By B. J. Hertz
The first ARMA International Gathering successfully took place
June 27th-29th in upstate
More than 60 members and friends came from 6 countries for three
days of study, practice, playing and sharing. We were happy to
have members come from as far away as
Held outdoors on private land, the event had a very relaxed yet
The location was excellent with grassy fields, mostly sunny
skies, shaded groves of trees, and a quiet isolated country setting.
It was a tremendous event and an exciting opportunity for our membership
to come together to train, explore, and celebrate.
Gathering was an unprecedented occasion for ARMA to show appreciation
of its members and bring them together in camaraderie and friendship
as fellow practitioners and researchers.
Though there were a few bumps to overcome in
organization, it was a fun, safe, and informative opportunity to
meet our fellow members, cross-train, spar, test-cut, evaluate our
skills, compare research, and exchange historical fencing knowledge.
It goes without saying that the opportunity to meet so many fellows
of varying experience levels and interests, to put faces with personalities
and learn who was who from those we were familiar with only online,
What was clearly evident right away was the “martialness” of the
occasion and the character and quality of the attendees–and the
refreshing lack of pretense. It was an occasion for good teaching
and good fighting. No pose and display attitudes, just earnest
practice and martial study.
The diversity of ARMA’s Study Groups was also on display as each
club clearly had its own distinctiveness and particular way of
training within the overall curriculum.
From the excellent armored combat of the VA guys, to the rough
and tumble steel play of the NY gang, to the studious dedication
boys, and the modest haughtiness of the
guys, the differences among our membership were as noticeable as
they were entertaining.
quality of the instruction by ARMA teachers and invited guests was
top notch: intense, straightforward, no-nonsense, martial arts research
happy to feature special guests Hans Heim and Alexander Kiermayer
taught exceptional classes on Hans Liechtenauer’s 14th century longsword,
and Hans Leckuechner’s 15th century Messer and Langenmesser as well
as revealing a preview of the first of their fine upcoming Medieval
German Longsword video series.
Han’s and Alex’s informative, entertaining,
and easy-going manner complimented superb technical skills and a
deep knowledge base.
chemistry and enthusiasm was remarkable. The feedback we received
from their classes was overwhelmingly positive and the impact of
their instruction significant.
We were also proud to have Bart Walczak, director of ARMA Poland
and co-author of the
translation from Paladin Press.
In his first visit to
, Bart gave two excellent classes on Liechtenauer and the mid
15th century text known as the Codex Wallerstein. He enlightened
and impressed everyone present with his knowledge and
interpretation of the source manuals. Bart’s technical knowledge
enabled everyone to have a much firmer grasp of many key ideas of
the German school of fencing. His openness and eagerness to
discuss the slightest minutia of the subject with everyone was
welcome, as was his honesty in admitting ignorance when something
could not be determined one way or the other. No one came away
from his class without confidently knowing more than when they
Vendors from Albion Armorers, Mercenary's Tailor, Angel Sword,
Wooden Weapons, and
Swordwork's wasters were on hand to offer their wares at
premiered their very nice new “Hollow Ground Medieval Sword Line”
also had an actual 15th century
helm on hand to examine.
We also featured a new extra light training waster from New
Sterling Arms, and the excellent new wooden rapier foyles from
WoodenWeapons.com. We were also able to premier (and give away in
the raffle) a copy of the brand new book from Paladin Press,
Sigmund Ringeck’s Knightly Art of the Longsword
by David Lindholm and Peter
. The book was the subject of much excited discussion.
During the raffle attendees won several other books and gifts,
including a copy of the new
Sword in the Viking Age
(with material and graphics by ARMA’s advisor Dr. Lee Jones).
There were even some previously unknown historical source manuals
on hand which will be the subject of future articles.
Milan Petricevic, director of ARMA Calgary and former Croatian
national fencing champion, proved his knowledge with an
invigorating and energetic class on basics of 16th century
Milan displays a grace of movement and a deep understanding of
the scientific fight of the foyning sword as a true martial art.
later offered, in his distinctive manner, a hilarious lecture on
the problematic dynamics of modern sport fencing.
was recovering from a torn ligament and unfortunately could not
engage in free-play or vigorous demonstration.
Swordsmith and ARMA advisor Dan Maragni gave an intriguing
hands-on demonstration of blade forging that had everyone present
Dan later gave an enlightening and amusing slide presentation on
early European and Celtic swords as they related to form and
ARMA Director John Clements gave two short sessions
on fundamentals of practicing sword & buckler and sword &
dagger following from primarily 16
John showed key elements for the weapons and several core
techniques to teach students how to learn to practice the weapons
Later, assisted by Gary Grzybek and Shane Smith,
John did a longsword demonstration of close-in counters, disarms,
and half-swording against strong cuts.
