First part of my time during the Vital Target Combat (VTC) event hosted by Unified Weapons Master (UWM). Click here to check out the second part!
I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time now. As you may recall, my last post was about how I’d gotten picked as one of the first fighters to fight in Unified Weapon Master’s (UWM) test event.
The intention was to write this post once my fight video from the test event had been published online, but alas. Shortly after they published the first fight video, UWM was contacted by a number of media production companies that were all highly interested in the rights to the remaining videos. Long story short; in a recent press release it was announced that they will be partnering with Bunim/Murray Productions to produce a TV show around the next UWM Call to Arms, and unseen VTC1 footage could obviously bring a lot of value to that venture. However, you can still view that first fight video below – Red Rock vs Ironheart:
A million views, not bad
As is common, life threw a spanner in the works. The month leading up the event was a challenging one, where my family and I moved from Sydney to Brisbane. With only a few weeks to go I had no academy, no gym and no training partner. So I explored the neighbourhood and found a local Karate dojo that advertised weapons training (amongst others) and explained my situation to the dojo’s Shihan. We worked out an agreement where I could spar now and then with one of his black belts, who would use a Shinai to simulate the Katana they would normally use.
When the time came I was able to travel to Wellington, New Zealand to attend the first ever UWM event. Apparently the other fighters had all arrived already and gotten to know each other. From watching the UFC show ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, I expected the worst – thuggish behaviours, butting egos and producers hungry for drama. I was thoroughly relieved to find that the UWM team ran a much more professional event!
The fighter themselves were an interesting bunch – trained in Kenjutsu, Kung Fu and HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and of different nationalities and backgrounds. What they all had in common were the traits that are usually cultivated through martial arts; a focused mindset, respectful manners and a quiet but solid sense of confidence. That, and a keen interest in seeing the UWM vision succeed – to honour, preserve and reignite weapons martial arts that have been practised and developed over thousands of years and using modern technology create a new, global combat sport and entertainment experience.
The UWM team had a done a great job in selecting their ‘Original Six’, as we came to be called. Every one of us had a strength to him – ranging from Rory Trend who gave a sense of a grounded, almost immovable stability (Red Rock, indeed) to Jim Campbell, whose underlying ferocity often saw him in heated debates. Other qualities shone through as well, like Burak’s habit of thoroughly analysing every matter at hand. UWM had also given us ring names, with mine being an easy pick – ‘Wolf’, from Lobo, which had been my Capoeira nickname since many years.
Next followed a couple of days of all things UWM – armour fitting, shooting promos and training for the upcoming fights. As a the premier event, it was crucial to get everything right. There was a whole team dedicated to the Lorica, as the high-tech suit of armour had been named. The men and women in this team put in an obscene amount of effort, working around the clock to get everything in place for the upcoming event. The below image is from the event’s pit crew, showing some but not all involved.
Personally I found the armour very different from what I was used to, as my style (Jow Ga Kung Fu) relied more on agility than force. I had a feeling I’d come to regret not training in heavier gear, but the time for regret was long past. In spite of the suit weighing in about 19kgs the range of motion was surprisingly wide, allowing for kicks and even cartwheels. The Lorica was also extremely protective, as would show later in the strike testing. Wearing a helmet with such weight and restriction of vision was new to me. We all needed to adapt to the mechanics of the armour. For example, I personally found out that throwing roundhouse kicks was a bad idea – although the weight behind the technique gave it much more power, the added momentum also “carried” you past the target and left your side and back wide open to counterattacks.
We also got to test out the weapons we would use in the fights. UWM had taken requests from us fighters beforehand and provided synthetic versions of our weapons of choice. The others grabbed their weapons and tested them out, commenting on their point of balance, reach and so on. I had initially opted to use a twin set of the Chinese Dao sabres as my weapon of choice, but after some early testing with the synthetic version I quickly realised they would be too unwieldy for me to use with proper skill (not so for Red Rock; with his massive physique, those things were like toys). So as per my request, I would instead fight with two sticks, as commonly seen in Filipino martial art of Escrima. But make no mistake – even though I was fighting with sticks, my techniques and tactics were still straight out of the Kung Fu sword techniques I had learnt at the Jow Ga Kung Fu Academy.
We set out to test the synthetics with some friendly sparring, which may have gotten somewhat passionate at times. Immediately I found that I had made a good choice with the sticks. As this first event would focus on inflicting blunt trauma, the simple but sturdy sticks provided a great balance between speed, dexterity and forceful impact. I also got the see the others in action, giving me a healthy dose of respect for every fighter. As it hadn’t been announced who would be fighting who, I tried to get a read on each participant in order to get a head start on my upcoming fight.
The event was now only a day or two away, and so we moved base to the TV studio where the fights would take place. For the first time, we got to see the arena had been set up for the event. A wide circular area, ringed by a wooden barrier, was surrounded by lighting rigs and cameras. The walls were adorned with large banners of each fighter, with the Lorica now sporting our respective livery. For us fighters, change rooms and a spacious training room with practise targets had been set up. Meanwhile, the UWM team wasted no time in setting up their armour workshop, tech command center and media hub. The stage was set.
It was not long before we were told to gather in the arena as the fight draws were about to be announced. On the way there, I looked at the others and kept wondering – which of these guys would I be fighting?
To be continued…