ARMA Southern Knights 2004 Review

ARMA Southern Knights 2004
February, New Orleans, LA

sk0428.jpg (29196 bytes)Conceived as a small regional event (primarily for those Southern ARMA members who were unable to make the trip north for last year's phenomenal International Gathering), the ARMA Southern Knights 2004 workshop ("SK04") quickly became a venue for several instructors to show their stuff in a no-nonsense, no-frills environment at the Barristers' art gallery of New Orleans, only minutes from the historic French Quarter.

On Saturday this stellar two-day event attended by some 30 ARMA members began with footwork and stance exercises followed by a slide presentation on the intricacies of manual interpretation by ARMA director John Clements. Jake Norwood, ARMA Senior Free Scholar, took the stage next with an impressive 2-hour workshop on both the theory and the practical execution of the Meisterhauen (master cuts) from Liechtenauer through to Joachim Meyer. Jake's class was enthusiastically received. The material presented shed new light on the proper application and context in which these much misunderstood techniques were taught and used, and it gave everyone a number of new drills to practice at home.

A short lunch gave way to lessons on grappling and pressure points led by Gene Tausk and Eric Wagner of ARMA Houston. Stacy Clifford, an ARMA Senior Free Scholar from Houston, simultaneously held a workshop on the staff fighting of Joachim Meyer's 1570 Fechtbuch in which he related and contrasted it to the teachings of Silver and Swetnam. For many attendees, however, the highlight of the day was an introduction to fighting with the rondel dagger by the respected martial arts/knife-fighting instructor and ARMA Advisor, Professor Ron Harris. Following insights gained from years of knife fighting experience, Ron set everyone to working in pairs for exercises that not only focused on specific historical techniques, but on gaining the skill to use them in self-defence now. Although several planned classes had to be cut due to ARMA Director John C. being sidelined with a temporary medical condition, John made himself available for member consultations and advice. The first day's training wrapped up with more informal lessons with longsword and messer, and free-play with wasters and padded weapons.

Sunday greeted SK04's battered attendees with more high-intensity training. Jake Norwood premiered the results of over a year's dedicated work on a groundbreaking introduction to the longsword of Joachim Meyer. The workshop built upon the Meisterhauen class from the previous day with material on footwork, additional cuts, drilling exercises, and principles and tactics advocated by Meyer. The discipline, professionalism, and depth of understanding Jake displayed in his presentation were an inspiration to everyone in attendance.

The day continued with tumbling lessons from Gene Tausk and Eric Wagner while John Clements trained ARMA members with specific core techniques for half-swording. Jay Vail from Florida with the assistance of his son Sam finished out the day's formal instruction with several dagger plays from Fiore dei Liberi's Flos Duelatorum. The end of classes signaled open season for more open bouting and practice among seasoned ARMAteers, new members, and guests. Ron Harris even gave an energetic impromptu class on basic wrestling techniques, which succeeded in sapping the last remains of energy from those of us who had any left. Meanwhile ARMA Director John C. evaluated and passed new General Free-Scholars: Jay Vail, Mike Cartier of ARMA South Florida. Congrats to them!

All in all, this was one of ARMA's best workshops to date. Everyone involved went home exhausted and happy, and with a lot of new material to work on and show the folks back home.

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