The 2011 ARMA International Gathering

On July 15th-17th, 2011 in Houston, Texas, the ARMA held its fourth International Gathering with over 70 member participants among the 80+ attending for three days of lessons, training certification, camaraderie, and research presentation. The event was held indoors in the main ballroom at the Humble Civic Center in Humble, Texas located just north of Houston and close to Bush Intercontinental Airport. This was the third ARMA International Gathering organized jointly by the Houston North and South Siders study groups. To put it simply, the 2011 Gathering was a blast. The learning, camaraderie, martial spirit, physical discipline, humor, courtesy, and total lack of pretense displayed by virtually everyone was refreshing and inspiring, and it was widely agreed that this was the most fun gathering we've had yet.

The event began as usual on Thursday evening with dinner at the Humble City Cafe, where we greeted arriving members and caught up with friends old and new from all over the country. Training began in earnest Friday morning with ARMA Director John Clements presenting some of his new material on longsword technique and practice methods. Over several hours John covered snapping & covering, new insights on the krumphau, zornhut & schlüssel, einlauffen, schwertnemen, and half-swording exercises, and the impact of his interpretations on the members was easily visible throughout the room. The continued evidence of our curriculum's impact on the overall approach and method nearly everyone employed to one degree or another was unmistakable.

Longsword Class

Later in the day ARMA Deputy Director Aaron Pynenberg and Jeremiah Backhaus from ARMA Wisconsin debuted their new and much anticipated ringen program, and it was well worth the wait. Their deceptively simple drills belied a sophisticated understanding of the underlying principles in the fechtbuchs, and before they were done they incorporated dagger work into the mix as well, recognizing its place as an inseparable part of close combat. Everyone was highly impressed with their work and we expect to see rapid improvement in these skills in the future as a result of their efforts. Across the room, John taught a mixed weapons class on longsword vs. sword & shield. Though shields were in short supply, John still managed to provide some valuable insights into a weapon combination that ARMA members do not get to experience frequently.

Ringen and Shield Class

More new classes came to the fore on Saturday and Sunday. Free-Scholar Jeff Hansen from ARMA Birmingham, AL, built on the skills practiced in the ringen class with an excellent session on unarmed defense vs. dagger. Free-Scholar Gene Tausk of the ARMA Houston Southsiders taught his popular spear fighting class for the second gathering in a row, focusing on spear against spear and spear against longsword and giving students the chance to thrust against an archery target with a sharp spear. Free-Scholar Stacy Clifford and Wes White (with assistance from Tom Augenthaler on Sunday) from the Houston Northsiders taught their second class based on Di Grassi's 1570 manual His True Arte of Defence, this time covering sword and dagger fighting, again illustrating how German and Italian swordsmanship display common principles despite different styles of instruction. Director Clements also taught a Saturday class open to the public on the fundamentals of Renaissance martial arts with the longsword which was well received.

Dagger Class
Di Grassi Class

Saturday was also time for the Free-Scholar Prize Playing, and Joey Marmorato from ARMA Atlanta, GA did not disappoint. Joey played a new record of 93 total bouts with 72 wins in a mere 41 minutes with 21 total losses (with about 7 of them draws). Many of his bouts were nothing short of exemplary of perfect technique and principle, and we could not help but feel proud to have such an excellent fighter representing ARMA. Amazingly he later discovered he broke a finger in the middle of the bouts (!).

Prize Playings

In addition to all the fighting, the weekend saw some excellent academic presentations as well. Miguel Angel Bonilla Arcaute of ARMA Mexico gave an eye-opening presentation on blade wounds from a doctor's perspective as we enjoyed Friday's dinner. Saturday at lunch, Parker Brown of Crescent Moon Armoury presented a brilliant slideshow on the history of armor and modern misconceptions about what armor is capable of, for which he received a standing ovation. At dinner on Saturday we were pleased to welcome Professor Tom Green, Editor of the World Martial Arts Encyclopedia and long-time ARMA academic advisor. Dr. Green's survey of what constitutes a martial art and how the fighting arts of Renaissance Europe fit into the larger spectrum of world martial arts was filled with fascinating anecdotes from his studies and travels and gave us all a lot of food for thought.

Presentations

Sunday, as always, we set aside time for free-play and testing of scholars for rank. Congratulations to our new scholar adepts (both full and provisional): Jonathan Lockwood, Parker Brown, Tom Augenthaler, Ben Morgan, Andrew Weems, Jeremy Wells, Curtis Rochelle, and Michael Baron. There was plenty of experimenting with new and different weapons to be seen, and senior scholars took time to tutor newer members and help them improve their skills. At the end of the final day Director Clements surprised us with a group battle simulation based on our touch drill that was one of the highlights of the event. It presented a few surprises, and with the scale of participants involved this time John made some interesting observations beyond what he had previously experienced with this. Even as silly as it got, the core teaching value of the experienced was still maintained, and everyone had a blast.

Group Battle Simulation

Thanks are due to everyone who helped organize and support this event. The ARMA Houston North and South Siders worked long and hard to make this event a success. The Humble Civic Center once again provided an excellent venue and The Sidewalk Cafe kept us well fed all weekend, while the Comfort Suites Kingwood provided an affordable night's rest. We must also recognize our sponsors and vendors, many of whom donated door and raffle prizes, and without whom this event could not have happened:

Computer Extension Systems, Inc.
New Stirling Arms
Outlaw Guns & Ammo
Mercenary's Tailor
Cavalier Attitude
Crescent Moon Armoury
Razor Razor
Wal-Mart Superstore, Tomball, Texas #703
CAS Hanwei
ChiliPepperWeb.net Web Hosting

At the close of the weekend, John and Aaron observed that the quality of participants and their skill level is increasing with each Gathering, and each one seems to be more fun than the last. We were happy to meet so many new faces and see so many familiar ones, and wish we had more time to spend with all of them. The opportunity to observe the growth of our club as a whole in skill and camaraderie first hand is priceless. In the end, perhaps John said it best that we "fuhlerized the fechtivity of our fencerization" …or was it "fechterized the fuhlerization of our fencivity?" (Maybe we were just really tired by then...) See everybody at the next one in 2013!


Winners show off prizes donated by sponsor CAS Hanwei

Free Play
 
Vendors

A variety of the finest wasters from
New Sterling Arms

A variety of the finest wasters from
New Sterling Arms

Parker Brown's craftsmanship from
Crescent Moon Armory

Weapons and swords from CAS Hanwei

Belt swords from Razor Razor

Parker Brown's craftsmanship from
Crescent Moon Armory

 

Longsword Class
 
Spear Class
 
Di Grassi Class
 
Presentations
 
Prize Playings
People


 
 

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