Iron Mountain has come and gone. It was a huge and historic success. But this post will not talk about the camp. I am currently working on a series of posts that will recount the days of the camp, but that does not start here. This post is a celebration. When I try to tell people about Iron Mountain, I compare it to a family reunion but with less fighting. This year did not disappoint. The nights were filled with music, beer, laughter, food, a little celebratory whiskey, and a cigar or two. This year even saw an acoustic version of the following song:
It was a weekend of fun. I love the training; Master Zach Whitson never disappoints on content. All skill levels were represented in this camp, and, on Friday night, a number of students (including me) tested for their ranks in the color belt curriculum. This camp had a wave of black belt candidates including the first woman to test for black belt. The black belts candidates were Jason Cline of Gem City Martial Arts, Mike Miller of Springfield FMA, CR Munhall of Atlanta Martial Arts Club, and, last but not least, Jenna Pattison and Evan Ringle of Ryer Martial Arts. These five candidates left everything on the floor when the test was done. The knife sparring and double stick sparring was the highlight of the camp. A lot of sparring occurred over the three days of training, but I enjoyed watching the black belts the most. Each of them brought their unique strengths during sparring to create their own individual styles, but they all shared an eagerness to get after it. Everyone of the five of them was exhausted at the end of the test. Each one showed a in-depth knowledge of the material. Congratulations to them all for a well deserved honor. (Some day, I will finally get to the post about what the first degree black belt represents to me.)
This year two of my three instructors, Evan and Mike, earned their black belts. Evan started me out in this art; I went to the original sparring session simply to make friends. I wasn’t really interested in any arts, but I liked the stuff that Evan showed me. He introduced me to Master Whitson and to Mike Miller. Three years of friendship followed. We took trips to Wichita, KS, Iron Mountain in TN, Pittsburgh and many, many trips down to Springfield, MO. Evan was a red belt when he began teaching me.
The first time I met Mike Miller was at the first Master Whitson seminar I attended. Miller was hosting down in Springfield. Evan introduced us, and Mike started immediately into Sak-Sak Knife tapping. It wasn’t an ego show; it was an invitation to play CTS techniques. One that has been graciously open ever since that first day, and it has been extended into his home. Mike has hosted me numerous times for Master Z seminars or just training sessions. After Evan moved back to Pittsburgh last December, Mike took over as my closest resource. I consider Master Whitson my primary instructor, but Mike fills in a lot of the blanks since he’s closer. He really came through for me this year with Brown 2. On the day that I met him, Mike tested for his red belt. I’ve studied with them both through three belts and to finally see them achieve their goals was an honor. Congrats gents!
I’ve spent a few years watching how hard both Evan and Mike worked to become a black belt, and it set the bar for the level of effort I need to achieve my goals. I really enjoyed watching their test because they both knocked it out of the park. Ironically, of all the possible combinations of the five candidates, they didn’t actually spar each other. I’m proud of the Counterpoint Tactical System; I’m proud to be a student of Master Whitsons, and I’m proud of the instructors that I have. Congrats to Mike and Evan, and congrats to all of the new black belts.