The techniques were for the most part done in real range
at full speed and energy in order to display the important element
of how actions differ when done at force than in slower, softer
Revealing research material from his forthcoming
and assisted by Milan Petricevic, John C. gave a lively and
well-received lecture on the history of swords and swordsmanship
from Medieval to modern times. He emphasized the conditions and
needs which caused the development of the longsword, the side sword,
and the rapier, and the transition from military to civilian fencing,
from self-defense to duelling, and then duelling to martial sport
With considerable humor John put it all into context as he
stressed the importance of technology as well as cultural and
social elements in fencing history besides the practical functional
designs of weapons as responses to martial necessity.
Anderson, Shane Smith, and Joel Thompson of ARMA Virginia Beach
gave a truly extraordinary demonstration of armored combat based
on the masters Fiore and Ringeck. This was one of the finest examples
of the craft of armored swordplay.
The three scholars displayed exceptional skill and coordination
in all manner of close-in techniques, grappling, throws, disarms,
Their historically accurate armor was excellent
and their attitude and approach impeccable. Without question everyone
present was astonished at the expertise of their presentation.
See more of them on the
Armored Fighting Photos
Gene Tausk gave a short class on tumbling for fencers, showing
the necessity and utility of this core skill so often neglected
At lunch on day two Gene also delivered an informative and
entertaining lecture “The Law and the Modern Swordsman.”
This relevant and irreverent lecture discussed the legal aspects
of sword ownership, carrying and transporting weapons,
of assaults with deadly weapons, with specific attention given
to these issues relating to non-citizens traveling in the
As an attorney, Gene really knows his stuff.
Sgt. Matt Larsen and his colleague Al Siering were one of the
delights of the event as they presented the groundfighting
fundamentals of the U.S. Army’s Combative Systems Program as it
directly related to the modern reconstruction of Renaissance
martial arts and particularly, ARMA’s study approach.
Matt and Al skillfully displayed some core aspects of unarmed
self-defense and discussed the challenges of structuring a modern
martial arts curriculum for real combat from various sources.
Everyone was hungry for more of this practical no-nonsense material.
Matt and Al also engaged in some energetic armed group-sparring
where they were thoroughly trashed by desk bound civilians.
Unfortunately, scheduled presenter Dr. Lee Jones, with his
collection of antique weapons, was unable to attend at the last
minute. Personal issues prevented Lee from attending and giving
his insightful showing and lecture on sword wounds.
Also absent were ARMA advisor and instructor Ron Harris, who was
unable to attend, and our colleagues Matt Eatson & Tom Leoni.
There were several other guests and invited instructors who
unfortunately were not present and were missed. Scheduling
conflicts and time restraints unfortunately also did not permit
Stacy Clifford to deliver his planned class on 16
century staff fencing in full session.
Eric Gregory was kind enough to bring for show and tell his
exceptional swept hilt German sword of c.1620.
Comparison of this original beauty with a well-made modern
replica of the same piece was simply astounding.
The difference between the two pieces is extraordinary. Thanks to
Eric for letting everyone handle this excellent weapon.
Eric also brought some of his own very fine practice rapier
blades to show off.
There was a great variety of activities crammed into the three
days, with the main focus being on 15
century German material.
For about two hours after the first day’s activities, under the
attentive gaze of their relaxing fellows, a dozen or more fighters
engaged in casual free-play and bouting with wasters, blunt steel,
and padded contact-weapons as well as unarmed grappling.
In interpretation of material there were tremendous areas of
agreement and similarity with our guest instructors and the
larger body of ARMA members.
There were also smaller areas of contrast.
Of this latter, there were two areas of material: fascinating new
ideas and concepts we will start employing right away; and aspects
requiring further consideration.
Of this latter, there are again two areas: those things we are
puzzled by and must explore and investigate further; and those
things we at present disagree with because they conflict with
experiences of application in test-cutting or free-play.
It was agreed though that the synergy of this dynamic of
comparison and contrasts in interpretation definitely makes the
subject an exciting one!
The bottom line for attendees was, happily, the intriguing
collection of stimulating new material to consider.
to the number of attendees, the classes by Bart,
Matt, John, and Hans and Alex were crowded, and several were divided
into two sessions so everyone could attend.
There was plenty of time for more private clarification and
demonstration with everyone as well.
The group sparring time was a blast with over 30 helmeted
participants clashing together repeatedly with all manner of padded
A round-robin gladiatorial session was held
as well as a last-man standing free for all.
For those who had never gotten to do group skirmishing before
it was an exciting eye-opener. For the rest it was a two-hour hellacious
The number of friendly grudge fights and pre-arranged
challenge matches among attendees was entertaining.
main event of the Gathering was the Senior Prize Playing for Longsword
by ARMA Free-Scholars Timothy Sheetz and Jacob Norwood.
Following from the model of 16th century English
Company of Masters of Defence and German public Fechtschulen displays,
we emphasize that our senior members demonstrate their skills in
serious free-play against their fellows. This was armed bouting
at its finest.
in to test the mettle of their peers. Some of the matches were excellent
exchanges of perfectly delivered technique and counter-technique,
single hit kills and close-in throws. The display of skill, control,
strength, and endurance was undeniable.
