since eating on a local schedule always helps the body adjust to a new time zone.

Take Lots of Photos… then Tag and Share

It’s now easier than ever to share the IATC experience with friends who couldn’t come this year. Cuong Nhu has a Twitter feed (@cnomaa), a Facebook group, a FourSquare location for the event, a Google+ page, and our official hashtag for the event is #iatc2014.

Stay Hydrated

It’s generally warm in Raleigh in May, especially for those of us travelling from more Northern parts of the country. Drinking lots of fluids (especially water) is key. There are drinking fountains around the gym and across campus, but you’ll need your own water container (I recommend a 32oz BPA-free wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle). Be sure to put your name on it somehow (masking tape and marker works great). I’ll also pack a small bottle of Mio liquid flavoring to squirt in, which generally results in me drinking more water faster.

Lay off the Soda

It’s extremely tempting at the cafeteria to take advantage of the “all you can drink” soda machines. Do yourself a favor and stick to healthier options. The sugar, caffeine, and other chemicals in soda is actually working against what you’re trying to accomplish in a training environment.

Talk to Strangers

One of my favorite parts of IATC is catching up with old friends I only get to see once a year. So at the cafeteria (where lots of socializing occurs), it’s natural to look for those friends when walking out with my tray to try and find a place to sit and eat. I also tend to see groups of people from the same dojo, who see each other all the time back home, sitting together at the cafeteria — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if only hang out with people you already know, you’ll miss out on meeting new friends, and if you’re an old-timer, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to make a new-comer feel welcome. Demonstrate the Cuong Nhu principle of Open Arms by inviting someone who is walking alone with their food tray to come sit down with you and your friends. Or do the opposite by walking up to a table of complete strangers and asking if you can join them. If they’re rude and say “no,” don’t worry — you know karate. Punch them in the face!

Try Something Different

It’s natural for people to gravitate toward things they know, or to which they have a natural affinity or ability. But force yourself out of your comfort zone with at least one class at IATC. Even if you have no rhythm whatsoever, maybe give Capoeira a try. Maybe you’ve never touched a Sai in your life, but Raphael is your favorite Ninja Turtle, so go learn the kata. Or maybe you’re scared to death of Master John Kay. Don’t be. He’s actually a nice guy when you really get to know him. Really!

Get Some Video of Katas You Want to Learn

It’s often helpful to have a video of someone performing a kata you’re trying to learn so you can review it back home. And at this annual event, you’ll meet some of the (literally) best in the world at performing some of these katas. Trying to learn Crane? Go introduce yourself to Sensei Karen Bradshaw and ask her if she’ll let you video her performing it. Track down Sensei Joe Varady or Master Bao and ask them to do Tiger for you. See if you can convince the normally camera-shy Master Thu to perform a Bo kata. Master Kirk will be glad to perform a Wing Chun for you, and Master John Burns can usually be talked (or bribed with Vegan food) into acting like a monkey for your recording pleasure. Keep in mind that the only “official” videos are the ones on the DVD or the Cuong Nhu website, but even non-official videos can be invaluable in gaining insights into a kata.

Here’s another helpful tip. Remember that the first move of the first Cuong Nhu kata involves a 90 degree turn. Do that same 90 degree turn to your smart phone when you use it as your recording device. The result will be a well-framed shot that can play nicely on a 16:9 TV or computer screen, rather than a tall skinny shot that is choppy because you had to move it around too much to follow the kata’s movements.

Don’t Try to Learn Too Many Different Katas

One of the great things about training camp is that there are so many different katas available to learn. And one of the bad things about training camp is that there are so many different katas available to learn. Listen to the sage wisdom of Sensei Kenric Lai: “After my first campout, I learned not to take every section with a kata. I think I took like four kata classes during my first campout. Guess how many I remembered??? ZEROOOOOO!” Sensei Kenric is right — and he’s no dummy. He tutors Biomedical Technology. He’s the Asian Lex Luthor (just as smart, same hair-do). If Kenric can’t remember four brand new katas from camp, normal people like you and I don’t stand a chance. Learn one… maybe two, and video tape them for later reference.

Take a Moment to Remember

On Friday night, after testing, many IATC participants like to celebrate. But before you crank up the party, take a moment to remember those who came before us, and who are no longer with us — including O’Sensei, Master Mary, and other members of the Cuong Nhu family who have moved on from us. Remembering our past is the best way to guide our future.

It’s also important to remember that the Monday following IATC isn’t just “travel home day,” it’s Memorial Day — a day to remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces (not to be confused with Veterans Day — which celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans). Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving our country. So take a moment of gratitude some time during the day.

Find Someone from Shiwa or Wolfpack and Say “Thanks!”

The host dojos for IATC 2014, Shiwa and Wolfpack Dojos, spend lots of time and energy preparing for hundreds of Cuong Nhu members to decent on Raleigh. Look for members of their dojos, introduce yourself, tell them “thank you,” and give them a hug.

Got your own tips for getting the most out of IATC? Share them in the comments below! Hope to see you all at this year’s training camp!