In the four and a half years that I’ve studied Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS), my martial arts calendar has featured three main events: the spring seminar with CTS founder Zach Whitson, the Iron Mountain instructors camp, and the fall seminar with Master Whitson. The fall seminar is hosted by Springfield FMA (SFMA) in Springfield, MO, which is our sibling CTS club. Mike Miller, SFMA club leader, brings Master Whitson in for an afternoon advanced class and a Saturday seminar that is open to all skill levels. This was my fourth year traveling down to Springfield for a CTS seminar, and it did not disappoint. We trained mentally as well as physically. I got a deeper understanding of Counterpoint Tactical System and some valuable new methods of training. The seminar weekend started with a Friday afternoon advanced class. These advanced classes are offered to a smaller group of students who are experienced in CTS. When Ryan Zimmerman and I arrived, Master Whitson was teaching the single stick thrust curriculum from the Pekiti Largo block of second class brown belt. Alec Helwig, who would test over that curriculum on Saturday, asked a question about a drill in this portion of the curriculum. Zach proceeded to clarify the drill by showing it to us from a different perspective. It was a simple explanation, but the three of us who’ve trained that drill had light bulbs over our heads. We might have even collectively said, “Oh.” Master Whitson gave us some passing drills to deal with high line forehand and backhand thrusts that build off the basics learned in pangamot. At this point, Master Whitson took a philosophical turn and began to explain how things fit together. I’ve experienced this lesson before, and it is one of my favorites. This lesson shows how the basic and intermediate skills fit together in the system; so, the lesson covers from white belt up to the first few black belts. No matter how many times I hear this lesson, I learn something new, and I am impressed by how organized the system really is. A student learning blue belt curriculum is also working on their second class brown belt and first degree black belt. It is only apparent during those belts how the curriculum has been preparing us for the advanced material the entire time. However, he didn’t stop there. He spoke about what his ultimate goal for his students is. Master Whitson told us where we are going in CTS. I just started pumping my fist and mentally saying, “Yeeeesssssssss.” I thought the afternoon lesson would be Pekiti empty hands versus knife level two – empty hands against pakal (ice pick grip) knife, but instead, it turned out to be Pekiti knife level three, which is pakal versus pakal. Empty hands versus knife level two is in the second class brown curriculum. Pekiti knife level three is currently in the third degree black belt curriculum. The skills from empty hand versus pakal feed right into knife level three. So, as soon as Zach got done explaining how earlier skills build into later ones, he demonstrated it by answering Alec’s empty hands versus pakal questions using the knife level three training method. This multi-level skill building and deep thought into effective teaching that impresses me most about this art. The pakal knife lesson started with tying pakal knife to the Cacoy Doce Pares passing drills and then moved on to a knife tapping drill. [In reality, this is a poor way of describing these drills because they are not as separate as that sentence makes it seem.] We covered different tactics with the drill. We worked on relaxing and not fighting the opponent’s force but to flow with it. Then Master Whitson added in locks from standup grappling level one and finished the drill out with some disarms. The final lesson involved some quick attacks/escapes with the knife. It was a productive afternoon that worked the mind as much as the body.
Saturday morning opened with Master Whitson teaching us the Pekiti Tirsia salute. Zach holds the rank of Mataas na Guro in Pekiti Tirsia under Tuhon Bill McGrath. Master Whitson started off the morning teaching us the contradas platform from the Pekiti largo curriculum. This platform is the basis for our long range single stick work. It is important to become familiar with the platform before moving on to the other drills in the Pekiti largo curriculum. The other drills build upon the contradas principles and tactics; so, we spent a good portion of the morning drilling the platform. Next, we learned the contradas passing drill. This drill integrates the live hand and footwork to maintain long range. After that, Master Whitson taught the contradas finisher, which is a series of hits that can be added to the end of the long range movements. We ended the morning session with some footwork and umbrella drills. Due to low battery, I have no photographs from the morning session. The afternoon session began with panantukan countering drills from the blue belt curriculum. Master Whitson covered the high, mid, and low line defenses for straight and round punches. The panantukan counters are simple, easy to learn movements that are natural. Students picked up on this quickly. Zach then taught the jab-cross parry drill and added a single hook – left or right – to train line recognition. He then added a timing change to make it a four count drill. This material is located in panantukan one from the blue belt curriculum. Master Whitson then led the class in leg clearing footwork off the reverse triangle. We worked on checking kicks and kneeing our opponents’ legs. He also showed us how to drill this against multiple opponents. Mike gave it a shot and did well. Zach, then, began to piece together parts of panantukan defensa from the first class brown belt curriculum. (Note: In CTS, the brown belts count down, i.e. first class brown is just under first degree black belt.) Again, this showcased the multi-level teaching that exists in CTS. All the panantukan one elements are the building blocks of panantukan two. The students learned some combinations of panantukan with standup grappling and trapping as well. The seminar ended with a question and answer session. There were not many questions but plenty of satisfied faces. I know that I got a lot out of it. Master Whitson and Mike talked with the seminar participants for a bit while those of us who were testing prepared. Three of us tested: Ryan Zimmerman of STL Counterpoint for his green belt in Cacoy Doce Pares, Alec Helwig of Springfield FMA for his second class brown, and me, Eric Primm of STL Counterpoint, for my first class brown belt. The test is covered in part two of the summary.