For the next stop on my virtual tour of Counterpoint Tactical Systems (CTS) clubs (see previous stops in Pittsburgh and Atlanta), I’m stopping by another place that I’ve actually been. Springfield FMA, at three hours down highway 44, is the closest CTS club. I often travel down to Springfield for training sessions with the club leader, Mike Miller, and STL Counterpoint has been a fixture at Springfield’s CTS seminars. At the first STL Counterpoint seminar with Grandmaster Zach Whitson, Springfield FMA had a strong showing that made the day a success.
Springfield FMA is run by Mike Miller and his highest ranked student Alec Helwig. Mike’s club has “…evolved from an add-on class at a Kenpo school to us teaching people here to learn CTS specifically.” The club teaches CTS only and hosts a seminar with Grandmaster Whitson once a year. Mike has organized the club around the philosophy that chance favors the prepared. Both Alec and Mike want their training partners to have the principles to defend themselves and their loved ones if needed.
For the past few months, Mike has been busy building a new home, and Alec has stepped up into the leadership role. He has been working hard at attracting new students and filling in for Mike when needed. Mike says that “Alec and his drive helped me make the transition to club owner.” Alec’s drive has led to a school that is taking creative approaches to teaching and to sparring the CTS curriculm.
Mike Miller received his first degree black belt in CTS in September of 2013 at Iron Mountain camp in TN. He has achieved the rank of brown belt in American Kenpo Karate. Mike’s profession is physical therapy, which means he can explain exactly what the damage is doing to an opponent’s body.
Mike said that the “club has been an evolution of me into a reluctant teacher. I set out to have a group of people to share the system with enough for me to keep myself training.”
I’ve known Mike for three years now. I train with him whenever the opportunity presents itself, and now that I don’t have an instructor on hand, Mike has stepped up to help me. When Grandmaster Whitson teaches me the technique, Mike spot checks them for me. Mike and his family open their home for me once every other month for training sessions. After training is over, there’s craft beer to be had and many, many laughs. Over the last few training sessions, our discussions are drifting more into the how of teaching. Mike’s helping me vary my instruction methods for different learners. This has been invaluable for my own study and for my students.
SFMA’s students “have changed over the time period as well. Prior to meeting Alec Helwig, my students were pretty much all Kenpo students just dabbling in another system.” The club members are from every walk of life and range from law enforcement officers to college students. Alec views “…Springfield FMA’s greatest strengths, [as] the people. People from across our little plot in the Midwest in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas all are eager to train and eager to be there for each other.” The students range from third brown belt (Alec Helwig) to white belt with students at every belt in between.
November is the typical month for the CTS seminar with Springfield FMA. Coming soon after Iron Mountain camp, this seminar is the end of the CTS travel year for me. I love driving down to Springfield and seeing the improvement in the club – from Mike and Alec growing as teachers to their students progressing through the system. Springfield FMA is a club where quite a few members travel to train. Long distance students from Wichita and Blytheville, closer from the Ozarks and St. James, and local students all combine to give the school a mix of different skills and attributes. But the willingness to learn and to help someone else learn is a common trait throughout the school. I enjoy my visits to Springfield FMA for the exact same reason I enjoy Iron Mountain camp – I get to learn a cool martial art with great people. Springfield FMA is a school of willing learners built by friends.