Testing for rank is part of any Counterpoint Tactical System seminar with Master Zach Whitson. Iron Mountain camp is no different except in one way. Black belt testing is only conducted at the instructor’s camp. Since I’ve attended camp, the testing schedule has remained the same: Friday night is white belt through brown one and Saturday night is for the black belts.
On Friday night, individuals tested for blue, green, red, brown three, and brown two. I helped Bill Graves test for his brown two belt; so, I missed most of the testing. Since I wasn’t testing, I got the chance to help out. I was a little rusty, but I enjoyed it. The brown two curriculum is a lot of fun. It is always great to watch a test without the pressure of being under scrutiny yourself. Bill did a great job. He has the best third hand striking of anyone that I’ve worked with thus far. I would love to step outside and see what he was doing. From my vantage point, there was a lot of simulated eye pokes, pushes, and controls. Sparring is also part of testing in CTS. Bill and I went last. We put on the safety gear and let the padded sticks fly. Bill passed his test, as I knew he would.
Congrats to those who passed.
Saturday night was the first degree black belt test. The exam began as daylight was falling, and on Saturday, the electricity failed in the convention center. The air was muggy, and the windows were all steamed opaque. Five candidates stood up in front of the testing board. Three were from Ryer Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, one was from Haastyle Martial Arts in Boca Raton, and one was a direct student of Master Whitson. Each of them had worked hard and spent years to get to that moment. Each had taken different paths to get to that point. They would not be deterred by darkness or heat.
The lights and air conditioning came back on about a quarter of the way through the test. Everyone seemed to settle after that. First degree black is a big curriculum block. The double stick tactics have a large number of drills. This block has both symmetric and asymmetric training. The candidates did some drill sparring with the espada y daga. It wasn’t free sparring; they chained some drills together into a flow. They ended the test with knife versus knife sparring.
During examinations, Master Whitson likes to through curveballs to see if we know the material or if we’re just parroting back what’s on the DVDs. This curveball was double stick shadow boxing. Each candidate had to create their own double stick combinations one at a time in front of all the watchers. It was interesting to watch each person create a flow that incorporated all they’d learned.
Since I will be testing for my first black belt at the 2015 camp, I took notes of what was being required and what notes were given. I didn’t pay attention to individual performances, but I know they all did great. Congrats to Thomas Slack, Jaime Dillon, Jessica Levine, Rauhit Ashar, and Bryan Vinik. Their hard work, and their effort paid off.