Between September 9-13, the beautiful 19th century campus of the DeKoven Center (Racine, Wisconsin) was the venue for the 10th annual Western Martial Arts Weekend conference. This was the first year that Bartitsu was included in the WMAW lineup.
The conference was sold out some months in advance, having attracted a record-breaking 160 participants from 6 countries. As we enjoyed perfect weather every day, almost all of the classes took place under the oak trees on the DeKoven Center lawns, with 4 classes of (typically) 40 students each training in a panoply of Western martial arts disciplines. Students were able to choose classes from four “tracks” including Fundamentals, Medieval Martial Arts, Renaissance and Early Modern Martial Arts and Close-Quarters Combat.
The 3-hour Bartitsu seminar took place on the morning of Day 4 and began with a precis of the cultural history of Bartitsu. The three major “themes” of this seminar were initiative control via pre-emptive striking/feinting and invitation, alignment control via efficient biomechanics and the process of martial improvisation.
We began with a series of basic exercises in alignment – using one’s own posture and skeletal structure, represented as a triangle, to control a partner’s triangle to the point of imbalance. These exercises were then formalised into a selection of basic boxing and savate techniques and into some examples of canonical jiujitsu kata.
The neo-Bartitsu process of “twisting” canonical sequences into improvisational exercises was then applied to the kata, and subsequently to a series of Bartitsu stick fighting set-plays. Participants were challenged to spontaneously recover the initiative after “something goes wrong” with the set-play (for example, the opponent defeats a particular technique; how to flow with the disruption and re-establish control of the fight?)
I was very happy with the students’ progress and particularly enjoyed working with some fellow Bartitsu practitioners from clubs in Seattle and San Francisco, who also asked for an informal private lesson.
In all, WMAW 2009 bodes very well for the continued growth of interest and enthusiasm for Bartitsu in the wider Western martial arts community.