Occasionally, I will get an e-mail asking me if I will teach knife only or empty hands only. My reply is that I teach the Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) curriculum, and, in addition to that, the Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP) curriculum that I learned from CTS founder Master Zach Whitson. CTS is my base art, and it is the art that I know best. With new students, I start them out in CTS before moving to CDP. Sometimes, we don’t start the Cacoy Doce Pares until the student is ranked in CTS. Following the CTS curriculum is the path that STL Counterpoint follows for a number of reasons.
First, Master Whitson has put years of effort into designing a curriculum that I feel is an effective vehicle for conveying martial arts concepts and techniques. Part of the scientific process is to build upon the work of others, and as both an engineer and a martial artist, I feel most comfortable with that process. Master Whitson’s forty years of martial arts training is equivalent to a physicist’s research. Various sources are investigated, and experiments are conducted. Eventually, all of this is distilled into what is useful and not useful to support a hypothesis. Both the physicist and Master Whitson publish the results of their research. The physicist submits papers to academic journals, and Zach teaches based upon the CTS curriculum he’s created. This curriculum is one that I trust, and it’s one that’s been successful for me and for a number of people that I know. So, like the physics student who starts with the physicist’s paper rather than recreate the physicist’s research, I start with the Counterpoint Tactical System curriculum.
Second, the CTS curriculum teaches a broad skill set, which, in my opinion, leads to a deeper understanding of the martial arts in general. While not every martial artist needs or wants to dig deep into the philosophy of arts, all martial artists will at some point encounter something they haven’t seen before. A broad skill set prepares the practitioner for the unknown by creating an agile mind. The flexible mind with broad skill set promotes creativity for dealing with the unknown. The CTS practitioner is encouraged to breakdown the drills into their component techniques and look for novel ways to apply those techniques. Part of the skill development is exploration within the curriculum.
Third, I teach the CTS curriculum because it is clear and transparent. My students can go to Springfield, MO, Pittsburgh, PA, Atlanta, GA, Boca Raton, FL, Dayton, OH, Durham, NC, Raleigh, NC, Clinton, TN, or wherever a CTS club exists and learn the same set of material. A blue belt in Atlanta is working on the same material that a blue belt training with me learns. When a brown belt is tested in Boca Raton, they are demonstrating the same material that appears on a brown belt test in Springfield. There is no favoritism. There are no secrets. There are no surprises. I share the curriculum sheets with my students so that they know exactly what is expected of them. If they travel to any other CTS club, they can pull out their sheets, and the other instructors will know what that student is learning.
Fourth, I teach the CTS curriculum because it aligns with my self-defense philosophy. Based on my research – thankfully, all academic – the fight is most likely to start at close range. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the weapon, but it is certainly going to be empty hand versus weapon to start. Your attacker will not wait for you to draw your own weapon. The attacker doesn’t want a level playing field, and neither do you. The beginner block contains empty hand versus single, which is close range weapon defense. So immediately the student is learning practical weapon defense, and the next curriculum block has empty hand versus knife, which is another practical self defense skill. It also contains a lot of basics on how to hold the weapon, how to generate power, how to move, etc. So, the student gets building blocks but also practical self defense skills from the very start.
Finally and most important, I teach the CTS curriculum because it has worked for me. Through the curriculum, I have developed skills that I didn’t know existed. I have studied movement and martial arts at a deeper level than ever before. I, now, see how the curriculum is a structured progression towards the desired skill set. I’m the better martial artist for having gone through the curriculum.
I’m open to the idea of focusing on empty hands or stick material for shorter time periods, like a special series or extended workshop. But for situations lasting longer than six weeks, I will default back to the curriculum and the broad range of training. Intense focus can provide wonderful results in a specific area at the cost of a well rounded skill set. Picking one area of focus for study is not a bad thing, but it is not my thing. I’m seeking balance in my martial arts skills, which means that I prefer the broad spectrum of training. Preferably, the shorter sessions would be supplements to, but not in place of, long term skill development.
For knife material, I will stick to the curriculum, the CTS timeline, and the longer term development of that skill set. This is a personal decision, and it is modeled off the curriculum. Knife versus knife level one is taught after a minimum of three and half years in the system based on the Counterpoint Tactical International’s (CTI) guidelines. This gives the instructor time to get to know the student, and I think it’s important to gauge what is being taught. No, I don’t think the instructor is responsible for a student’s actions, and no, I don’t think anyone who teaches knife from the start is wrong. My decision is to stick to the curriculum and the CTI guidelines for knife. I’m at the beginning stages of knife versus knife in my own studies, and, right now, it’s because of the previous curriculum that I’m able to practice it. My skills in this area are not equivalent to my skills in other areas; so, in order to provide quality instruction, I do not teach curriculum that I am learning. I like to have a few years of reflection before I teach a subject.
STL Counterpoint teaches the Counterpoint Tactical System curriculum. Not only that, but I’m proud to base the club around it. It allows me to dedicate more time to student skill development because there is a framework to work within. I don’t worry about what I’m teaching next week. I know. I don’t worry about whether the skills being taught are complementary. Again, I know. The CTS curriculum blocks, when looked individually, are puzzle pieces. Once the student has enough of the pieces, the big picture becomes evident. That is why STL Counterpoint teaches the CTS curriculum. We are building the larger skill set.