Without question both combatants proved the standard ARMA
has tried to set. In their separate events, both fighters engaged
in more than 80 consecutive matches in just over 65 minutes against
more than 25 opponents in two single-hit bouts each. Both the contestants
lost only 20 of their own bouts, with Tim winning 67 of his and
Tim and Jacob both fought in a 25x25 foot square area against
both helmed and unhelmed with padded contact weapons, wasters,
and blunt steel. They faced longswords, sword & buckler,
sword & shield, sword & dagger, and spear.
Unless not wearing a helmet/mask, the targets were full body
(excluding groin and thumb) with limited grappling permitted.
Thrusting was permitted only with padded weapons and wasters
against closed masks.
Both Tim and Jake acquitted themselves exceptionally and were an
inspiration in terms of prowess and character. Tim Sheetz
displayed clear evidence of the importance of physical conditioning
in martial arts and proof positive of the efficacy of ARMA’s virtual
training program, as he has been training more or less alone in
for more than the last two years.
Jacob proved his worth and his commitment as well as the value of
being a Study Group Director, as his
gang supported him solidly in his quest and the results showed.
See all the pics on the
Prize Playing Photos
We are also happy to announce the rank of
will also soon be
to both Bart and
as a result of their diligent efforts, demonstrable skill, and accumulated
Congrats to both. Also, Neil
of ARMA Stockholm earned his General Free Scholar rating in evaluation
just after the event’s final day.
For his hosting efforts, event host Todd Sullivan was given
a special gift by the members, an
greatsword, courtesy of the thoughtfulness of Jim
A highlight of day three was the test-cutting.
Originally scheduled as a formal demonstration and class on
test-cutting as a tool of learning, as well as experimental
session, it turned into ad hoc come and chop party.
Swords from several makers including, Del Tin,
, Raven, Atrim, Angel Sword, and others were used on a variety of
Planned cutting on thick cardboard tubes, cloth, leather, and raw
meat did not materialize, but there were dozens of well soaked
straw mats, single and double rolls, some with wood dowel cores,
and thick tree branches too.
There were several helmets available to hit on, including ones
from Valentine Armories and MRL in addition to some finely made
historically accurate riveted maile (which proved impregnable to
all cuts) made by historical armor-researcher Brad
Various cuts and types of blows were tried out by several
attendees on the targets.
Examples were shown of sharp blades, straight and curved, single
and double handed, cutting effortlessly through straw mats of all
A cloth gambeson was struck, showing it as virtually impervious
One short Messer cut through three straw mats on one horizontal
Several curved blades easily sheared through mats diagonally
However, most intriguing was how a blunt and entirely unsharpened
Raven bastard sword performed, cleaving through one entire mat
and then even one with a wood core. The same blade dented two
helms without any edge trauma.
by various swords on the helms achieved varying results, from scratches
to dents and one small cut.
Assorted other weapons, including warhammers,
pole-axes, and bills caused much more significant damage on the
helms–but two shafts broke and one pole-arm had its blade and flanges
Two very sharp short swords which cut mats
then broke on single
hits against the helms, snapping at the tangs.
One particular longsword, which cut mats like a razor, had
its edge obliterated where it impacted on a helmet, yet barely scratched
Overall the cutting was very energetic, with
many testers rushing the target and making multiple strikes, rather
than standing still in front of it and taking their time to make
a single slow cut.
cuts were made on straw mat portions thrown into the air and a tree
branch was sliced up while being held.
See more pics here on
Test Cutting Photos
The real value of the Gathering was the ability for ARMA members
to come together in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere to share
insights and test one another while contributing back to our
greater understanding of the subject.
The synergy at this event was truly tangible and refreshing, with
so many people who all came together in friendship under the same
study approach, with the same martial attitude, seeking the same
goals of understanding and skill in Renaissance fighting arts.
No posturing, no BS, no rivalries, no petty egos, just serious
and fun investigation of our rich fencing heritage.
We want to thank everyone involved in putting this together,
especially Todd Sullivan and his family, and all those who jumped
in to help make it work.
Thanks to Todd especially for securing the site and arranging the
excellent ARMA water bottles and event t-shirts.
thanks also to Tim Sheetz, Gary Grzybek, Mark Miller, and all
those who pitched in at the last minute.
Having so many diverse enthusiasts all utilizing
the same training methodology together in one place with the mutual
objective of raising the credibility and legitimacy of this subject
had a discernable impact on everyone present. The 2003 ARMA Gatheirng
truly had it all: test-cutting, antique swords, armored combat,
sword making, dagger fighting, group sparring, rapier fencing, sword
& buckler, sword & dagger, grappling, longsword, messer,
vendor products, armor making, staff fighting, personalized training,
unpretentious spirits, source literature study and historical research!
The next time we hold such an event we confidently promise even