Art is a very creative and diverse part of life, with countless formats and applications. Even so, Master Naomi Even-Aberle is forging a not-so-common connection between martial and performance arts, right here in Rapid City.
Moving here in September 2012 to pursue a career as an Art Education Director, she realized that the arts in Rapid City can be a connection point for conversation. Since then, her life has been able to adapt and change as passions come into focus and exploration provides clarity. Now, through running a local Martial Arts Academy while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree, she is able to provide our community with a unique experience and expressive perspective.
Let’s start with who you are. What brought you to Rapid City and how have you been able to plug into our community?
Well, I am Master Naomi Even-Aberle, 4th Dan (black belt) Master Instructor, Founder and Owner of Full Circle Martial Arts Academy here in Rapid City.
I moved to Rapid City with my family to work with the Rapid City Arts Council as their Art Education Director. Through this position I explored partnerships that utilized the arts for social change, personal development and growth as well as a means for self-expression and continued learning. I primarily focused on visual arts and community engagement through the visual arts.
Shortly after moving to Rapid City I started a part-time business, Full Circle Martial Arts Academy. We primarily ran Korean based martial arts classes such as Taekwondo once a week after school. We focused on performance art – specifically within the martial arts – as well as community engagement through the martial arts.
Now four years after moving to Rapid City, I stepped away from my full time role with the RCAC and have been concentrating full time on my business.
So, you’re an artist who enjoys the physicality of Martial Arts, is there a special form or curriculum you offer that is unique to Rapid City?
Specifically I teach and train Korean based martial arts: Taekwondo (kicking/punching), Hapkido (street self-defense, joint locks, throws), Kumdo/Kumbup (sword training) from preschool age to continued adult training. However what we specifically do is offer and train through a community of practice. Through martial arts we are actually training people how to engage with each other, and how to engage with their communities by creating a community of shared experiences.
By bringing people of diverse backgrounds (ages, genders, cultures, perspectives) and training together, we are able to not only develop the students individually but we are also building relationships through mutual respect and mentorship.
After five years of business we are now starting to bring our community of practice through the martial arts to other organizational programs utilizing integrated curriculum known as Learning Full Circle. This curriculum uses the physicality of learning, mutual respect, self-defense prevention, and mentorship, to enhance and broaden the missions and programs that are already in existence.
For example, last year we worked with Western Resources for Independent Living (WRIL): Youth Transitions program. WRIL works with young adults who have either physical or mental disabilities to learn how to transition out of primary school and prepare for their next segment of life/careers. We partnered with their existing curriculum and added our Learning Full Circle curriculum to discuss situation awareness, self-defense and to explore and learn body language as a means for prevention. By working together both of our organizations are able to provide for members of our community.
Considering the community minded approach of what you offer, where is your gym located?
Full Circle Martial Arts Academy is currently located at 412 5th Street within the Barefoot Dance Studio complex. Originally Andrea Schafer (owner of Barefoot Dance Studio) and I met when we collaborated on a Summer Nights performance/visual arts event. I loved that Andrea, her instructors and students, were so open to a collaboration between visual and performance art. Since then Andrea and I have kept in contact, and when she mentioned wanting to fill her performance space with additional programming, I leapt at the idea of a creative community of performing artists!
Since then we have had two months of programming through martial arts (Full Circle Martial Arts Academy, Jade Forest Kung Fu), Dancing (Barefoot Dance Studio), Theatre (Black Hills Playhouse), Silk Ariel Classes and so much more. We absolutely love the creative atmosphere which is supportive of each style of performance art and other organizations and groups. It is a harmonious balance that benefits the students and community by supporting the arts across curriculums and styles. There is a little bit of everything for anyone wanting to grow and explore! Having such a collaborative place, for visual and performance arts, in Rapid City is definitely a step in the right direction for our growing community.
With such a budding environment, can you elaborate on the pursuit of your Master’s Degree and Martial Arts as a performance art?
I have always wanted an M.F.A., but when I moved to Rapid City, it didn’t seem like the right moment to pursue a visual art degree. I was always at odds with how to incorporate my performance art and my visual art practices; which seems like two different worlds!
Well, starting at the end of 2016 I enrolled in my MFA program through Vermont College of Fine Arts, low-residency and self-directed visual art program. Through this program my professors have encouraged me to look at conceptual multi-media artwork to bring my visual art and performance art together.
My current semester research study is: “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Art: Martial Arts as a Performative Practice” and my studio study is “Unattainable Perfection: The journey of a martial artist.” In both realms I am giving myself the freedom to critically explore my martial arts performances and practices through multiple mediums.
This semester I am creating a performance time-based piece that will utilize printmaking with my body, photography, body art, and video; all while exploring the idea of unattainable perfection. It has been a steep learning curve, but the more I explore, the more I want to continue to explore.
What is your advice for artists looking to find their way in the creative world?
Bring all of your aspects and passions together. I spent so much time separating major parts of myself, and it only made my artwork flat and it didn’t represent the real me. It is in our connections (martial arts + feminism + yard work), and our personal narratives that we are able to truly share our stories, perspectives and desires.
Be prepared to have fun, struggle and ask yourself the hard questions. Creating is a journey and if you separate a part of yourself, then you haven’t traveled very far to begin with.