Iron Mountain camp is the premier event in the Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) calendar. It is the instructors seminar, the black belt testing ground, and the social heart of Counterpoint Tactical International (CTI). Master Zach Whitson, the founder of CTS, travels throughout the year to various cities for seminars. Iron Mountain Camp is the seminar where his students travel to him as a large group to learn and practice advanced concepts in the system. But just calling Iron Mountain camp a seminar doesn’t do the experience justice. It is the home of CTS.
The 2013 Iron Mountain Camp was two and a half days of training at the Sugar Hollow Resort in Butler, TN. September 5th was a travel day for everyone to arrive at camp; it is also the meet and greet. September 6th, 7th, and 8th were broken into half day sessions to cover a lot of material, and we closed camp at noon on Sunday the 8th.
This was the first year that we used the Sugar Hollow Resort to host the camp, and I really enjoyed the new living arrangements. We were all closer together, and we could walk to training in the morning or the afternoon. For the tests, we drove to the resort’s convention center. Yes, we had to drive through part of the resort because the place was huge. Lots of scenic photographs were snapped each day.
I met the crew of Springfield FMA and Haastyle Martial Arts in Charlotte, NC and caravanned with them up to Sugar Hollow. When we arrived, I made my rounds to say hello to Master Z and Mrs. Dian Whitson. After finding the room I shared with Mike Miller of Springfield FMA, I began to socialize. Mike went to work with the other black belt candidates on their material for the test. Even though I was nervous about my test, I chose to have a few beers and talk to people I haven’t seen in a while. Evan Ringle, my instructor for the past 3 years, moved back to Pittsburgh in December of last year, and I hadn’t seen him or his lovely wife Carlyne since. I spent most of my time getting caught up with them. CTS is an art that requires skill, but as you progress, you create a new group of friends. Friendships are like martial arts in that they require upkeep.
Friday September 6th
Friday morning was the first training session. We walked up to the observation deck overlooking the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watauga Reservoir. The visibility was very low that day, and I could see the mist in the air. Turns out that we were in the clouds. Master Whitson led the group in standing Qigong meditation. It was peaceful and strenuous at the same time; the silence and the view acted like a mental break from the everyday world for me. This time allowed me to put away all other thoughts and focus on the training that was ahead of us. After it was done, Master Whitson led us in the Pakal daga twelve attacks. (Pakal is the blade gripped so that it is below the pinky in a vertical fist.) We discussed targeting and application, and after a few repetitions of the twelve, we began the Empty Hand vs. Knife level two curriculum, also known as Pakal knife tapping. Fortunately for me, before lunch we reviewed two thirds of the material I would be testing on later that night.
Lunch, as always, was prepared and cooked by Mrs. Dian Whitson. She works very hard to provide good food for the camp, and she’s been successful every year I’ve attended. I ate in a rocking chair overlooking the field that we’d use later in the weekend. I want to say thank you, again, to Mrs. Dian. She does a wonderful job, and her efforts keep the camp moving at its crisp pace. In fact, without her efforts, camp wouldn’t work as well as it does.
That afternoon, we returned to the observation deck to learn knife vs. knife level three. This level of the curriculum is taught at the rank of third black belt, and it is pakal vs. pakal knife work. Master Whitson started the group off with tapping drills for this curriculum. It was very close to the empty hand vs. knife tapping we learned that morning. I had been exposed to it earlier; so, this time, I focused on what new things I could pick up. Oh, was there a lot. We also worked a short but powerful drill that shows various options when facing a knife in the pakal grip. We covered other drills that were similar to Cacoy Doce Pares passing and one that reminded me of Master Whitson’s own Kenpo Counterpoint drills. I’m at the point in the system where I’m beginning to see it all fit together. By this, I mean that the empty hand striking curriculum block can be used with the knife block, the stand up grappling block, and the Kenpo Counterpoint block. During Knife vs. Knife three, I saw a number of the different curriculum blocks flowing into the drills we worked.
After we finished the knife vs. knife three training, the group took a small break and prepared for the color belt testing that night. For this Iron Mountain Camp, I’ve decided to create a separate post for the testing portion of camp. I was concerned about the test that night and forgot to take pictures that day.
Saturday September 6th
Saturday morning, we, once again, began the day on the observation deck. The visibility was better; the air cool and filled with the sound of a weed whacker somewhere off in the distance. Master Whitson led us in standing meditation. I walked to the deck earlier than everyone else to try to get a signal on my cell phone. For the entire walk up the hill, my thoughts were racing from my test the night before to excitement about that morning’s material. A gnat would have said that I had attention span problems; so, the meditation was essential for me that morning. I would have missed the gun disarm portion of the camp, and what a shame that would have been.
The lesson began with footwork. Zach showed us the hourglass footwork and some transitions using this pattern. In the past year, Master Whitson has been emphasizing footwork, and this camp was no different. Back in May, he recommended that I start classes with footwork, and I listened. Master Whitson demonstrated a few sweeps and how the footwork can used with multiple opponents.
Then, we began the gun disarms.
Part 2 of the 2013 Iron Mountain camp review contains the gun disarms and the rest of the curriculum. Please, check back soon!
If you want more, here’s the 2012 Iron Mountain camp review.