2009 Southeast Regional Black Belt Camp

Wed, 08/05/2009 - 10:21pm — webmaster

On the weekend of July 10-12, 2009, the Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation held its annual Southeastern Regional Black Belt Camp. It was the first camp held at Children’s Harbor on Alabama’s Lake Martin, as well as the first ever to welcome red belts. Seven masters and two master’s candidates were present, apart from Grandmaster John St. James, the President and Founding Master of the APTSDF.

It was our honor to have a very special guest this year: Grandmaster Chuck Blackburn, 8th Degree Black Belt and founder of Spiritual Martial Arts Association.
Camp opened at 5:00 pm on Friday night at Harbor Lodge which sits just feet away from the shore of beautiful Lake Martin. Most of the first evening at camp generally consists of getting settled in, but we started right into it this year with a leadership presentation by Kwan Jang Nim St. James and then a very good two hour workout. We awoke early the next morning to participate in a run, a stretching class, or a Chi Gong class. We then split out by rank to work on our promotional requirements (empty hand forms). The various breakout sessions were followed by a choice of extra-curricular activities. Campers were offered the chance to do an aquatics karate class and swim in the pool, swim in the lake, play volleyball, or go canoeing. All of this was completed before lunch.
The first two hours of the afternoon were devoted to an intensive class in one of Kwan Jang Nim St. James’s specialties, the bong or staff. We went through forms, whip staff, and combat staff. Kwan Jang Nim Blackburn then conducted a class in Aikido for the entire assemblage. Concurrent sessions in weapons or self-defense finished the afternoon segment.
In the evening, while the children were sparring, the adults were treated to a presentation on disaster preparedness given by Grandmaster Blackburn. This is an area he has specialized in for many years. The class was sobering, but also informative and entertaining. We discussed situational awareness and specifically how to survive and even thrive during natural and unnatural catastrophes. Kwan Jang Nim Blackburn then conducted a class in Chi Gong for the entire group.
After the last round of concurrent sessions, the day’s workouts were over, and one would think the tired campers would be anxious to get to bed. However, as the children and teens gathered for movies and snacks, many of the adult campers got together to talk and laugh about the day’s events. The camp schedule labels this “networking,” and it is always an excellent time to bond and socialize with fellow martial artists.
Everyone reported at 8:00 am for breakfast, a group picture, and the last workout of camp except for the Masters who had started their workout at 6:45 am. After two hours of intensive Master’s level training with Kwan Jang Nim St. James, the entire group of Masters showed up with fifteen minutes left to enjoy a very light breakfast.
Next, it was time for another group workout. In what has become a black belt camp tradition, the last class consisted of practicing Bassai to the beat of a drum. We do not count the number of times we do the form but rather seek to become one with the form. Grandmaster St. James says that it takes a lifetime to master any form and then only if you become one with the form. The idea of the exercise is to reach a state of performance level that includes “mushin” or no mind. It is to help us experience stillness in motion. The result is clear. By the end, we do the form better than we have every done it before. Everyone is sore and tired, but that doesn’t really matter. After many repetitions, students who demonstrate proper spirit and technique are called to come forward and demonstrate individually and in smaller groups which is quite an honor.
Camp ended this year with a special presentation. It was a first for our Southeast region. The “Most Spirited Award” is presented to the camper who has demonstrated the highest level of Moo Do Chung Shim or Martial Spirit throughout the entire camp. This special award is then brought back each year by the previous year’s winner and it presented to the new winner. Each recipient has their name engraved on the base and becomes part of Federation’s Southeastern Region Hall of Fame. This year’s recipient was Rachel Lynn-Chisum, Sam Dan.
This year’s camp tested everyone mentally, physically, and spiritually as black belt camps always do. Black Belt Camp is always a very rewarding experience and this year’s camp was no exception. Camp causes one to reflect on the true nature of Tang Soo Do and why we love it so much. A couple of years ago, I wrote a short composition, exploring this at a deeper level. This year’s camp reminded me of it, and I would like to share it with all of you now.
What Is Tang Soo Do & Black Belt Camp To Me?
Tang Soo Do is an art form. Tang Soo Do is an advanced and highly sophisticated system of self defense. Tang Soo Do is a workout. Tang Soo Do is a way of life. Tang Soo Do is more than just a sport. It is the way we move. It is the way we think. Tang Soo Do can cause a person to spring to attention before crossing thresholds. Tang Soo Do is joy in the face of pain and hope in the face of hardship. Tang Soo Do is not running from duty when it starts to hurt. Tang Soo Do is patience. Tang Soo Do is friendship. Tang Soo Do is calm in frightening situations. A Tang Soo Do practitioner is gentle and kind, but is not someone to be trifled with.
                Tang Soo Do helps develop the mind, body, and spirit and is both awesome and inspiring to behold. Tang Soo Do is the part of us that wants to be strong, valiant, and heroic. It is not content to play the video game or watch the movie, but wants to fly into the heat of battle and do amazing things. Tang Soo Do is also balance: give and take, push and pull. Tang Soo Do is courage. Tang Soo Do is spirit. Tang Soo Do is strength. Tang Soo Do is abandoning the pursuit of comfort. Tang Soo Do is loving the smell of sweat. Tang Soo Do is doing things my doctor said I would never do. It is living in the realm of infinite possibility. It is never saying that something can’t be done. Tang Soo Do is one of those rare experiences that can come into a life and change it. It is a journey.
                Tang Soo Do Black Belts are not the usual sort of people. They revel in hard workouts and find a certain glory in being sore. Tang Soo Do changes us forever for the better. Tang Soo Do seniors are not necessarily the most talented martial artists. They are simply the ones that wouldn’t quit and therefore the most spirited. They have all dedicated their time and their lives to passing on the knowledge they have gained. Black belt camp embodies this. It is always a learning experience. Everyone goes home with something, whether it is a new form, a new weapon, or simply a reminder of what the martial arts are all about. Black Belt Camp is an excellent opportunity to get away from the rest of the world for a few days and come together with people who share a passion for Tang Soo Do.

Submitted by by Ms. Shanon Jett - Sam Dan
Southeastern Regional Event Editor
Karate World - Suwanee, Georgia