My dear friends Greg Mele, Nicole Allen, John O'Meara's and their team, leaders of the Chicago Swordplay Guild, did it again!
Yes, we are talking about Western Martial Arts Workshop (WMAW): the wonderful and magnificent gathering of fencers, scholars, fighters, isctructors, researchers, passionate people. People who are among the top 5% in the world of the Western Martial Arts.
WMAW's host in the beautiful and historical DeKoven foundation, in Recine, WI, located 60 miles noth of Chicago. A partially walled Anglican retreat center overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan and founded in 1852 as a college campus, modeling the quadrangle on English colleges at Oxford and Cambridge.
However, when I arrived at night, thanks to the gracious Erin Fitzgerals who came to pick me up at the airpot, I found a magic atmosphere waiting for me. Sourrounded by a light mist, the red-bricked buildings of the campus were populated by ethereal figures dressed with variegated clothes of several centuries of European history: capes, armors, fancy panties.., swords, daggers, bucklers, books, parchements.. appearing and disapperaing in the night, between the lights of the lanters, above the old trees, circling around the ancient church in the center of the campus, dancing on the narrow curvy paved trails connecting the large and old buildings. Hearing swordplay somewhere in the dark and soft and gentle voices in all sort of accents wispering of secrects hidden in ancient manuscripts. I was arrived. I was in the magic school of fencingcraft (that I renamed Wmawarts).
It is hard to describe all the wonderful and unique moments of WMAW.
The classes were all absolutely superb. I tried to audit as much as I could, when I was not teaching my cleasses myself, or lost in deep meetings and fencing and fighting around.
I'll attempt here a short highlight of my great time I had at WMAW, and I know I am already going to fail to tell everything I should and that I could to honor the order of magnitude that WMAW deserves.
The lectures I attended where excellent, and truly delivered at a real peer reviewed scientific level. I can assure that my bar is set pretty high, as much as I am used to top scientific congresses in other fields. But the scholars who attended WMAW did not give anything less. I was so pleased to see an academic and scientific approach, presenting scholastic works. Lectures such as "Range of Motion and Energy Cost of Locomotion of the Late Medieval Armoured Fighter" (Dr. Daniel Jaquet) or "Classification of Persian Arms and Armor from the Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar period" (Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani). Greg Mele lecture on Condottieri was excellent and very well done. I am sorry I missed the other lectures, but I heard great feedback from people who attended. Overall, I must say that the scholastic work in WMA community is maturing. And the interesting initiative presented by Daniel Jaquet will streghen this trend and capitalize from the research conducted by many people around the world, with a beneficial return to the entire community and the growth of the field. Daniel, you have all my support.
Too many classes, in parallel, to mention them all. I tried to attend and audit as much as I could.
From my old old (in time not in age) good friends Sean Hayes and Greg Mele's Amizare armour combat workshop: it was truly excellent and inspiring, and I am glad I had the chance to watch and practice with you those days, spending wonderful quality time with you. I could see the poste of Mastro Fiore imprinted in a real life armored men (and friends) coming back to life. Thank you my friends for your work, it is never enough. Plus watching it in action in the deed of Arms was a blast.
Devon Boorman always confirms his excellenece in teaching, that is challeneged only by his excellence in fencing with a sword (any sword!). His class on "Sideswords Cutting Patters" was a beautiful combination of mental entanglement and physical coordination and skills, that proved to be very usful to improve the ability of the people attending the class.
Beside, I must mention the pleasure of sharing the room with my deeply respected friend Devon. As usual, as it always happenes when we meet, our end of the days resolved in long and stimulating night discussions. It was a delight to have you as a roommate during these days Devon and to share with you fencing and more.
I had the pleasure to follow Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani on "Persian War Wrestling". Manouchehr posseses a real experience on "the field", I can tell when I see it. And a solid academic strenght (he has a rich number of peer review articles and book puclished on his curriculum). His work is based on a deep study and experimentation on manuscripts, documentation, and research on the Persian Martial Arts. Thank you for sharing it with us. I was delighted to see that level and quality of work in other mrtial ats traditions. I hope we will have the chance to talk and discuss more in the future, I regret we did not have a real chance this time.
Daniel Jaquet work on Pietro Monte's Wrestling was excellent. Once again, the combination of scholastic research and real combat emerged clearly. The beauty and uniquness of Pietro Monte's work emerged in an armonious flow, that unvealed principles of change of the momentum in the wrestling space, concepts that challenge Jigoro Kano's work in Judo.
To stay on wresting and grappling work, Tim Hall presented a wonderful class in "Offensive Combinations in German Wrestling". His clarity of execution and in dissecting all the parts and elements of the gappling dimension reflected his superlative talent in wresling and his natural sense for grappling. Tim is a promise for the future wrestling WMA work and research, and I am sure his contribution, together with his wonderful humble and genuine personality, will give a significant advancement in our community. I am glad I had the chance to get to know you my friend.
My dear friend and brother in arms Roberto Gotti showed his mastery in Marozzo "Gioco di Mezza Spada e Strette": Wrestling with Two-Handed Sword in Maestro Marozzo's Lessons" and in "Gioco Largo" and "Gioco Stretto": Long And Short Distance Fight In Maestro Marozzo's Two-Handed Sword Lessons". His 20 plus years of hard work and research emerge in the beauty of excecution and clarity of his teaching. Moreover, I was so proud to see another Italian to express the spirit of explosive energy and will determination of the Italian fencing school and tradition. Ad Maiora amico mio!
