ARMA's Year in Review 2005

Our annual review of our activities exploring the fighting skills and fencing arts of Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

By Gene P. Tausk & Staff

ARMA Senior Free Scholar

As has become our custom we present our annual year in review recap. The year 2005 was the ARMA’s most diverse yet.  We had the largest number of events across the widest geographical area and added the largest number of new members in any single year.  We continued our cutting edge presentation of historical fencing skills and investigation of Western martial culture. 

The year 2005 for ARMA was a year of continued growth and development.  Our membership is now rapidly approaching the 500 mark and 2005 saw the registration of the 1000th user of our Forum.  We saw the addition of five new Study Groups and the publishing of several key research pieces.

Certainly the most exciting development in 2005 come July was the opening of the Iron Door Studio outside of Atlanta, Georgia by ARMA director John Clements.  Iron Door is the only full-time historical fencing facility in North America (if not the world) where interested students can receive instruction in authentic Medieval and Renaissance fighting arts.  It is somewhat ironic that one can look in the Yellow Pages of any large American city and find pages devoted to Asian martial arts dojos, dojangs, and studios with no mention of the martial history of the West. Stage combat and sport fencing are even commonplace but actually Medieval and Renaissance swordplay outside of reenactment and role-playing pursuits is a rarity indeed. However, with the opening of the private Iron Door facility as a true modern Fechtschule or schola d’arms, perhaps a trend has started that will add the rich techniques of our Western martial heritage to the list of martial arts being taught and publicized in the United States. By December ARMA saw the first invitational Renaissance swordsmanship workshop for members held at Iron Door.

In February, Provo Study Group leader, Stewart Feil, gave a popular NTP 1.0 and brief introduction to sword and buckler (based on the MS I.33 work) for the Dallas-Fort Worth Study Group. Stew continued his record of impressing attendees with the quality of his scholarly and physical acumen.

In March, ARMA Provo for the 6th year running hosted John Clements at the Western Martial Arts Student Symposium held at Brigham Young University. John presented classes on sword and dagger followed by rapier fencing, and an extensive lecture on combat and interpretation of techniques within historical artwork. In addition classes were offered by members David Knight and Brian Hunt on Mair's short staff, Shane Smith and Casper Bradak on 15th century armored fencing and halfswording, Jacob Norwood presented both his Joachim Meyer longsword interpretations and a basic course on unarmed combatives, while Stewart Feil and Brian Hunt closed the event with a very popular class on their insightful interpretation of the MS I.33 sword and buckler fencing. Other highlights of the event included dagger fighting, and the successful Senior Free Scholar prize playing at the longsword of Casper Bradak. David Knight and Marianne Moore both certified as General Free Scholars at this event. Participants traveled from all over Utah, and as far away as Virginia. The annual Western Regional Event is fast-becoming one of the most important seminars in historical European martial arts and the event this year did not disappoint.

Another major gathering was the Lone Star Schwertlager hosted by the Houston North and South side study groups.  The Schwertlager, a first-ever ARMA Texas event, was a three-day course begun with Matt Anderson’s Senior Free Scholar prize playing at the home of Kyle Cook in Magnolia, Texas.  Kyle built an authentic Medieval fighting ring for prize-playing purposes and in the Texas heat Matt Anderson played his Prize was able to prevail to earn his Senior Free Scholar ranking with over 100 bouts fought in the space of an hour.  The rest of the weekend was devoted to training and over 30 participants and instructors did not have a moment to rest. 

ARMA members are always the first to point out that European combatives did not end with cold steel weapons –as Europeans of the Middle Ages and Renaissance developed high-level unarmed combat techniques as well. Thus, Gene Tausk and Erich Wagner led a four hour wresting and grappling seminar.  Afternoon sessions were devoted to Stacy Clifford of Houston Northsiders presenting the staff techniques of George Silver and half-swording techniques demonstrated by Matt Anderson and Shane Smith from the Virginia Beach, VA study group.  Sunday did not let up as Stew Feil from ARMA Provo led a four-hour seminar on sword and buckler techniques as interpreted from the I.33 manuscript.  The seminar finished with Ron Harris delivering an interpretation of the fighting techniques of Nicolaes Petter.  Throughout the entire weekend a great deal of free sparring between ARMA members occurred as well as impromptu grappling classes.  The best is yet to come, however, as late in the year Houston was named as the site of the 2007 ARMA International Gathering.

