KMAF 2018 News Article - by John Wilkerson

Crestview Hosts International Martial Arts Symposium

CRESTVIEW — The 12th annual Korean Martial Arts Festival took place April 20, 21, and 22.

Instructors traveled from across the United States, Canada, and South Korea to teach and attend classes. The event is hosted by Gordon Martial Arts of Crestview Florida and became reality through a collected effort of local volunteers and internationally ranked martial arts masters.

Thomas Gordon, owner of Gordon Martial Arts, spoke about the founding of the symposium.

“I got into the martial arts to do the martial arts. I never lost focus of that goal. I’ve always wanted an opportunity to train and bring in good quality people to be around,” he said.

To say Gordon’s desire to create a highly respected event was through happenstance does not give credit to his original vision.

“I started, in the beginning, bringing is several high ranking Korean instructors. This year we had people coming in from Korea, Canada, from all over the United States. It has been a great event,” he said.

Korean martial arts are the foundation of the festival, but even from the beginning, all martial artists and instructors were welcomed. Testament to this is an early instructor of Gordon’s, Calvin Longton, who teaches Krav Maga and the Korean martial art of hapkido. Their relationship goes back nearly two decades, and Longton, who owns and operates Precision Martial Arts in Navarre, still teaches at the annual event.

Gordon said, “Many nationally ranked seminars exist for Japanese and Chinese arts, but Korean arts were lacking in national recognition. The Korean Martial Arts Festival set out to rectify this.”

To show the power and foresight Gordon brought to the festival, Black Belt Magazine listed the event as one of the top ten events in the nation, 2012. Official Karate Magazine endorsed the event in 2014.

The festival originally took place in a hotel dining area. The following year it was held at Gordon Martial Arts’ 5,000-square-foot location near downtown Crestview. The event has outgrown the space and now includes Friday evening and Saturday classes at Warriors Hall, next to the Crestview police station.

This year, the event filled the space to near capacity. “We had 130 show up for the event. It was a record turnout for us. It looks like we took 40 rooms at a local hotel. Some other places got some overflow from that as well. Then there are the restaurants, gas, and everything else,” Gordon said. 

This impact does not represent a single day’s occurrence. Many of the seminar students and instructors arrived mid-week for the event. The festival has taken on a much-needed role by acting as a focal point for instructors and students to expand their training and professional relationships.

Crestview is well situated for the event with no extreme weather during the month of April and being centrally located from Tampa, Atlanta, and New Orleans.

Alain Burrese, author of "Survive A Shooting" and security instructor, spoke highly of the event. “I come because of the great opportunity to train and have fellowship with martial artists. We have children who are knee high, to an instructor, Dr. Kimm, who is 80 years old,” Burrese said.

Also teaching this year was Grand Master Nowon Park, who traveled from South Korea to teach at the event and visit with several of his students who live in the United States.

“You could not find a better group of people that come here for training, to share, and to teach,” Burrese said.

Gordon Martial Arts is a focal point for Korean martial artists to gather, share knowledge, and build lifelong friendships.

In response to his desire to keep the festival in Crestview, Gordon said, “when I first started the event, I considered taking it to Atlanta, Dallas, or New York. I didn’t want to do that because everything goes to the big cities. I wanted to pull back to our community, where I grew up.

"This my home. I wanted other people to come see how good we have it here,” Gordon said.