Ton Puey, you are a truly an elegant, "galante e polito" fencer and masters, not only in destreza but in absulute fencing in general. I truly enjoyed your "class on Getting Close Enough: Use of Means (Medios) in Rada". I am glad I had the chance to meet you, and to fence with you, and to have the honor and pleasure to call you friend.
I heard such wonderful comments from all the other classes wich unfortunaly, because I was not able to duplicate myself (yet), I could not attend.
I heard only magic about Eric Mayers and Puck Curtis's classes on Destreza ( and I have no doubts, as I know your work and your abilities and I learned to admire your wonderful fencing and deep research). Together with Manuel Valle Ortiz, Tim Rivera and Ton Puey, the destreza and spanish art of fencing came to life in its best possible flavor and with the best representative of this art of fencing, it was a pleasure and an honor to spend good conversation and quality time with you all.
I regret I missed John O'Meara's class on Italian rapier. I truly love your style, skills. The way you express the spirit of Italian rapier fencing is just "belissimo". And your legacy is clear in your students as well.
Bill Grandy's classes were a blast, I tried to peek them in between other classes, hoping to be able to get there too. Bill, his unquantifiable passion for the art and his refined natural talent is a bless for this community, and his class are the quintessence of his work. Plus, it was a joy to see him fencing with anything and anyone he could grasp with no dignity for fatigue. Un plauso per te!
Roland Warzecha, you are not only a wonderful fencer, but an innovator and and purist. Your work on I33 is superb. And i general, your work with slow training, smiling faces and real sharp blades is adding a new layer and a new mandatory dimension to the work of WMA research, traning and practice. Thank you for that and looking forward to seeying more in the future.
Jake Norwood, I certainly resonate with your aggresive and dinamic approch, and I like how you push the work under high-stress situations. I heard great storied about your classes, in particular on "Overcoming Combat Stress to Perform the Techniques You Know". I'll make sure next time I will follow it. BTW, Fencing with you was delightful, and I hope next time I'll have the chance to discuss, share and fence with you much more.
Miroslav Lesichkov, I regret I had not enough time to talk more with you. I heard fantastic feedback from your two classes on "Go For the Elbow: Control of the Weapon Hand" and "The Strike: Mechanics Applied Across Weapons". I will make sure next time I won't misse them!
Robert Rutherfoord, I have the pleasure to know you and share some time togehter. But mostly, to admire your talent in fencing paired with the elegance and pure expression of the Italian Renaissance fencing school. We are lucky to have fencers like you in our community. Your bouts at the gala night were magnifici, and I truly enjoyed sharing with you good time on fencing.
Roger Norling, I am truly sad I missed your classes, of which I heard only spectacular commnets. I could only recomend your three classes "Meyer's Dussack in Motion: An Underappreciated Weapon", "Research Methods And Tools For Understanding Combat Manuals" nd "The Onion: Basics of European Longsword". It was such a revelation to get to know you, to share fencing and philosphical discussion together, and reveal a genuine brother of mine of the Art. I look forward to advancing our conversations on Alchemy and Philosophy, in between good fencing.
Also, I must deeply thank all the people who came to my three classes:
All the enthusiasm, passion and incredible talent and proficiencies from all participants were impressive and such a bless. It was a pleasure to share with you all my work, and I just regret time was always running too fast!A special thank for all the wonderful people from the organization who assisted me to organize and during the classes to make sure everything run perfectly. Thanks you.
On the general side, highlights were:
The Martial challenge: the Montante Mile. I truly enjoyed it and I found myself to put a lot of focus and effort into that, getting absorbed in the "conversation" with this special sword. Thank you Eric and Puck for sharing with me your Montante sword. And for organizing and taking good care of this martial challenge fo the entire period of the WMAW, together with Tim Rivera.
FENCING, ASSALTI, FIGHTING: My favourite.
I tried to do it so as much people I could, but that was not enough, next time I should definetly do more. Some good random memories: scottish one handed stick with Jake Norwood, lots of fun; single sword with Puck Curtis and Erik Mayer (thanks for sharing with me your destreza rapiers), great the gioco stretto and the intensity we all added to the fight; Joyful fight using dussack with Chris Vanslamrouck; a very good rapier assault with Matthew Howden (thank Ton Puey for letting me using your favourite sword) in a somewhat "Italian school vs French Thibault school". Loved it!: Matt we should do it again soon. Oh and yes and of course walking sitck with Ton Puey, lots of fun. Bill Grandy, thanks for waiting for me for fighting with the saber that night. I promise you next time we will do assalti until the sun rise! I was forgetting to mention the weird wrestling game with one leg standing opponent against one leg locked opponent, that was fun. Thanks Bill to convince me to play and Tim to play with me!
I must also mention the beuty and the quality of the fighting events, in particular Armoured Deed of Arms and the Bouts at the Gala Nights.
Special kudos for the new Provost Jessica Finley, she showed excellent skills and elegance during the Armoured Deed of Arms. It's always a pleasure to meet you, and to fight and wrestle with you or just watching you fighting and wrestling.
thanks you everyone, for everything. The sharing, for every single drink, chat, talk we had during these days. The pure and open spirit of the Art. There would be much more to say, to tell, to share. I must stop here.
what can I say.... LEON!
(thank you everyone for the collective contribution in sharing pictures and videos used in this report)