It’s been a week since WMAW and I’m finally amost caught up on sleep. For those who don’t know, WMAW is the Western Martial Arts Workshop, a four day western martial arts conference at the DeKoven Center in Racine, WI. I had the most amazing and wonderful time. In addition to seeing guys who I haven’t seen in quite some time, I got meet, in person, a bunch of people whom I only knew over the internet.
Not to be repeating that which has been said in many other places, the Chicago Swordplay Guild staff did a wonderful job organizing the event and making sure that classes ran smootly. The DeKoven staff was also wonderful and was amazingly acoomidating, even for someone who sprung food allergies on them at the last minute.
If there was a theme this year, it was on tactical applications of the historic material. After talking with Puck, comparing to previous years, everyone had mastered the guards, footwork and theory, but had not yet integrated tactics at an intuititve level. Many of the classes were about tactical applications and training within the given tradition, rather than simple classes on principals and basics. A standout of these classes to me was Tom Leoni’s Drill to Fight class (on youtube here) which focused on choice and antagonistic drills in Italian rapier. That class was the single most fun I had in a class all weekend.
There was also a great interest in the great sword material (Italian Spanone, and Iberian Montante). In the world of big swords, these things are king, and while sparing with them is dangerous, they are just so much fun to swing around! I was
On the teaching side, there were six Schoula Magistrale graduates at WMAW (Maistri Sullins, Hayes, Curtis and Myers, and Provosts Murakoshi and Byrne), and between us we taught one sixth of all the classes. I assisted in most of the classes that Puck and Eric taught, givig me a very full weekend. Puck’s two spanish rapier classes and Eric’s two Montante classes were very well received, and the students seemed to have a good grasp of most of the material. I acted as Puck’s tackling dummy for the Spanish rapier classes (some video here), and apparently my name became a byword for tackling dummies in the classes after that. (as in: “hi I’m Richard, I’ll be your Kevin for this class…”)
Over the course of the weekend, I had the privlege of fencing with as many people as I could fit into my schedule. Even though I was doing coached bouting that night, I got an early fight with Guy Windsor, and was able to get an evelopment in 4th right to his head that he was still talking about the next day (not beause it hit hard, but because he hadn’t seen it before), after that though, he proceded to give me a lesson in attacking safely… I also had the privlege of fencing with John O’Meara, while Tom Leoni and Steven Reich looked on. John is a tall guy, and fences with a 45″ rapier blade (we checked later, and he had 12″ of reach on me), so he’s the kind of fencer that I have the hardest time fencing. It was really nice to see a tall fencer sticking with the period systems, rather than sicking his arm out and letting me run on it. I’d like to think that we were pretty even, but I think I know better. The last fencing highlight for me was my Sunday morning bout in foil and rapier with Ilka Hartikainen, one of Guy’s students. I’m a big fan of his blog and we’d been talking about fencing the whole weekend, but couldn’t find the time, so we decided to do it early Sunday morning. Ammusingly we attracted a small crowd, which included a rather groggy Puck, apparently awakened by the sounds of fencing.
Finally, the feast! The food was amazing and the plethora of costumes was nice. Especially outstanding was Neal Stephenson’s Victorian Baritsu suit, and the two Revolutionary war re-enactors. While the demo bouts were amazing, Puck had a very nice bout with John O’Meara and Eric one with Maestro Sullins, the highlight for me was the “Judicial” duel between Tom Leoni and Nicole from Revival Clothing. As my friend Tyson said, one of the funniest things was seeing Tom go from goofy, to serious as the “lay on” was called.
All in all, I had an amazing time meeting people and getting to know the wider Western Martial Arts community. I also came back invigorated, and looking forward to training more.