2015 Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation New England Regional Black Belt Camp and Dan Shim Sa

Sun, 06/14/2015 - 9:46pm — webmaster

Mind. Body. Spirit. These three words are carved into the stone that make up part of the red brick edifice of the Judd Gym our weekend Dojang at Springfield College. While it could never have been envisaged how appropriate a motto it would be when the building was constructed in 1894, it was a fitting reminder on entry for the New England Tang Soo Do students who worked out here for the 2015 New England Regional Black Belt Camp. For the last three years we have been blessed to have the backdrop and use of the facilities of Springfield College for our camp and with the fine weather we have been accustomed to on this particular weekend of the year, the picturesque campus has been an excellent temporary home for us.

This year's edition of camp had some changes from years past, and while all the classic elements were there a change in order to how events were run made for a new feeling to the weekend. Camp started out with the second year edition of CIT training as International Master Rivera led a class in reality based self-defense and after a break for lunch it was continued with Grand Master St. James teaching the Healing Warrior Society. Health and well-being was very much the theme and was followed up by classes on Tang Um Nutrition by Senior Master Duva and Teaching Mobility by Mrs. Noelle Drewicz (Sam Dan).
After the rest of the weekend's participants had arrived, late Friday afternoon, and completed check in and dinner, the camp was officially ready to begin. It started with the first of the weekend's changes as the traditional split of Black Belt test and classes for non-testing students was replaced with a series of classes for all students. Up first was a seminar on the Art of Breaking from Mr. Dan Maibor (E Dan) a very thorough and thought provoking session covering everything from how to set up your holders (both human and cinder block) to which way to have the curve of the wood face depending upon whether you are executing a speed or power break. This was followed up by a more visceral and sweat inducing session of an hour of Focus Drills as partners went back and forth taking turns to wear striking gloves or focus mitts while Master Rivera led, shouting out quick-fire commands of combinations of jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, inside and outside kicks and knees. The final event of the evening was a follow up to this year's TAC tour as Grandmaster St James reinforced the Shil Ki application of the moves of the Pyung Ahn forms adding a few of his own interpretations to the arsenal we had already been exposed to. Friday night ended with the adults getting the chance to meet up with old friends and introduce to new students and share the night's events while walking the halls and wandering in and out of our dorm rooms at Reed Hall.

Saturday morning was a nice early start and slightly fresh thanks to a chilly breeze blowing across Waters Hops Pond, the large lake adjacent to the campus. Our workouts started at 7:00 a.m. as the children were put through their paces by Mr. Bob Thomas, Mr. Dennis Turgeon and Mrs. Susan Turgeon (all Sam Dans) with an obstacle course, while the adults were taking the more mental and spiritual warm up of meditation with Mr. Oleg Khodko (Sam Dan). After a hearty breakfast and the group photo session we split off by rank to work on our requirement forms for our next promotions. We followed this up with another split for our breakout sessions to complete the morning. The Black Belts had a class of advanced self-defense with International Master Klacko, followed up by self-defense against weapons by Master Duva. The Cho Dan Bo's and Gups worked on their understanding of the Basic Nine for self-defense with Master Rivera before moving onto Knife Self Defense with Master Klacko.

After a break for lunch the changes to the normal schedule continued. Most students spent the afternoon enjoying the New England sunshine as their classes were held outside on the lawns of Springfield College's campus. The afternoon started with Master Rivera leading a round of grappling, working students through various escapes and counters from the guard position. Afterwards Ms. Drewicz taught on the proper stretching and kicking mechanics sharing her vast knowledge on how the muscle and kinetic chains work. This was followed by Ms. Angelika Frentzen (Sam Dan) leading students through Aikiken Sword Katas before finishing up with Ms. Drewicz and Mr. Khodko working students through combat staff work.

As this was going on several students were testing for Black Belt with six students testing or pre testing for Cho Dan and three students, myself included, tested for E Dan. After an hour of the written exam the move was made to the physical test. This was a marked difference from the past. Normally the test on a Friday evening takes place with the sun setting into darkness and the temperatures beginning to drop. This year with the test taking place in the height of the afternoon brought additional challenges as we had to contend not only with the higher heat but also the brighter light and shadows created by the sun. The next three hours passed with high energy and a lot of sweat and all students showed great spirit to make their way through the test. Mr. Shawn Burns (Cho Dan) earned praise at the end for scoring a perfect score on the written exam and Mr. Thelonious Cooper earned the Best in Test award for children, while I earned the Best in Test award for adults.

After a well-earned dinner we settled in for the evening's seminars as Grand Master St. James started with a talk on "Lessons in Mindfulness", employing the teachings from the Healing Warrior Society. Mr. Jason Green (E Dan) finished up the evenings proceedings educating us all on nutrition and how to better think about and prepare meals and what to look for when shopping for food. Saturday evening ended in the traditional socializing time. Unfortunately the regular venue for our get together was under renovation so we were forced to use the corridor outside the workout rooms as our alternate social area. While not perfect it didn't dampen spirits and we made the best of it to share our stories from the day. Sunday was another early start and as the clouds started to gather overhead we gathered once more in the training hall for our 7:00 a.m. beginning of classes. Another change from most years, we began with group hyungs to drum led per usual by the Grand Master. Usually this is the last event to finish camp but Kwan Jang Nim's travel schedule meant an earlier than usual necessity. He led us all through three rotations of each Pyung Ahn form as well as Bassai Dai, urging everyone to dig deep and try and find their zone. A tough challenge so soon after waking up and before breakfast but everyone rose to the challenge and gave their best effort. After breakfast we began the final morning's activities. Master Duva led us all in a sword form of his own creation, teaching some of the finer points of sword management along the way. From here we moved on to rolls, falls and throws with Master Klacko and Ms. Frentzen as they incorporated some Aikido and Judo techniques to add to our repertoires. Camp finished with Master Rivera taking class on sparring, emphasizing avoidance and attacking with kicks especially the use of spinning techniques to defeat your opponent instead of relying on tagging and blocking with hands. Once more Black Belt camp was over for another year and while we all left with much learnt and many things to practice at home in the months ahead, as always there was the feeling of the end of another great weekend of learning that went way too quickly. There was also the thought that covered the whole weekend, of a Master who had been forced to miss camp. Master Brian Hebert was unable to attend due to impending surgery and while not there in body he was there in spirit, and wasn't far from any of our thoughts all weekend, and all we can do is wish him well with his recovery. Mind. Body. Spirit. Very appropriate.

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By David Day, Cho Dan