Love, Sex, God

WMA Camp report by Colin "Gabriel" Hatcher

WMA CAMP – JULY 12, 13, 14, 2007, IN RIGA, LATIVIA



Mr. Colin Gabriel Hatcher – Instructor Schola Saint George

Instructor’s Assistant:

Mr. Patrik Olterman (Compagno SSG Riga, WSD Founder & Principale)


(Note, Mr. Olterman’s WSD Riga is a contemporary martial self-defence and survival system built from Fiore’s grappling, dagger and sword fighting system, which employs similar ranking titles to SSG, so read carefully below!)

1. Representing BOTH SSG Riga and WSD Riga

Ms. Erika Kozlovska (Zugadore, SSG Riga; Scholara, WSD Riga)
Ms. Karina Kozlovska (Zugadore, SSG Riga; Scholara, WSD Riga)
Ms. Darta Seso (Zugadore, SSG Riga; Scholara, WSD Riga)

2. Representing SSG Riga alone

Mr. Arturs Baltacis (Captain, Salvation Army, Zugadore, SSG Riga)
Mr. Vitalij Kirilkin (Zugadore, SSG Riga)
Mr. Tengiz Pruidze (Zugadora, SSG Riga)

3. Representing WSD Riga alone
Ms. Anna-Marta Sveisberga (Compagna, WSD Riga)
Ms. Anette Vasarja (Compagna, WSD Riga)
Ms. Linda Silina (Compagna, WSD Riga)
Ms. Astrida Kozlovska (Scholara, WSD Riga)
Ms. Marika Kozlovska (WSD Riga)

4. Representing themselves
Mr. Dimitrij Karol (Riga)

5. Representing Mr. Guy Windsor’s School of European Swordsmanship (SES) in Finland
Mr. Ilkka Hartikainen (SES)
Ms. Maaret Sirkkala (SES)
Mr. Jukka Salminen (SES)
Mr. Daavid Vaananen (SES)
Mr. Joell Takala (SES)

6. Honorary presence
Ms. Hanna Olterman (Instructor, WSD Riga), who attended the camp but did not train, and instead generously dedicated herself for the three days to caring for the Oltermans’ two very young children, thereby freeing up her husband Mr. Olterman to fully participate and assist Mr. Hatcher in instruction. Ms. Olterman’s self-sacrifice and extreme generosity was not unnoticed, as Mr. Hatcher knows how much she loves to fight.

PROGRAM – subjects covered

1. Fiore’s Abrazare (Grappling), footwork, basics, concepts, guards
2. Falling, locking and binding safely
3. Abrazare (Grappling) basics
4. Dagger v. Dagger basics
5. Fiore’s Segno discussion and presentation
6. Longsword basics, footwork, guards, concepts
7. Fiore’s Zhogo Largo basic concepts and plays
8. Fiore’s Zhogo Stretto basic concepts and plays
9. Chivalry discussion
10. Tournament preparation and rituals
11. Mini longsword tournament at half speed
12. Free play opportunities throughout

In the beautiful setting of the Skangale Schoolhome in Skangale, Latvia, SSG Riga and WSD Riga played host to three days of Fiore, chivalry and fellowship, under the instruction of Colin Gabriel Hatcher, of SSG, flying into Riga from San Francisco, California, USA. Five members of Mr. Guy Windsor’s SES also flew in from Finland to make an enjoyable international mix. SSG Riga is isolated geographically from other SSG groups, being the only SSG group to date outside of the USA. Therefore it was with great pleasure that Mr. Hatcher was able to attend and preside over the three day camp.

Mr. Hatcher’s mission was to provide some basics tuition in Fiore’s system, including Abrazare and Dagger/Dagger (specifically requested by WSD Riga) and for SSG to review the Elephant and Tiger courses of SSG Riga (basics and Zhogo Largo) culminating in an examination of the Riga SSG group for their yellow belts (Elephant), and to examine Mr. Olterman for his SSG blue belt (Tiger). Mr. Hatcher also looked at Fiore’s Zhogo Stretto basics, illustrated by several Zhogo Stretto plays (first, second, fifth and thirteenth Remedy plays of the Scholar of the First Master of Zhogo Stretto).

First day
The Fiore basics class began on the first morning with footwork drills of Fiore’s basic x-pattern footwork – the two forward steps and the two rearward steps. From there the class looked at the Four Magistri de Battaglia (Four Masters of Battle), the three tempi (duo, mezzo and stesso), coverta and rebattimento (covering and setting aside), Fiore’s seven swords (7 attack directions) and the concept of moving inside or outside the attack line. From there to the falling and locking basics, the class practiced simple backwards and forwards falls, and looked at how to apply and receive locks safely, given their destructive capacity on the joints. The afternoon’s two hours of classes were Abrazare basics – looking at the basic body holds (prese, or clinches) employed and the throws that come from them; and then the class looked at some simple dagger v. dagger drilling to understand the Four Masters of Battle and two of Fiore’s four attack directions for dagger, drilled in both duo tempo and mezzo tempo. Very high quality food was served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the evening Mr. Hatcher gave a powerpoint presentation of Fiore’s Four Animals, and the class discussed the meanings of the Segno and how they might be applied to sword-fighting.

