Review of the 9th Annual Cumann Bhata Recreational Violence Weekend:

Very small this year, by design. Ken probably should have canceled due to the fact that his wife, Shannon is more than just a little pregnant. Shannon, for her part, was, as always, the consummate hostess and insisted on cooking meals for the instructors and what guests chose to meet at her home after hours in the evenings. I’m glad that Ken did not cancel but I still feel a little guilty.

Friday Evening:
Silver’s Universal System – Randal Gustitis
Randal presented his interpretation of Silver’s system. It was a little bit different from most of what I’ve seen before related to Silver, but I liked it. Worked us through several drills and concepts. The most important seemed to be how to attain range safely coupled with Silver’s admonition to “Fly in and fly out” safely.

Saturday:
Russian All Around Fisticuffs – Ken Pfrenger
Ken taught an introduction to Russian All Around Fisticuffs. This system is more or less modern but draws heavily from earlier western boxing traditions. Ken’s class focused on less common blows, unusual to many modern boxers, including the Rounding Blow, a variation of the Back Fist, the Hammerfist style Chopper, and even a Pivot Blow.

Montante Sword – Randal Gustitis
This is Randal’s take on the Montante system. It’s a bit different from the first time I saw the system which, at the time, featured very small, halting almost, footwork. This had nearly expansive footwork and it made a great deal of sense within the context of Randal’s interpretation of the weapon as a space domination tool more than a fencing tool. Randal warned us that our brains might hurt but I think I managed to keep from spraining a lobe and got the general idea of the Basic Play he presented (sort of like a Kata). I’m sure the “Composed” (advanced and more complicated) would have been much more challenging. As it was it took half the class before it really started to click but then it went fairly smooth. Being able to perform the Play correctly upon command, without major errors, escaped me then, and still does. Nevertheless, I like this system.

Sgian Dubh Treachery – Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson, noted author of both fiction and martial arts manuals as well as founder of the Cateran Society, dedicated to historic Scottish Martial Arts, presented sneaky stealth techniques for using the traditional small “black knife” of the Scots. Techniques included deploying and applying the knife after the knife-owner’s primary hand was captured while reaching for his Broadsword, deploying the knife while preventing his opponent from accessing the broadsword, and straight up assassination. The first two variations of these, deploying the knife while the primary hand is being prevented from accessing the primary weapon, seemed particularly applicable to both modern LEO and modern military. The part about assassination, well… My son, Christopher, took this class with me. I think he liked the assassination part best. My kidney is still a little bit sore.

Test Cutting for the Western Martial Artist – Kirk Lawson
It’s exactly what it sounds like. We cut up a bunch of stuff. Why? Several very important martial artsy reasons such as testing the blade and improving technique but also just for fun. We used various media, each with their own trade-offs in what they could tell us, and culminated with test cutting meat. Lots of weapons abouned. Viking Longsword, Machete, Bowie Knives, Spears, Tomahawks, Sabers, a euro Longsword, pocket knives, even a Rapier! This class, by far, took the longest due to safety measures, shear number of targets, and that it was just a lot of fun sampling various weapons to see how they perform. We even draped common blue jeans material over the media (including the meat) to simulate heavy clothing. Many participants came away with a new respect for the durability of blue jeans.

Sunday:
Classic Pugilism as a Physical Culture System – Kirk Lawson
The point of this class was the illustrate how the foundation of classic pugilism could be applied as a mechanism for improving Flexibility, Strength, and Cardio endurance. Much of the concepts were taken from Bob Spraley’s “Juido” system. Drills included partner-resistant throws and active entries to technique. Everyone had a good time but you can put a lot of effort into doing these so it’s hard to do them “right” with full intention and not get worn out.

Footpad and the Cane – Ken Pfrenger
Ken presented his interpretation of the Irish Cane system documented in an early, unattributed, magazine article. It is a simple and very straight forward system. Quite direct. The author apparently really believed in the K.I.S.S. Principle and it showed. This system was obviously intended for Self Defense as was illustrated by such techniques as the ferule stabs to the head.

Thi-Bowie – Randal Gustitis
Randal Gustitus presented his work on interpreting Girard Thibault's Spanish Circle method to the Bowie Knife. This was very intriguing. The method works on a very deep psychological level and forces actions from the opponent in a way that I would not have expected. While it is clearly from the same Spanish lineage as the other Destreza systems I’ve seen, it had a unique flavor and, when applied to the Bowie knife, made a very effective, yet simple system. I think, however, that I squandered my “don’t sprain your brain” get out of jail free cards on the previous day’s Montante work. While the system is simple in concept, I didn’t *quite* get the footwork or coming to measure to click as well as I really wanted. It may be because I volunteered to be crash-test-dummy, the stabbie, and there are certain elements of the system that, when applied properly (or even with a steel blunt & fencing mask) can absolutely make your anus clench and trigger adrenal dump. Let me reiterate, this is VERY GOOD STUFF. I think I’m gonna have to spend some quality time getting to know Mr. Girard Thibault better, corresponding with my friend Randal, and maybe even drag him out local for training.

Broadsword Sparring Tactics – Chris Thompson
In this class, Chris Thompson demonstrated 7 discrete strategies for winning Broadsword fights. Not just Singlestick matches, mind you, but Broadsword fighting strategies, as opposed to simply going into the fight with no plan on how to win. These strategies, represented each by a mnemonic “word,” ranged from “waiting” through “baiting” past “pressure” and into “simplify” (if I managed to remember those words right). Each element represented a valid strategy, building upon and complimenting each other to give the fencer a way to “have a plan” upon entering his fight. As we know “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” and this class prepared you to have a definite plan! Again, my son Christopher paired with me and had a great time whacking my ribs, head, and arm within the context of whatever “word” we happened to be in at the time. No disrespect to the Beatles, but, at least this time out, Happiness was a stout sword, not a warm gun. :)

We are planning on having a 10th Anniversary blowout next year with a “best of the best” representation of classes so plan to come!

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk