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NZWMA 2008

Over the weekend, the New Zealand Western Martial Arts 2008 conference was held in Upper Hutt, Wellington. Bob Charron of St Martin's Academy of Medieval Arms in Wisconsin, USA presented a comprehensive four-day introductory course to Fiore dei Liberi's wrestling, dagger, sword, and longsword system. His wife Kristi also lectured on medieval horsemanship, while additional classes were run by other instructors on Le Jeu de la Hache d'arms pollax, German messer, Vigny cane, I.33, bareknuckle boxing, and rapier. The full conference timetable is available at the New Zealand Schools of European Martial Arts website.

Although the four days were very tiring, and it was difficult to mimic and retain even quite basic techniques by the end of the conference due to information overload, it was unquestionably worthwhile. I particularly gained a great deal from the dagger and wrestling classes, which helped to explain and cement a number of biomechanical principles which had been floating around in my head without any procedural knowledge to anchor on. This process was greatly assisted by Bob's outstanding teaching skills—his knowledge of Fiore is phenomenal, such that he makes it all look very easy and simple; and this is translated into his teaching style, which breaks things down into a highly structured class which helps students to grasp techniques as the sum of their parts. I learned as much from his method of teaching as I did from the content of the courses themselves, and I hope that what I have absorbed will greatly increase my own abilities as an instructor.

All told, I cannot recommend these conferences highly enough to those in the New Zealand HEMA community. I know it takes a leap of faith to invest the significant time and money required to attend, but I can vouch that it is more than worth it. Particular thanks must go to Colin McKinstry for organizing the event and for providing accommodation for myself and others. Thanks also to Tristan Leslie for doing so much chauffeuring; especially after his car's clutch started to smoke and he had to hire a car.

Looking toward NZWMA 2009, there are currently no plans for a guest speaker this time, but we will probably be focusing on core principles: biomechanics, measure, timing, safety, and the like. Options are being discussed for expanding the types of courses and activities provided, and for involving students more in the classes so as to encourage the scholastic approach that the Schools of European Martial Arts are all about. Members of the schools are invited to participate in this discussion on the forums, in the thread Towards NZWMA 2009.

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