Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Report on the 2009 Cumann Bhata Recreational Violence Weekend

Over the weekend of July 11 - 12, 2009 a small but dedicated group of students of the Western Martial Arts gathered on the shores of Lake Pymatuning for the 5th annual Cumann Bhata Recreational Violence Weekend.

Saturday was overcast and muggy as Randal Gustitis started the festivities with a class on Shasqa or Cossack saber. Like many other Russian martial arts the shasqa involves the use of figure eight movements for both defense and attack. Interestingly, because the shasqa does not have a hand guard of any kind, the parries involve deflections with the flat of the blade rather than hard blocking moves with the edge of the blade.

Josh Little was the second instructor on Saturday with his class on Pollaxe. About half way into the class the promise of a storm that had been building all morning became all too real. Everyone took an early lunch break to let the storm blow itself out. We then resumed after lunch to finish up the class.

We then switched gears from European arts to the American frontier art of Tomahawk and Long knife taught by Steve Huff. Steve started out talking about the different styles of tomahawks. He explained that the ‘hawk was a small belt axe brought to the New World by Europeans and adopted by the Native American to replace the wooden and stone war clubs, as the tomahawk could be used both as a utilitarian tool and a weapon.

Once the everyone had worked through a number of drills with just a tomahawk Steve introduced the use of both the ‘hawk and knife. Again, Steve reminded everyone that the frontiersmen and Native Americans carried a knife primarily as a tool and only secondarily as a weapon. The end of Steve’s session saw the students working with both tomahawk and knife against longer weapons such as a military saber and a musket with bayonet.

The fourth class of the day was taught by Chris Thompson on the 1813 Cutlass Exercises developed for the British navy by Henry Angelo, jr. This set of exercises was set up to teach the sailor of the time a number of basic attacks and defenses using the cutlass.

The final class on Saturday was Kirk Lawson’s class on Grappling at the Tomahawk. This was moved up on the schedule from Sunday so Steve Huff could participate. Kirk demonstrated how the ‘hawk can be used to grapple and trap the opponent as well as to block and cut.

With classes over for the day most of the group removed to Ken Pfrenger’s new property where he and his wife had dinner ready for us. Much conversation was had over the similarities and differences between the different arts we study.

Sunday morning was clear, cooler and less humid than Saturday as we started up with Ken’s class on the use of the Carpathian Mountain Axe. This nifty little axe was carried by men throughout the Carpathian mountains from Romania up through Poland as a walking stick and utility tool.

It is Ken’s idea that the axe was also used as a weapon based on research he has done into stories, history and dances where men flourish the axe in mock combat. Ken sees a lot of the same figure eight and deflection type moves that Randal showed us with the shasqa on Saturday.

My class, Introduction to Silver’s Single Sword, followed Ken’s class. This class is aimed at the student who has no previous experience with the material from Silver’s two works from the end of the 16th and early 17th centuries.

I had the students work through a number of drills using Open Fight and Gardant Fight. We then finished with some moves demonstrating Coming to Grips or grappling.

Josh Little returned for the next class to show us how to use the messer, a German style short sword or long knife. Many of the same principles apply to the use of the messer as with the German longsword, but the messer being shorter is both faster and at the same time cannot do some of the single time actions of the longsword.

The classes for the weekend finished up with Randal coming forward again to show us how to use an entrenching tool as the Russian military trains its soldiers. The tool can be used to block and cut, but is also used against pressure points and to unbalance your opponent.

My wife and I had to leave before Randal finished his class so others will have to relate the activities on Sunday evening. I know Shannon, Ken’s wife, was lying out an ample spread of picnic food and there was talk of a few Broadsword League bouts.

It was an excellent series of classes by very dedicated instructors. I can recommend that anyone interested in WMA should make a point of attending next year’s gathering. I certainly plan to do so and already have an idea or two about classes to offer.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to Receive Congressional Gold Medal

Pres. Obama has signed a law that will grant to the members of the WWII WASPs the Congressional Gold medal for their services during the war. These civilian women pilots served to replace male pilots in transport, training and test flights during the war so the male pilots could fly combat missions.

The women were denied veterans benefits and acknowledgement of their servcie at the end of the war. Their records were sealed and little if no mention was made of their service in histories of WWII.

See www.wingsacrossamerica.us for more info on these women and what they did.