(Originally posted to Facebook, since the bulk of people who might be interested in my WMAW thoughts are there. But this is a good place for things, too.)
Executive Summary: Western Martial Arts Workshop (WMAW) 2022 was super cool and I look forward to 2024. Thoughts follow.
1) This was my first WMAW, and it was an excellent experience. There were so many excellent classes that more than once I had conflicts between really interesting options and had to make a difficult choice. Having taken those classes and spoken to folks who took other ones, I think I would have enjoyed every class out there.
2) I accidentally put together about 11 hours of classes on thrusts, which was really good for me, as I have been struggling with that a bit, and getting so much concentrated time on it in a short time was helpful. Obviously plenty left to work on, but this really helped drill some things that feel essential and help me feel like I have a better handle on how to get better.
3) I didn’t take enough grappling, but some of it had conflicts.
4) Friday was light, and while that helped me keep up on convention work (argh), I do kind of wish I’d taken more classes, as I heard great things about the ones I passed on.
5) Folks said my schedule was probably too much. I figured a) easy enough to bow out if so, and b) I’ve been doing Bujinkan seminars for over a decade, I can probably handle it. In the end…yeah. It was a lot like a long Bujinkan seminar (the longest I can recall is about 3 days, the Nagato-sensei seminar back in October). It was long! It was hard! It wasn’t overwhelming. I only had one moment of thinking about sitting out (by comparison, I think about dropping out of a GORUCK Tough event almost every time about 6 hours in). Physically, the event yielded pretty well to my standard convention/seminar/ruck event coping strategies of just keeping up with the physical needs (food, water, electrolytes, sleep) and having no shame about using Aleve or the like to keep the aches at bay. I do think I was short on water most of the event, but not so much as it really degraded anything. Just…man alive we sweat a lot and any time you’re in a mask (fencing, plague, otherwise) it’s hard to remember to break to drink water. One liter of water w/ electrolyte powder in the afternoon was perfect for the long days, so really I just needed more plain water. And maybe to have a couple more snacks, but overall good, basically adequate.
6) I think the rhythm of classes, passing periods, and meal breaks kept it pretty manageable, along with the variation of moving between subjects as you go from class to class. In future years, I’ll definitely consider a less academically intensive schedule for more breaks to maybe be social, or spar, or take notes or whatever. The DeKoven Center was a great place to just exist, and the way it’s laid out leaves a large central space in the middle of everything going on, so you can be not involved in classes but not isolated.
7) The “pop up” (wasn’t originally scheduled) lecture on Plataea was dangerous in that it definitely made going in 2024 an interesting idea. We shall see, but if nothing else it’s got me poking at learning more about the Aulos, which is a fascinating two-pipe double-reeded instrument, and the more I learn the more interesting it seems. Also it’s getting me to think about my practice chanter and bombarde and play with them more, so that’s to the good in any case. Besides, what’s one more “weird” instrument and style?
8) I only sparred on Friday night, and I have mixed feelings about that. The sparring opportunities were cool, and while I sparred 3 of 4 matches w/ other CSG members, it was still my first time sparring w/ steel and that was new, plus one of those folks I haven’t sparred before. My hand protection is a bit light (waiting on my Visby gauntlets, but they’re coming from Age of Craft in Ukraine, so like…fair, they’ll get here when they get here), and I definitely felt that, as I caught a really solid cut to a fingertip. I was worried it was broken, but I got off light, it was just a right smart bruise, and some ice and compression when I went back to my hotel seems to have kept it from being too bad — I’m going climbing tomorrow, so we’ll see how well it has healed. So with that in mind, I’m glad I didn’t also spar on Thursday because who knows if I’d have pushed my luck too far? There’s no perfect protection, but I’ll feel much more like I’m not taking an unreasonable risk w/ better gloves.
9) My standard seminar rule is “always go to the big dinner,” and this was no exception. Lots of good company, sat with fairly-new people (like, nobody I’d met before the weekend) for dinner, chatted w/ folks in the wandering around time. Of course got to see the great pre-dinner demos (video). The food was fun, and I haven’t seen a whole roast pig at a dinner in like 30 years, so that was cool.
10) Getting to meet and learn from a whole bunch of new instructors was great. Absolutely excellent all, with a very interesting range of approaches to training. Will definitely keep an eye out for other training opportunities with all of them, as well as the others who taught but I didn’t get to train with — “Instructor at WMAW” is definitely an endorsement.
11) I got to chat w/ a couple of the instructors I’d known about through their works and really respected, and in addition to just being enjoyable conversations, it was comforting/humanizing/heartening to hear the sorts of things they think and worry about as martial artists. Basically just “Oh hey these folks I respect who are doing really cool things worry about similar things.” For example, I worry about that not conveying the right feeling and instead coming across as arrogant or even belittling, which is extremely not the intent, but I can’t find better words, so we’ll ship it anyway.
12) I took surprisingly few notes. That said, I feel like I captured a few key-to-me points from pretty much every class, and that’s a good feeling. Getting a few coherent takeaways from a couple hours of brisk-paced class is pretty good, given the number of seminars where I took like two notes for the whole weekend because it was hard to understand at a level where I could write something useful. I could probably write a whole other thing on how my martial arts note-taking has fluctuated over the years, and the more localized fluctuations in it now. But this weekend definitely settled onto “a few key points” mode.
As above, so below: I had a great time, and I look forward to the 2023 retreat and 2024’s WMAW. The training was great, but the social/community aspect, which I didn’t spend a lot of time on was very important and a major component of why the experience is so good. Plus, frankly, good community makes for a better training environment.
(Not originally included, but here’s video folks took from the Armored Deed of Arms on Friday evening.)