WMAW 2022: A Shining Light of Swordfighting Excellence

I’ve returned home from the 2022 Western Martial Arts Workshop in Racine, Wisconsin, re-inspired and with some stories to share. This event is truly one of the premier HEMA events and it is an honour to have been a teacher at it for so many years. In today’s newsletter I’ll be sharing my event report along with some links to videos, resources, and a few photos.

A Diverse Program at a Beautiful Place

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Western Martial Arts Workshop is the oldest HEMA event in North America. Run by the Chicago Swordplay Guild, it takes place at the beautiful Dekoven Center, a neo-gothic former seminary school turned conference center. The event features instructors from around the world and is known for its diversity of topics from introductions to lesser known martial systems, to deep dives into strategy and tactics across central HEMA disciplines.

Among many things, this year’s program included Georgian sword and buckler; Historical African martial arts; Spanish rapier and montante; Italian longsword, rapier, sidesword, polearms, armored combat, and wrestling; German messer, longsword, and duelling shield; and so much more.

This year I taught Longsword vs Rapier, Provocations and Tactical Control, Two-Sword, and a lecture on designing curriculum.

The students in my workshops were superb. Two-sword is always a brain melter and we got through nearly all of the material I had planned (which is exceptionally rare). By the end many students were able to move between the complex patterns I taught and the core defenses and counter-attacks with either lead hand.

Devon teaching two-sword. Photographer: Summer Sparacin

I first offered Longsword vs Rapier as an online workshop for my Masters Club and it was a real pleasure to offer it in person. If you’re interested in what I covered, the essence of it is in this recent blog post. Curriculum design was also an in-person delivery of an online webinar. Even though I can make so many things available online now, doing it in person is always extra special.

Perhaps my favorite offering this weekend was on provocations. This was a deep dive into tempo and how to both take and steal ideal moments from your opponent to strike and control. Three hours was a pretty intense window for this topic, especially for a Sunday morning, but my intrepid students ate it up and hopefully came out a bit more clever. Thank you all for your hard work.

My deepest thanks to all my students for making this event a real joy to teach at.

Sparring: Friendship at the End of the Blade

This year I made lots of opportunities to spar with instructors and enthusiastic students both informally and in a few formal affairs. It was really enjoyable with lots of interesting challenges and opportunities to display truly artful combat.

On the first day I had a chance to cross swords with Frederico Malagutti from Italy and Petr Turya from Czechia. Frederico is thoughtful and precise with an eye toward fencing and centerline control—a joy to see! Petr is ferocious and joyous, he brought excellent blade control together with wrestling and closing all with a smile on his face. Thank you both for the fencing and sharing.

In addition to those two I also crossed blades with a couple old friends: Rob Rutherfoord and James Reilly. Rob is someone I always seek out to fence with any weapon. I had tremendously interesting bouts with him and enjoyed pushing him into some longsword bouts (a little out of his comfort zone). Later I used his Imbracciatura to fence sword and long shield with Jake from the Rocky Mountain Swordplay Guild. It was nice to check out Marozzo’s zulu shield for some passes.

I cornered James in a gap between workshops to have a discussion with me while also fencing. We both held up our sides of the verbal argument until the fencing, at longsword, got too interesting. Very few people can stack up four- and five-intention actions with me—it was a great mental workout.

Deed of Arms Knights. Photographer: Greg S. Warne
Sean Hayes (back) vs Devon Boorman (front). Photographer: Greg S. Warne

On Friday I participated in the WMAW Deed of Arms, an armoured combat tournament of sorts fought in a series of challenges between the participants. I have participated in these deeds for the past 10 years at both on- and off-year events and it has frequently been a highlight. This year was no exception. My opponents were Dan Christanson at spear, Sean Hayes at sword, and Kyle Lazz at sword. Dan gave me a real run at spear putting his dagger to good use a few times. Sean gave me an excellently technical bout at sword that was a highlight of the deed for me and my rematch with Kyle was diverse and interesting. I had such a good time with Kyle that I grabbed hm for 10 more passes after the deed had concluded.

You can watch the first part of the deed here. My bout with Dan is included at 17:43.

Also, a special thank you to Scott Martin for a new set of gothic arms and gauntlets that put the rest of my armour to shame—guess I have to go full gothic now!

Devon & Daniel Christianson

Before the Saturday night feast I was invited to demonstrate Italian rapier and rapier and dagger with my colleague John O’Meara from the Chicago Swordplay guild. The intent of these bouts is to show off the nature and sophistication of the art and I’m really happy with the bouts that John and I shared. John is a great fencer and it was really easy to get into some sophisticated actions with him even though we hadn’t fenced in a few years.

In addition to our bouts I was really impressed with the demonstrations from all the other instructors. Bill Grandy and Petr’s bout stood out to me for its dynamism and control. The Georgian sword and buckler and schotel bouts performed by Mike Cherba & Richard Tillman and Da’mon Stith and Spencer Waddell, respectively, had athletic level changes, surprises multi-intention attacks, and were just plain cool.

I recommend checking out the whole thing here. Mine and John’s demonstration bout starts at 19:22.

A few additional highlights included Da’mon sharing the art of Colombian double machete with me as well as my sweaty Sunday afternoon crossing swords on the green with so many including Allison, Nick, Sam, Jake, Andy, and Frederico. Thank you all.

Concluding Thoughts

WMAW aka “Sword Hogwarts” is always a magical event. The setting really makes for something that is both intimate as well as diverse. In a world dominated by tournament events, what I love most about WMAW is its focus on learning, exploration, and sharing. Thank you to Greg Mele, Nicole Allen, Jacques Marcott, and John O’Meara as well as everyone else at the CSG who makes this event happen. You did a superb job. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

See you all next week for the next Path of the Sword Newsletter and some new video content.

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