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Posts Tagged ‘WMAW’

n an earlier post, we told you about the recent armoured deed of arms held at the recent Western Martial Arts Workshop. We’re happy to say that our good friend Roland Warzecha of Hammaborg turned his photographer’s eye to the Deed, and put together this collection of photos that he has graciously allowed us to share with you.

Now while we are still in the deed of arms afterglow, we thought we’d share a little “arms and armour envy” of our own: the Laurin Tournament.

Held in early October at Castle Mayenburg in Völlan, South-Tyrol, Italy the tournament is in its third year. Run by the “Gesellschaft des Elefanten” (Company of the Elephant), a living history group recreating the last decade of the 14th century.  The Laurin Tournament is described as a series of single foot combats meant to simulate a deed of arms from the period 1370 – 1400. The full rules for  fighting in the lists can be found at the Laurin Tournament website, but what you’ll really want to browse is the substantial and amazing gallery they have provided from past years.

How amazing is that gallery? Well, here’s a teaser! (Note that all photos shown here are copyright the original photographer and the Company of the Elephant.)

As we found with the WMAW Deed of Arms, setting the right tone is important. For a martial arts event, that is balancing history and tradition with modernity, while still conveying the right “mood” and homage to the antiquity of the martial art being displayed.

In a living history style of event, the look and feel of the period is paramount.  For North Americans interested in medieval living history, we can only help but be envious at the advantage Europeans have in being able to hold their events in real castles, old towns or ancient ruins. But even then, there is having a nice locale for your event, vs. really setting a scene!

We can see why the organizers of this tournament are so proud of their location. The 6 m x 6 m list, raised platform and enclosed gallery truly sets a scene right out of a medieval illumination, which must make it hard for the combatants not to be duly inspired a they don their helmets!

Admittance to the tournament is by application, and consists of combat with sword, shield, spear, axe and dagger,  divided into a series of rounds, fought by two types of combatants: fully armoured knights:

(OK, that’s gotta hurt. And in front of his lady….)

And more lightly armoured “men-at-arms”. (Note that enclosed gallery we mentioned earlier!)

According to the published rules, each of the combatants will fight between five and eight times, so the total fight time is from a minimum of 40 minutes to a maximum of 64 minutes. We’re not sure how much time the combatants had between bouts, but 64 minutes of actual combat time in full harness can be a pretty darn good work out!

Now we admit to having a weakspot for late 14th century armour, and certainly, the Company’s choice of the Elephant for a badge and location in the Tyrol can’t help but make any student of armizare‘s heart beat more quickly, but what we are most interested in is tipping our hats and celebrating the efforts of kindred spirits who seeks to set a higher bar for celebrating both our history and the martial arts they produced.

Those interested in learning more about the Laurin Tournament can contact the organizers through the website  or at:

Gesellschaft des Elefanten

Schennastraße 60

I-39017 Schenna (BZ)

Südtirol -Italy

Internet: http://www.company-elefant.com

e-mail: info@laurin-tournament.com

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A Chivalric Rogues Gallery: combatants, judge, heralds and valets from WMAW 2011’s Armoured Deed of Arms

s the pen mightier than the sword?

That is the question the Freelancers sought to answer as they took to the fields of honor at the Western Martial Arts Workshop, in Racine, Wisconsin. (See The Road Goes Ever On and On, Part II for more details!)

New at this year’s Workshop was an armoured Deed of Arms, in which seven challengers agreed to meet and hold the field against all challengers (suitably armed and armoured), with sword, axe, spear or dagger.  In the pas d’armes, combatants challenge one another for the pleasure of the combat-not for victory. In reality, other than the winner himself, few remember who one any given tournament, but all remember an exciting, invigorating – or embarrassing – bout, and the names attached to that bout. Renown is earned within the lists by demonstrating great skill (prowess) combined with the other chivalric virtues of, courage, generosity, humility (in accepting defeat or victory), faith (in our ideals), a sense of justice and the duty of defense. These are the real contests of the tournament, and it is the yardstick by which we are measured. The ‘gallery’ and your opponent can see who you are; it is hard to be deceptive of your motives and your sincerity in such contests.

Greg, Christian and Adam all donned their harness and broke a few lances with the other combatants. Christian, who had been chosen as the captain of the challengers, began the Deed by meeting the defender’s captain, none other than FAP author Robert Charrette! They engaged in a long, vigorous fight with poleaxes, that set the tone for the rest of the Deed.

It fell to Christian to also fight the final bout of the day, a duel with spears fought with Greg! We have been asked if there were any particulars wagered on the encounter, such as majority share in the press. Well, maybe so and maybe no, but fortunately the encounter was a draw!

The armoured Deed of Arms was a great deal of fun, and the only regret was having it come to an end! But the special events continued.

Since 2002, Saturday night at WMAW has concluded with a grand fête combining an old-fashioned pig-roast, displays of arms, merriment, and a cast of characters dressed in their best attire. The order of the day is “eat, drink and be merry, but remember the long generations who have come before thee, for we are but caretakers of ancient traditions.”

This year, there was something new: a proper, late Victorian Assault-at-Arms, organized by Bartitsu and Victorian “antagonistic” expert, Tony Wolf. The tradition of the Assault-at-Arms became well-established throughout the British Commonwealth and the United States during the latter part of the 19th century.  Thought to have been originated by British troops serving in India, Assaults-at-Arms developed into popular events whereby soldiers, gymnasts and combat athletes demonstrated their skills for an appreciative public, often in aid of charitable causes.

