Home is where the heart is. If this old saying is true, then the home of Counterpoint Tactical System, for me, is in the hills of Tennessee. Iron Mountain Camp is at the heart of the CTS experience. I love my classes, seminars and private training with Master Zach Whitson, and it’s fantastic traveling to other clubs to learn CTS. Iron Mountain Camp is a different experience altogether. Even though we learn new material, it is not a seminar. Even though we try for rank, it is not a test. Even though we have a lot of fun, it is not a vacation. The weekend is greater than the sum of its parts. Iron Mountain is where the system is transformed into a family.
2014’s Iron Mountain Camp was no exception. This camp had some noticeable absences – Kevin Wagner of Gem City Martial Arts, Evan Ringle, my first CTS instructor have been fixtures of my four previous camps, some members of the Haastyle crew, and others. They were missed. As always, there were new additions to the camp. Students from various clubs showed up to experience Iron Mountain for the first time. This year I brought a student. Ryan Zimmerman joined us at camp and did great.
Testing was conducted again (more on that in another post), and the Counterpoint Tactical System family lineage grew. Watching the tests is inspiring. During the test, you see a host of variables from age, background, gender, size, health, etc. But to pass the test, the common trait is a mixture of skill, experience, maturity, and confidence in order to move on to the next block of curriculum. Not everyone passes a test, but not everyone fails either. When the students performs to her or his best and doesn’t pass at THAT moment, what comes after this obstacle determines failure. Failure only happens when the student quits. A student, who doesn’t pass a test but renews his or her efforts for the next time, is a success story to me. Congrats to those who passed; keep your chin up to those who didn’t. Congrats to the newest black belts as well – Jaime Dillon, Jessica Levine, and Rauhit Ashar of Ryer Martial Arts Academy, Brian Vinik of Haastyle Martial Arts, and Thomas Slack.
This year, Iron Mountain was pushed back a month to the end of October. The weather was crisp and cold on Friday. Camp started Friday morning on the observation deck. It was beautiful, as always. The clouds were uncovering the valley during our training. We worked until lunch, then moved to the back field. Training lasted about an hour before the rain started coming down. We moved to the convention center to finish out the afternoon session and conduct the color belt testing.
Everyone woke to snow Saturday morning. The rumor floating around on Friday was 6 inches, but that much didn’t fall. The snow turned the scenery into something out of a painting and also meant we were training all day in the convention center. During the afternoon session, we lost power, which led to the air conditioning cutting out, and the hall became a sauna. But we perservered and finished all the material Master Whitson had planned. Then the black belt tests began. About a quarter of the way into their test, the power returned, everything cooled way down. The first degree black belt test was a treat. Since there was an odd number of candidates, Joel Daugherty of Ryer Martial Arts Academy assisted. On Sunday, it snowed again, but the ground was too warm for it to stick. Even the snow on the trees had melted. The weather threw us some interesting challenges this year, but nothing would stop us.
After dinner is the relaxation portion of the camp. Each night seems to have its own purpose. Thursday night is the arrival, which is for catching up with one another. Friday night is energetic fun with the half the test candidates reviewing their performance and the other half still preparing for the upcoming test. Saturday is a night of celebration. All the tests are done. Master Whitson delivers rank and participation certificates. It’s a bit more laid back because everyone’s energy has been spent on two full days of training. Each night there are lots of stories, some music, and all kinds of getting to know one another. A number of people play guitar; others talk; and some play games. This year, I participated in a sing along on Friday night. My rendition of Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town by Pearl Jam was thankfully covered over by the guitar playing. I knew the words; that’s all I’ll claim. I think my favorite song of the night was Master Whitson playing Redemption Song by Bob Marley with Russ Haas providing the vocals. Russ nailed it.
This camp runs smoothly thanks to a lot of help. But the engine driving the camp is the team of Master Zach and Ms. Dian Whitson. Master Zach runs the curriculum and Counterpoint Tactical International business during the weekend. Ms. Dian handles the food. She works hard to make sure that the meals are healthy with options for vegetarians as well. On Sunday, she packed a large to go meal for our ride to the airport. Ms. Dian is usually the first up and the last to go to bed. Everyone appreciates her efforts. The Whitsons’ work together as a team to provide a fantastic camp.