Second day
The second day was a longsword day, in which the class played for four hours or so with tactics, concepts and plays from Fiore’s Zhogo Largo, and thereafter with some Zhogo Stretto plays and concepts added too. In this Mr. Hatcher made sure to include the Elephant and Tiger syllabuses of SSG. Students were all diligent, attentive and dedicated, and Mr. Hatcher saw much drilling of high quality.

Next came the grading of the Riga SSG group. Five students were testing for yellow belt. Testing consisted of theoretical discussion, practical demonstration of Fiore’s poste and basic plays, sparring with each other and then Mr. Hatcher sparred with each student to see how they performed their form under a little pressure. Mr. Hatcher found their performances to be superlative, which came as no surprise to him given that the five had been faithfully taught the SSG program by Mr. Olterman and given that they have been training with SSG for one year. Mr. Hatcher did in fact test the students on both the SSG Elephant and the Tiger syllabus, and was personally satisfied that these students have competence, attributes and understanding at the blue belt level.

In the evening Mr. Olterman and Mr. Hatcher held a chivalry discussion, talking about how the chivalric values might be important in the modern world and why. A very good discussion with many excellent contributions from the group. Once again the meals provided by the Skangale Schoolhome were extraordinary in their high quality.

Third day
The third day began with an outline of tournament ritual, a discussion of how the chivalric values applied to the tournament, which ones the instructors were particularly looking for in the tournament (courage, prowess, generosity, courtesy and humility) and why SSG as a school loves to tourney. A shower of rain drove the class into the big hall (all prior training had taken place outdoors). Due to the hard wooden floor, and the instructor’s emphasis on safety, the tournament was to be played at half speed and half impact, using modified bamboo shinai bearing the excellent hilts made by SSG’s own Scott of Ardenwood Forge in SSG Bay Area, California. As always these shinai being so well balanced by Scott performed very well in their capacity as simulated swords.

The tournament was played with great courtesy and ritual. It began with a calibration exercise to get everyone used to fighting at half speed and half impact. Thereafter teams were selected, with Mr. Hatcher and Mr. Windsor’s SES students being the Tennans (holding the field) while SSG Riga and WSD Riga were the Vennans (challengers for the field). Teams having been selected, the Vennans were invited by Marshall Mr. Olterman to step forth and issue their challenges. Despite the fact that the Vennans were facing a much more experienced team (which was of course the point), challenges were boldly and courteously given, and humbly and courteously accepted. An excellent tournament spirit was created simply by this challenge ritual (which is why it was done).

The tournament began. Everyone (including Mr. Hatcher!) struggled to keep things slow and soft, given the adrenaline rush, and ultimately everyone succeeded. Overall the group displayed good Fiorean form and great spirit was seen from all, both warrior spirit and joyous laughter. The tournament was played to three good blows, and had a Marshall (Mr. Olterman) judging the strikes of the participants. All fighters had fencing masks, elbow points, gorgets and padded gloves. Much mirth was generated as Mr. Hatcher interrupted several engagements to respectfully request the point be replayed slower, due to him being an old man and his eyes having been damaged by the speed of the fight. The fact that there were no injuries proved that the competitors all displayed more than adequate control of the sword. Much amusement was also generated as several competitors sought to apply the thirteenth Remedy play of the Scholar of the First Master of Zhogo Stretto. Mr. Hatcher had the day before offered a prize of $100.00 to anyone who could apply that play at speed (Mr. Hatcher calls this sword taking play “the Clock”), and $200.00 to anyone who could do it on him. Mr. Baltacis did in fact manage to perform the Clock twice while fighting Mr. Hatcher in the tournament, but generously refused to take Mr. Hatcher’s money on the grounds that Mr. Hatcher had said “at full speed”, and the tournament was fought at half speed.

One of the highlights of the tournament (for Mr. Olterman at least!) was the defeat of Mr. Hatcher by 14 year old WSD student Ms. Anna-Marta Sveisberga (or as Mr. Olterman publicly and loudly announced it with a huge grin “the demise of an old man at the hands of a 14 year old girl.” ) Young Ms. Sveisberga smiled. Mr. Hatcher smiled too, for Ms. Sveisberga, all 14 years of her, had earlier stepped up to M. Hatcher in the challenges and boldly challenged him to fight, which all present agreed was a feat of great courage, not least because Mr. Hatcher is more than three times her age, with 30 years of martial experience.