The 2011 WMAW Assault-at-Arms notionally took place in September of 1901 and featured displays of various forms of military and civilian swordsmanship, French cane and baton fighting, and incorporating the “Elizabethan swordplay” that was then being revived by a coterie of fencing antiquarians led by Captain Alfred Hutton.  There was also exhibition of self-defense via E. W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsuby Tony Wolf and his co-host, the mysterious “Professor X”.

Greg had a chance to be a part of the Grand Assault at Arms in an exhibition of two-handed swordplay, ably assisted by Ms. Nicole Allen. Although the material demonstrated was taken from modern reconstruction of Italian and Iberian sources, rather than Hutton’s set-plays, the demo was in the style and flavor of Victorian demonstrations of “Ancient Swordplay”.

The many demonstrations in the Grand Assault were captured on camera and can be seen online:

Intro

Italian Foil

Italian Duelling Sword

Heavy Sabre

La Canne

Bartitsu

Womens Self Defence

Victorian Greatsword

Sword and Buckler

Messer

Longsword

Rapier

Broadsword

(Special thanks to Paul Wager of the Stocatta School of Defence, for being so handy with the camera!)

You can also learn more about the Grand Assault in this essay by Tony Wolf, and even more in his forthcoming Ancient Swordplay.

Of course, we aren’t just swordsmen….we are merchants. So with all of those martial artists gathered at WMAW, we thought it the perfect time to debut not one, but two new titles that we guarantee are game-changers for students of medieval martial arts: Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia and the new Agilitas DVD, Sword and Shield.

All in all it was a tiring, but exhilarating couple of months. Now our journey’s come to an end, and while we’d like to borrow the line, “Well, I’m back”, it truth it more, “Well, back to work!”

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rom Pennsic it was off to the 2011 Western Martial Arts Workshop, in Racine, Wisconsin. Founded in 1999, WMAW has become the premiere North American venue for students and instructors of the western tradition to gather and cross-train, drawing instructors and students from three continents. Besides being the oldest event of its kind, WMAW is unique in being a retreat, set at the picturesque, DeKoven foundation in Racine, WI, a walled, Anglican retreat center overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan. The Foundation began as Racine College in 1852, and was the first college built west of the Appalachians. During the Western Martial Arts Workshop, a somewhat rowdier bunch fill the campus and one can only wonder at what Dr. DeKoven would have thought.

This year was the largest and busiest Workshop ever, selling out within a week of registration opening! Freelancers Greg Mele and Christian Tobler were pleased to present four different classes on the German, Iberian and Italian martial traditions. Christian reprised his Glasgow Messer class from Pennsic, and then also took a new look at the Inverted Left Hand Grip in German Longsword Play based on research and discussion with our friend and colleague, Mr. Dierk Hagedorn of Hammaborg.

Most martial arts begin by teaching the student how to defend, and the medieval material is little different. This is because it can be very dangerous to break measure and initiate an attack against a trained opponent. Nevertheless, the reality of combat means it is sometimes necessary to attack first. This was the premise behind Greg’s How the Hell do I Attack? Entering Combat in the Swordplay of Fiore dei Liberi.

Greg’s second class was Monte’s Levata: a Simple Cutting Sequence with Many Applications. Writing in the late 15th century, Pietro Monte was likely a Spaniard in Italian service. His fencing instructions are somewhat unique in that they are not an instructional manual, but rather short chapters of tactical advice on a broad range of weapons. Book I, Chapter XIV of the Collectanea forms Monte’s instruction on the two-handed sword, and teaches a simple combination of actions called the levata, which Monte says is at the root of the art of fencing. The class looked at Monte’s instructions as a solo cutting exercises with serveral variations, then as a series of partnered drills that show how to apply the same sequence as both attacker and defender. Finally, we looked at the levata as it might be used with disparate and variant weapons. I’m not sure if the class instruction itself was a big hit, but everyone seems to love swinging around 5’ swords, particularly when dressed in tail coats….

Most martial arts authors are amateurs – as writers, photographers or both. While digital media has made the ability to communicate easier than ever before, the question of how best to visually represent the martial arts on the written or printed page still exists today, as it did 400 years ago. Indeed, if anything, technology can make the problem worse, not better! Photography is still truly an art and science all its own, and creating images that not only look good, adhere to basic photographic principles, communicate effectively, and still meet the demanding technical criteria of the professional publisher/printer, can prove daunting.

Adam tried to sum up three decades of experience in his lecture Martial Arts Photography: Essentials for Education and Publication. (Fear not, aspiring authors, Adam’s notes will be an article coming soon – watch this space!)

Finally, life – and graduate school – intervened and prevented Tom from attending this year’s workshop, but Bill Grandy of the Virginia Academy of Fencing was kind enough to step in and teach his classes on Bolognese sword and buckler and the relationship between Gioco Largo and Gioco Stretto. Thanks, Bill, for helping a brother out, and doing it so ably!

The Freelancers were hardly the only instructors at WMAW; we were among a cast of nearly thirty teachers from three continents, including well-known names and new faces, such as Bob Charrette (Forteza Historic Swordwork Guild), Sean Hayes (Northwest Academy of Arms), Rob Lovett (the Exiles), Roland Warzecha (Hammaborg), Guy Windsor (School of European Swordsmanship), and Tony Wolf (Bartitsu Society) teaching classes as diverse as Gladiatorial combat, Bartitsu, German sword & buckler, French cane fighting, and good, old-fashioned American Catch Wrestling.

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