Escrima-Summercamp 2003 in Croatia with Grandmaster Bill Newman

As in previous years, escrimadores and WT-people from various countries came together for the annual summer camp in Vodice organised by the Croatian branch of the EWTO. This year a very special guest was expected, however: Escrima Grandmaster Bill Newman.

At 8.30 p.m. on 4th August 2003, GM Bill Newman and his wife Helen landed at the international airport in Split, where the temperature was no less than 36°C. They were met by the National Instructor for Croatia, Sifu Tihomir Kolar, and Bernd Hoyer (acting Chief Instructor for Escrima in Croatia). After an approx. one-hour drive along the rugged Dalmatian coast, the first item on the agenda was one of the inviting restaurants in the picturesque harbour town of Vodice, where local culinary specialities were served on the roof terrace – made entirely from ship's planks – which has a stunning view of Vodice's marina. The evening was rounded off with a glass of the famous Dalmatian wine and a firework display directly over the marina.

The first of five seminar days began next morning at 9.30 a.m.. The participants from Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Germany were all in the best of moods and looking forward to the week ahead. On the first day GM Bill Newman placed the emphasis on the individual training programmes. Every participant was well catered for, and had an opportunity to ask GM Bill Newman questions during and after the seminar.

On the second day GM Bill Newman went into more detail with the student and Technician programmes, and also showed a number of "short power" applications which were then intensively practiced by all. The highlight of the day was the presentation of a 3rd Technician certificate to the National Instructor for Croatia, Sifu Tihomir Kolar.
On the third day of the seminar the participants were all busy practicing the 5th SG sparring sequences when the editor-in-chief (Nadja Irena Fisic) of "Jutarnji List", one of Croatia's largest daily newspapers, made a surprise appearance. She had come specially from Zagreb, 300 km away, to interview GM Bill Newman about Escrima. Although under time pressure after the interview, she insisted on watching a demonstration by GM Bill Newman and was visibly impressed. GM Bill Newman showed various applications using a sword, sword and buckler, espada y daga, tonfa, staff, single stick and short power. At the end of the seminar Falk Welker (Escrima assistant for Croatia) and Jürgen Pottiez (Karlsruhe) were each awarded the 2nd TG.

On the penultimate day of the seminar, practice continued on the 5th SG sparring sequences, while the Technician programmes included sparring sequences with the sword and buckler, staff and dos manos (transition). That same day Sascha Böhringer (Escrima assistant for Croatia) was awarded his 1st TG after a successfully completed, special examination. Patrick Schmitt (Karlsruhe) passed the examination for assistant instructor. That was not the end of the "combat" strategy and tactics for the day, however, for in the afternoon most of the participants met up for a paintball session in a 300 year-old farmyard specially fenced off for the purpose. As in Escrima, it soon became clear that strategy and tactics were vital to "survival" here too. The "battle" raged for several hours, and despite thorn-bushes and plenty of bruises a great time was had by all. The last day of the seminar was devoted to intensive figure-eight practice with one and two weapons, as well as short power. At the end of the seminar week Bernd Hoyer received his 3rd TG.

The response by the participants to the seminar as a whole was more than positive, and all of them resolved to make sure they would be there next year as well. That evening, to conclude the week's activities, some of the seminar participants accompanied DM Bill Newman and his wife Helen to a fish restaurant on the island of Prvic near Vodice on a specially chartered boat. There was a charming view of the small village during the crossing. The restaurant was directly next to the sea, and live piano music drifted across from the nearby village square during the meal. The food was outstanding and the mood first-class. But as usual when one is enjoying oneself, the evening came to an end far too soon and the return trip began just before midnight. The night-time boat journey and myriad village lights playing on the water were a fascinating experience. All agreed wholeheartedly that the boat trip and fish supper on the island had been a very successful end to the seminar week in Croatia.

On one of the following days GM Bill Newman seized the opportunity of a boat trip to admire the famous waterfalls in the Krka national park. The Krka waterfalls are located in a large conservation area which is surrounded by mountains and features many picturesque lakes and rivers. On the way to the waterfalls one is already impressed by the beauty and variety of the flora and fauna in this region. The waterfalls and conservation area are named after the river Krka, whose course is marked by numerous cascades. Despite the drought which Croatia had suffered since January, these were still of enormous proportions.

All in all the seminar and stay in Croatia were very instructive and relaxing for everybody. The team supporting Sifu T. Kolar is already at work planning the Escrima seminar week for 2004, which will likewise be held by GM Bill Newman.

Text + photos: EWTO-HR