The tournament concluded, Mr. Olterman and Mr. Hatcher discussed who should be chosen as the day’s Champions. Three were chosen.: Mr. Baltacis was selected for his prowess at performing the Clock not once but twice on Mr. Hatcher, and for his generosity and courtesy in refusing the prize. He was awarded Mr. Hatcher’s personal waster, a pair of SSG light sparring/training gloves and a copy of Mr. Windsor’s excellent book The Swordsman’s Companion. Ms. Karina Koslovska was chosen as a Champion for her extraordinary Lion qualities. Not only on the previous day when sparring Mr. Hatcher had she rushed Mr. Hatcher before he had time to rush her (no mean feat given Mr. Hatcher’s love of rushing his opponent), but she continued her boldness of spirit in the tournament by challenging opponents she thought had the most prowess and then consistently attacking aggressively in the engagement. Ms. Koslovska was awarded Mr. Olterman’s personal copy of Raymond Lull’s Book of Chivalry, for the chivalric display of courage, boldness and warrior spirit (Mr. Hatcher named her “The Lion of Riga”). The final Champion of the day was Ms. Sirkkala of SES, whose perfect posta forms performed at half speed while fighting, resembling a beautiful Fiorean Tai Chi, earned her the prize for loyalty (to the Fiorean system and to the aesthetic of the tournament), courtesy and generosity towards her opponent. Ms. Sirkkala was awarded Mr. Hatcher’s personal copy of Raymond Lull’s Book of Chivalry.

Next came a non-SSG event: a knighting ceremony, in which Mr. Hatcher was given the great honor of being the person knighted. He is now a Knight of the Order of the Disciple Knight, having been so knighted by Salvation Army Captain and ordained minister Mr. Baltacis. The Order of the Disciple Knight is a Christian Order created some time ago by Mr. Olterman to preside over the implementation and application of the chivalric virtues to day to day life, through the mentoring of squires, that is persons applying to participate in the Order’s chivalric mentoring program and dedicating themselves to leading a chivalrous life. The Order’s squire-mentoring project is named, appropriately, Knight School. Mr. Hatcher becomes the first Knight of this Order, and while testifying that he felt unworthy to be so honored, pledged an oath to meet the great obligation placed upon him, in being a role model for all those squires in the Order’s program. It should be noted that Mr. Olterman, who created this Order and who is running Knight School on a weekly basis as a teacher and great role model himself, has humbly placed himself in the program as a squire. Such humility does not go unnoticed by Mr. Hatcher, who has known Mr. Olterman for fifteen years and knows well the mettle of his character.

In the next ceremony, also a Knight School ceremony, a group of Riga squire-aspirants were presented to Mr. Hatcher to request admittance to Knight School as squires. The squire-aspirants were duly accepted and continue their studies and practices, under the highly qualified eyes of Mr. Olterman.

Finally in a third ceremony, Mr. and Ms. Olterman’s younger daughter Anya was officially dedicated to God (the Salvation Army equivalent of baptism) and Mr. Hatcher was officially (and proudly) appointed her Godfather.

It should be noted that while all attendees at the SSG/WSD WMA Camp were invited to attend and bear witness, all participants were informed that the Knight School ceremonies, Anya Olterman’s dedication to God by her parents and Mr. Hatcher’s appointment as Godfather to Anya Olterman were not in any way Schola Saint George events and were separate from the Fiore WMA camp. While it has many Christians in it, SSG is not a religious organization. It was however a pleasure to see that all WMA attendees chose to witness the ceremonies, regardless of whether they were Christians or not.

And so, regretfully, the three day Fiore camp was over, and it must be said that in the opinion of Mr. Hatcher, it was extremely well organized, great fun, and extremely successful. Indeed, Mr. Hatcher even managed to get a little time with Mr. Windsor’s students who kindly taught him a few things about Mr. Windsor’s current approach to Fiore. Thank you SES students for your great courtesy. Both Mr. Hatcher and Mr. Olterman enjoyed the company of the Finns, who were very good role models for Mr. Windosr’s school.

And so, full marks and congratulations to Riga SSG, who all easily qualified for their yellow belts and who clearly demonstrated that they are far above that rank in their ability and knowledge of the SSG system (they have been training diligently for one year). Congratulations to Mr. Olterman for all his dedication and hard work in making this great event happen, for his superlative assistance in the instruction and for easily qualifying for his SSG blue belt (and of course for his excellent instruction of his SSG students). A big thank you to our hosts – Salvation Army of Latvia and Skangale Schoolhome. And a special thank you to Hanna Olterman for watching over the kids, no mean feat considering the kids (who are delightful and much loved) are like Fiore’s four animals gone wild! Ms. Olterman: you were seen, not forgotten and much much appreciated.

And to all of our new found friends, we look forward to a repeat event next year. Let us all continue to train and fight in the chivalric manner and continue to develop fellowship through that fighting!

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