2014 New England Black Belt Camp and Dan Shim Sa

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 10:50am — webmaster

For the second consecutive year, the New England Regional Black Belt Camp was held at the picturesque campus of Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, over the weekend of May 30th to June 1st. The College was founded in 1885 and is the birthplace of both Basketball and Volleyball. The campus, steeped in history and tradition, made the perfect setting for a weekend of Tang Soo Do learning. 

This year, camp opened earlier than in the past with a new element: an instructor’s symposium. This debut event in New England was led by International Master Rivera, Senior Master Sattler and Senior Master Duva. They covered subjects such as how to teach progressions to help students at different levels of learning, traditional Moo Do protocol and how to teach self-defense so that everyone can see the demonstrations.

Friday afternoon heralded the traditional arrival of most students and the official opening of Black Belt Camp. The camp then split as non-testing students went to dinner followed by a workout conducted by Mrs. Kayla Hebert, Mrs. Susan Turgeon, Mr. Kurt Grelak and Mr. Bob Thomas  (all 3rd Dan) while those testing for their next Dan or re-certifying their current level headed  over to begin the Black Belt test. Eight students were in the testing group, six testing and two re-certifying. Despite being a relatively small group they maintained great energy throughout the test. Special recognition was given to Ms. Angelika Fretzen (2nd Dan) and Ms. Haley McClure (2nd Dan) receiving the “Best in Test” awards in the adult and youth divisions, respectively.

After the test everyone gathered together once more for a talk from Master Duva on how to get the most out of Black Belt Camp and the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, not only in learning, but all aspects of the weekend. The night ended with everyone heading to rest up and prepare for the following day.

Saturday started off on a positive note as we were presented with bright sunshine and warm temperatures (good fortune as it has been a rather wet and cold New England Spring this year) which stayed with us all weekend. The good weather meant that after the warm up classes and an excellent breakfast we were able to gather outside for the traditional group photo and also stay outside and make use of the fine grounds to split into groups to practice the required forms each rank would need for promotion.

After the completion of forms, we headed for the first of the day's break-out sessions, Kicking Body Mechanics with Ms. Noelle Drewicz (3rd Dan). Ms. Drewicz's knowledge and teaching of the kinetic chain and how muscle groups engage for various techniques and exercises are always a highlight of New England's Black Belt Camp so to get a full class on it was a real treat. After this we split into two groups, with the Gups and Cho Dan Bo's working on self-defense with International Master Klacko and the Black Belts learning gun disarming with Master Rivera teaching, not only from his Martial Arts experience, but also his professional life as a police academy instructor.

After a much needed lunch we continued the afternoon again splitting into our Black Belt and non-Black Belt groups. The Gups and Cho Dan Bo's went to work on Next Level Kicking with Mr. Oleg Khodko (3rd Dan) and followed it up with a session on Rolls and Falls led by Ms. Fretzen. At the same time the Black Belts were being put through their paces by Master Sattler, teaching Self Defense against a knife attack before a class on Grappling from the guard position, by Master Rivera, who was able to demonstrate most of the techniques himself, despite rehabbing from recent knee surgery (!).

For the final afternoon session the children and teens broke off to enjoy some extracurricular activities like table tennis and foosball while the adults continued Tang Soo Do. Master Klacko ran a class of One Step Sparring including three main methods of taking your opponent to the ground, wrist locks, sweeps and throws. The last physical hour was a grueling test of focus and endurance as Master Rivera ran Focus Mitt drills calling out different combinations of Cross, Jab, Hook, Upper Cut, inside and outside kicks.

After a free hour to shower, change and ice aching body parts, followed by dinner, we were all ready for the evening's programs. The children headed off with their chaperones for a movie night as the adults sat down for a series of lectures. The first by Mr. Grelak, focused on Everyday Tang Soo Do training with Mr. Grelak drawing on his experiences in New York City to explain how anywhere can be a place to practice an aspect of Tang Soo Do, even the subway. Ms. Drewicz followed reinforcing the morning's physical class with a presentation on Body Mechanics focusing on kinetic linking and trajectory. Finally Mr. Thomas gave his lecture on How to Apply Martial Arts Outside of the Dojang using the teachings of Sun Tzu and an entertaining slideshow of photos with several of our current Black Belt students in younger days.

Saturday concluded with the adults socializing in Carlyle Hall, the College Alumni social hall, to recount stories of the day, rekindle friendships and create new ones.

Sunday began with more great weather and another change to previous form as during the Master's workout there were workouts for everyone else at camp. The children worked with Mr. Thomas while the adults learned to listen to their bodies during workouts and warm ups, by Mr. Grelak. After breakfast we began the final morning's activities. First the CIT candidates went through their oral and physical exams while the students not testing or assisting were taken through spinning kick drills by Mr. Grelak.

The final break out session gave Black Belts the choice of sword one steps with Master Sattler or Arnis (short sticks) with Master Rivera, and for the Gup and Cho Dan Bo's, the opportunity to work on the Foundation, Distance and Footwork of Sparring with Mr. Khodko.

Camp concluded, as always, with Hyungs to Drum, going through all the Pyung Ahn forms as Bassai. With Kwan Jang Nim unable to attend this year's camp, the responsibility of beating the drum fell to Master Rivera. One last challenge to help teach mental focus to execute techniques properly when the body is physically tired.

So ended the 2014 New England Regional Black Belt Camp. As we broke down camp and packed  for the journey home,  stopping to say our goodbyes and make future plans, it was a chance to reflect on a great weekend, how much we had been able to learn and look forward with excitement not only to our next training sessions at our own studios but also the 2015 camp. I look forward to it immensely.

Tang Soo!  

By David Day, Cho Dan

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