For the 2014 Iron Mountain instructor’s camp, Master Zach Whitson covered qigong, Cacoy doce pares, kenpo technique, standup grappling level two, and double knife level one. Friday morning, we covered qigong and Cacoy doce pares, and on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the kenpo technique was taught. On Saturday afternoon, Master Whitson taught a neck crank series from the standup grappling level two curriculum, and Sunday morning was the introduction to double knife level one. These sets of curriculum are advanced black belt material in the Counterpoint Tactical System. I looked forward to seeing these two blocks because they are a sneak peek to where the CTS practitioner is going.
The neck crank series from standup grappling level two was intense. We weren’t too far into it when the lights went out. Unfortunately, after the lights went out, the camera on my phone had a hard time taking decent pictures. I got a few but not as many as I would have liked. The air conditioning stopped along with the lights. Forty plus people in one room working on grappling creates a lot of body height and humidity. It was about halfway through when I had to go out into the cold to cool off. The distractions were unfortunate because the material were quality reactions after stopping a wrestler’s shot. Of the twelve manipulations we learned, I had only seen two prior – the cross face and a choke that most BJJ people would recognize as a guillotine with a rear naked choke arm position.
This neck crank flow is brutal. The techniques come from catch wrestling and fit well with a self defense mindset. For the CTS practitioner, we keep in mind that in a self defense situation grappling may happen on an asphalt or concrete floor with the potential of multiple opponents. Our grappling philosophy is to put the attacker on the ground but to remain on our feet. If we are put on the ground, our goal is to get back up as quickly as possible. The CTS philosophy is one of counter and recounter. So, our standup grappling contains counter wrestling to stay standing. This lock flow works with takedown defenses.
My favorite neck crank was the first one we learned. It’s called the grobbit (or grovit? groffit? Please, leave a comment if you know the true spelling. A link would help also.), and it is miserable when applied on you. I liked the simplicity of it. It was quick and efficient. I will have to work on applying it in flow, of course. The grobbit and the other ten manipulations that I haven’t seen before were all techniques that seemed like a logical extension for someone exploring wrestling. They weren’t ancient secrets; anyone could go to a catch wrestler to learn them. I enjoyed the innovative uses of techniques already studied, like underhook and overhook.
Billy Robinson Teaching the Grovit
For some of the techniques in the flow, Master Whitson showed expansions. The manipulation would have a takedown with it as well. The one that I remember most prominently was an alligator roll from a front headlock. There was also an ankle pick from the underhook and chancery position. I look forward to studying the standup grappling level two curriculum. Wrestling has a philosophy of embracing the grind, and based on what we learned that afternoon, this block will fit that philosophy.
On Sunday morning, we started the last curriculum section of camp. Master Whitson taught a double knife level one drill, which is double sak-sak versus double sak-sak. It is similar to the single knife level one drill that I’m currently learning. The addition of another knife for you and your opponent dramatically changes the situation. I think that I am able to do the base drill decently. There are match positions where it’s easy to forget who’s leading the drill. Similar to the other knife drills, the double knife drill incorporates standup grappling, clipping, timing changes, and disarms.
Master Whitson spoke a bit about double knife before the drill began. He defined the four types of grips – double sak-sak, left sak-sak and right pakal, left pakal and right sak-sak, and, finally, double pakal. Each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. Double sak-sak seems to be good for keeping distance from your opponent; whereas, double pakal is probably grappling intensive. The mixed grip – one sak-sak, one pakal – seems the most confusing to me. Zach only taught double sak-sak; so, that’s the only reference I have. Master Whitson explained that these drills tend to look like sparring once the practitioners become proficient at it.
Double sak-sak was confusing for a while until I recognized the similarity to knife level one. There are both obvious and subtle changes that distinguish it. There were numerous cuts and thrusts that make the drill lethal if both people are at an equal skill level. I really had to work at taiji speed with this drill because there’s so much to pay attention to. Any slight opening results in two knives attacking you or one knife attacking and the other clipping your wrist. I remember that if the attacker doesn’t pull his arm back on the first thrust of the drill, I put him in a straight arm bar. It will take a lot of repetitions at slow speed paying attention to form to ensure all the subtlety is explored.
The double knife curriculum was the lesson I was most looking forward to at this camp. It’s highly improbable that I’ll ever find myself with two knives fighting someone with two knives. The drill, however, is useful because of the attributes that it can develop. I loved it. Pairing the double knife drills with the espada y daga and double stick drills trains both sides of your body. You can work symmetrically or asymmetrically as a well rounded martial artist. Plus, this drill is a just a lot of fun.
Both standup grappling level two and double knife one have been moved to new locations in the curriculum for 2015 and beyond. With the color belt curriculum set, Master Whitson is looking at the black belt progression with the goal of efficiency in learning. Advanced black belt material is being combined to maintain three blocks during each belt level. For me, this means the espada y daga material that I’m learning has expanded to included drills and tactics as well as the twelve attacks. The black belt blocks have more material than the color belt blocks, which I think is expected. The complexity level increases as does the time required to gain a minimum proficiency in each block.
The curriculum at this year’s Iron Mountain camp maintained the level of quality I’ve come to expect year after year. This camp saw a wide range of material that covered multiple areas of self defense. We learned a little bit of history and got a glimpse of our future as members of the Counterpoint Tactical System. I have a lot to incorporate into my practice. But I’m also curious about next year’s curriculum.
The final part of the Iron Mountain review is the 2014 Iron Mountain Testing Summary.