ARMA Director John C. also gave several seminars both inside the United States and around the world in 2005.  Here in the States during July, John gave a multi-day “Knightscamp” seminar in Sierra Nevada national park to a group of approximately 30 young students. The overwhelmingly positive response means that futures camps are almost certain. The focus was on longsword techniques, but John was also able to teach the basics of a Knight’s training program including lessons on the values of chivalric ethics. Our values affect our actions and our source teachings of Renaissance martial arts are filled with ethical components that the ARMA takes seriously in its own Code of Conduct.

In addition, John C. was invited in August by Israeli students of historical fencing to give the first ever seminar on this subject in Israel. John taught the basics of Renaissance swordsmanship to an eager group of approximately 30 native Israelis and Russian immigrants.  In John’s own words, neither the Israelis nor Russians do anything “half-way” when it comes to fighting skills and the seminar’s content and presentation manner was warmly appreciated by the attendees.

The ARMA continued to develop with the addition of the Columbus, Ohio study group led by Jaron Bernstein and Jeff Gentry.  An NTP 1.0 seminar was given in Columbus in April and the Columbus group is proud to have an indoor training facility, complete with wrestling mats, for their use.   In Houston, another study group was added as the ARMA Southside Houston study group began with classes in April.  With a focus on the unarmed skills of Nicolaes Petter as well as the armed combat for which ARMA is renowned, ARMA Southside Houston will have a great deal of input into the ARMA curricula.  ARMA also added a study group in Appleton, Wisconsin, led by Aaron Pynenberg.  The Appleton ARMA group also gave a demonstration at the Wisconsin Lanzefest to local acclaim. In September members of ARMA Appleton paid a day visit to popular Albion Swords, toured their shop and handled many of their pieces. Members of ARMA New Jersey meanwhile performed a demo of historical combat skills at the Family Medieval Festival, in October.

ARMA Appleton also hosted its first NTP 1.0 seminar in Wisconsin. The Event instructed by John C.  had a large turnout from several regional members, as well as a large contingent of new faces.  John gave a seminar focusing a large part on masterstrikes and guard transitioning.  A social outing to diner was followed by a “pub quiz” of historical fencing questions that resulted in a windlass dagger as prize for the winner. Sunday concluded with an “open seminar” conducted by ARMA-Appleton Group Leader, Aaron Pynenberg.  This focused on core training, running practice sessions as well as including a great deal of free-play. 

Other smaller regional study days continued to be held by members on a year-round basis in 2005, including Central Florida, East Virginia, Alabama, and West Georgia. ARMA members in Sweden and Poland also held several training events and fighting displays.  Kyle Cook’s fighting-pen received extensive usage throughout the year as he hosted several impromptu events for Texas members. In April, ARMA Provo held the first independent Senior Free Scholar Prize Playing in longsword by a Study Group. Devin Wilson successfully achieved his ranking in a fast-paced Prize Playing. After, Devin sat with Stew and Casper to assist with General Free Scholar certifications for James Knowles and Seth Pease. ARMA Provo now maintains the most SFS and GFS rankings of any other of our Study Groups.

ARMA members are not content, however, simply to delve into the physical activity of Medieval and Renaissance martial arts and close off from the academic world.  ARMA prides itself on the scholarship of its members and this year was no exception.  In the ARMA’s continued effort to link academic scholarship to serious martial practice, John also had a critically acclaimed chapter on arms and armor appear in the anthology, New Perspectives on the Hundred Years’ War, from Brill publications.  John also had a well-received cover article on the illusion of the “clumsy knight” (which seems to still be a myth that survives despite massive evidence to the contrary) published in the July issue of Military History magazine.

