2015 Iron Mountain camp is a little over a month away. This will be my sixth year attending the Counterpoint Tactical System’s intensive instructor’s camp. At that first camp, six years ago, I tested for blue belt in CTS, which is the first rank. I met a number of great individuals and witnessed my first black belt exam. At that camp, I set a goal to one day to stand in front of Master Zach Whitson, founder of Counterpoint Tactical System, and perform as best as I’m able to on that exam. This October, my goal will be complete.
I and five other candidates will demonstrate our abilities and knowledge of the first black belt curriculum. A number of candidates will be testing for various ranks during this camp, including one second degree, five third degree, and one fourth degree black belt. I’m looking forward to all the tests. I’m nervous about mine. Right now, it’s too abstract to be real. Once the test starts, the nerves will settle, and it’ll be time to give it my best. This is a goal that I’ve worked hard at achieving. I’ve trained and passed all of my exams up until this one. The big one. The strange thing is that I still feel like a white belt. Don’t get me wrong, my skills, attributes, and health have changed dramatically since that first camp, and I’m proud of my performance on every one of my past exams. It’s just that there is still so much to learn. I hope that I never lose the feeling of being a white belt because it represents the desire to learn.
The first degree black belt is just a stage upon the journey. It is a special belt because it seems like I now know how to learn. All the belts that came before were foundational work, and the first degree black belt is the threshold to stage two. I’ve learned to crawl and then walk. Now, it’s time to learn how to run. Of course, this is just my guess. I’ve never sat down with Master Whitson to ask what the first black belt means to him. I should probably do that. This is a special belt, though. Upon passing every other exam, Master Whitson awards the candidate with a certificate indicating a passed exam. The first degree black belt exam is the only one – so far – that Master Whitson awards an actual belt upon passing. Having watched five sets of candidates receive that belt, I understand what a special moment it is. I look forward to having that moment myself. I’ve been working hard in hope that this is my year, but if I come up short, I’ll be back again next year. I’ve seen the material that lies beyond first black belt, and that knowledge is motivation to keep trying.
I still feel like a white belt. But my instructor, Master Whitson, is putting me up for this test. That’s a huge honor that he thinks I’m ready. His belief in me motivates me. Frankly, I’m a terrible judge of my own skill level. But I’ve seen five other first degree black belt exams. It’s humbling that my instructor and others think I belong with that group. Having seen the previous tests, I know what is expected, and it motivates me when I’m tired or lazy. When I stand in front of the exam board, I’ll perform as best as I’m able because my instructor deserves no less than my best, because all of the black belts who earned their rank deserve no less than my best if I’m to join them.
The belt represents hard work and effort. It stands for all the hours of training put in. It represents perseverance, that when things got tough, you buckled down and did the work. It is meaningless unless it is earned. It’s. Meaningless. Unless. Earned. Time to get back to training.