On May 1st, 2015, I picked up Master Zach Whitson from the airport. We had some stone bowl bi bim bap (highly, highly recommended) before heading to an advanced class that afternoon. The weekend started off great and just got better from there. This was the third annual Counterpoint Tactical System seminar here in the Saint Louis area. Each year they get better than the last.
Friday afternoon, we covered double stick tactics, which is found in the first degree black belt curriculum. We started off with the sinawali portion of the double stick tactics, which is first on the curriculum sheet. There are four count, three count, and two count sinawali patterns, and we covered them all. The patterns build off the double stick conditioning drills that are much earlier in the system. The CTS student has to keep practicing the conditioning exercises learned earlier to slip right into the sinawali patterns. Since I have kept with the basic motions, I picked up these patterns easily, and I continue to work on them. Because I had a familiarity with the patterns, I was able to admire the efficiency built into this portion of the curriculum. Sinawali is working with the three kinds of motions: fluid, staccato, and broken, and four kinds of chamber: open, crossed, side open and closed. But it also works symmetrical and non-symmetrical movements. The four count patterns loop, but the three count patterns are paired with other three count patterns in order to form a loop. So, the student’s brain has to adjust to an odd number pattern and a new chamber position. We discussed barrages of strikes and how to use the sinawali patterns to deal with a flanking opponent. The four chambers that we study in the four count patterns are also used on the low line.
This was a lot of information, and all that I had expected to cover. However, Master Whitson kept teaching. He taught ready positions, break out, guntings, and the first two contradas, all from the double stick tactics curriculum. It was a full afternoon, and Master Whitson interspersed his curriculum teaching with discussion of learning styles and training history. One of my favorite moments was working a double stick version of the single stick trapping drill from Cacoy Doce Pares. Then, Master Whitson taught me another double stick version of a different single stick trapping drill from Cacoy Doce Pares. It was beautiful and nearly boiled my brain. We went to our customary Thai food dinner on Friday night, talked, and laughed. A large part of Counterpoint Tactical System is the camaraderie.
Saturday, we started the morning off with Cacoy Doce Pares. The morning sessions goal was to show how trapping fits into sparring. Master Whitson started off with the Jennifer drill, which is trapping mixed with horizontal strikes to the head. Master Z gave a detailed explanation of the drill including some specific what not to do’s. He then showed multiple ways into and out of the drill from natural motion (inside passing), backhand passing, tapi-tapi-on, and the four corners striking pattern. Master Whitson also demonstrated what sparring eventually looks like. He and I sparred, and he showed the importance of relaxation and defense. He showed a simple defensive drill that is much, much harder than it looks. Master Whitson also sparred with some of the participants to demonstrate the proper relaxation.
Saturday afternoon, Master Zach taught from the offensa/defensa portion of single stick Pekiti largo. This part of the curriculum is part of the tactics for long and medium range. It consists of counters to an opponent striking at your weapon hand. We were able to cover all eight drills with enough time left over for Master Whitson to show how the drills connect and are interchangeable. A counter to drill seven leads to drill eight. We got to see how Master Whitson breaks down the drill and remixes it. As I’ve said in other blogs, Counterpoint Tactical System is a martial art that encourages and requires exploration. I found this extremely difficult when I was first starting out in the art. So, I appreciate when demonstrations of how to do this are given. It’s important for new students to be exposed as early as possible.
Saturday’s focus was on single stick tactics, and we covered all ranges throughout the day. Master Whitson demonstrated offensive and defensive uses of the single stick, and I learned a lot. We touched on a few of the capabilities of the single stick. After the seminar was over, Aaron Matthews and Jeremy Nelson of Springfield FMA tested for their green belt in Cacoy Doce Pares. Aaron and Jeremy are training partners, and their familiarity with each other showed during sparring. They put on a good test, and Master Whitson gave them some notes to apply towards their training for Cacoy Doce Pares brown belt. They both passed. Congrats on the good job.
Sunday morning, Master Whitson and I worked on the knife level one curriculum for first degree black belt. I can get through the basic drill; so, Master Z made tweaks to it. One part of the drill I was thinking about incorrectly which led to me doing it wrong. It was eye-opening how a shift in perspective changed the meaning of the movement. We went in depth here as well. We covered the whole drill, and then we broke out certain parts that I was having trouble with. We added in standup grappling with counters, gunting, third hand striking, and disarming. Working the drill with Master Whitson also highlighted my footwork. Zach and I moved across nearly all of the floor space in my two car garage. This was invaluable training time.
I learned so much during the whole seminar weekend. Between the discussions and the training that we had, I’m still processing everything I learned. I’m incredibly grateful to have the chance to learn and develop these skills. Master Whitson not only teaches me martial arts, but he’s also demonstrating how to teach CTS. That’s an area that I’m constantly looking to refine. How can I deliver the information better? How can I be more efficient with my descriptions? This seminar was a good example, and I paid attention to how Master Whitson was helping students between demonstration of the drill. It was a great weekend with a lot of information. I have lots of notes and lots of improvements that I’d like to make for next year’s seminar. Each year is better than the last, and this year was no different. Next year, the Fourth Annual STL Counterpoint seminar – tenatively scheduled for May 2016 – will be better than this one. Time to get to work on making that happen.