ARMA Colorado member Derek Wassom visited the Swiss National Landesmuseum in Zurich, Switzerland where he was able to examine several examples of Medieval weaponry at several museums.  It is sometimes unfortunate that the museums in possession of such weaponry do not realize the significance and value of the treasures they hold.  Derek was able to photograph and record his visit for ARMA members. Joh C. also attended the Atlanta Bladeshow, the nations largest event of its kind, and met privately with several sword manufactuers and expert bladesmiths to discuss the state of the art and the needs of the historical fencing community.

In October, ARMA was also able to send Shane Smith from Virgian Beach, VA as an official representative to the International Conference on Arms and Armor in Chicago, Illinois.  Shane was fortunate to be able to interact with some of the leading authorities in the world as well as handle original weapons from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  Shane brought back a great number of pictures as well as a renewed appreciation for the arms and armor history of the Western world.  It is also a safe bet that much of the academic world is now aware of ARMA and its efforts to revive and reconstruct the fighting arts of Western Europe from the 13th - 17th centuries.

On this theme, the Houston Northsiders attended the annual conference of the Texas Medieval Association (TEMA), held this year on the campus of the University of Houston (one of the few universities in the country with an extensive collection of documents from the Middle Ages).  Several ARMA members demonstrated the longsword fighting techniques to scholars and researchers.  Sydney Yarborough, theater director for the Houston Community College system, read a paper on Medieval weaponry to the conference attendees that was well-received. ARMA Houston members were quite busy in 2005 as they also gave presentations on historical fencing at the University of Houston, Fort Bend Baptist Academy, and other area elementary and High schools.   

In September, Stewart Feil and Brian Hunt of ARMA Provo traveled to upstate New York to attend the Ashokan 2005 Sword event where they were able to meet with ARMA advisors Paul Champagne, Dan Maragni, and Dr. Lee Jones, as well as several other colleague and key members of the blademaking community. They also presented two demonstrations and gave a discussion of the evolution of the sword in Europe. Stew and Brian were able to view blademaking techniques from some of the leaders in the field.  In addition, Brian and Stew gave a extremely well-received display of longsword and sword-and-buckler fighting techniques for the participants.  An article on the event in Modern Knives magazine featured pictures of Stew and Brian engaged in swordplay. Stew also enjoyed a very interesting (and decisive) bit of cross-free-play with a noted Chinese sword stylist.

In March, John C. gave a special professional consultation workshop on historical combat to gamemaker NCsoft (makers of the best-selling City of Heroes and Guild Wars). In May, a private instructional event was held in New Jersey. While in September at DragonCon, the world largest convention of its kind, John and Army Lt. Jake Norwood gave a demonstration of fighting skills in a presentation on how to incorporate historical European martial arts into fantasy game combat.

In October, members of ARMA Provo also visited the Las Vegas Antique arms show to investigate pieces and check out the wares. They were able to handled dozens of fine swords and weapons from many periods. ARMA Provo members also visited the arms and armor collection of the Metropolitan museum in NY. In December, Free Scholar Shane Smith traveled to the UK and visited the Royal Armouries, the Wallace Collection, and the Burrell Collection of Glasgow Museums where he was allowed access to the weapons store-rooms by curator Tobias Capwell.

ARMA’s Assistant Director, Senior Free-Scholar Jake Norwood, now a lieutenant in the United States Army, was sent to Iraq where he serves his country on active duty.  Although we have missed Jake and his excellent teaching abilities, we respect his decision to serve and protect and wish him a safe return.  In a first, Jake was able to continue some of his studies practicing dagger and messer on rooftops of his Tikirit command (!).

Historical fencing studies continued to grow in 2005 and as always, ARMA members were on the cutting edge of historical European martial arts. Several ARMA members obtained book contracts for titles on Renaissance martial arts due to be published in 2006/7. The year 2005 was obviously a very busy year for the ARMA and was our most diverse yet.  We had the largest number of events across the widest geographical area and added the largest number of new members (over 50) in any single year.  We continued our cutting edge presentation of historical fencing skills and investigation of Western martial culture. The year 2005 served to further that the ARMA will continue to be the standard bearer for historical fencing studies. The best, as they say, is yet to come.

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