Counterpoint Tactical Systems (CTS) is organized by blocks of curriculum. Each block of curriculum is assigned to a belt rank, and if a practitioner wants to become an instructor in this martial art, that practitioner must show proficiency in each block of curriculum. This is accomplished during testing with Master Zach Whitson. I have been through five belt tests with Master Whitson – four in CTS and one in Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP). At the Springfield FMA seminar, I’ll be testing over the CDP brown belt curriculum. Over the course of the past five tests, I’ve noticed specific phases that I go prior to the exam.
Preparation for the Test
A day or two before each test (since I’m typically traveling to a seminar to test), I read through the curriculum sheet. I try to picture in my mind the technique or drill that is named on the sheet; if I can’t picture it, then I ask Evan about it and review the DVDs. Typically, Evan has taught me this but, for whatever reason, I don’t connect the name to what I’ve been taught. During my Brown 3 test, Master Whitson called out a drill but I didn’t connect the name with the drill. I demonstrated the drill but not knowing its name was an embarrassing (though, important) lesson. Now I make checks on the curriculum sheet next to each name when I can remember working the drill or technique with Evan. I also like to watch the DVDs to look for any specific details that are not listed on the sheets. I try to note the order of sequential techniques to make sure that I’m displaying them in the correct order. Targeting is also worth noting while watching the DVDs.
On the day of the test, I look over the curriculum sheet again and freak out. For whatever reason, I’m built such that prior to any type of evaluation – school exams, doctor visits, the big bosses in video games – I freak myself out. I get really nervous and my confidence disappears. But then I form arguments as to why I am ready to test. I go through any fearful or negative thoughts and try to point to training memories demonstrating that each thought is incorrect. Once this is done, I then ask myself if not passing the test – failing the test – is the worst thing that can happen. No, of course, it isn’t. It simply means that I have more training to do, that I have more learning to do. That’s a positive because we can always learn more.
During the Test
During the test I try to focus on the material. I listen to the notes that I’m given and file them for later, and I remind myself to relax. I also like to pay attention to the other tests and see if there’s anything I can learn.
After the Test
Exhausted and exhilarated, I take a moment to think over how I actually did. What were my strengths and where do I need work? Master Whitson likes to ask each participant how they think the test went and to explain his/her strengths or weaknesses. This is a very interesting routine; the question and answer portion gives insight into how each person views their own performance. Then, if I’ve passed, I look forward to the next material.
Within 24 hours of the test, I like to go back and review the notes that Master Whitson and the testing board has given me.
Since I’ve begun training with him, Evan has been more focused on learning the material and being able to pull it off during sparring. This has been a good example for me. Occasionally, I get excited and want to test. I love learning new material, and I want to move onto the new stuff quickly. But the belt isn’t our objective. While testing with Master Whitson, I’ve only seen him give out belts for one rank – first black belt. The focus isn’t the belt. The point of CTS training is to learn the material and to be able to apply it during play. (While some of the CTS groups do give out belts, it’s not mandatory.)
Everybody goes through their own testing routines. What’s yours?