Lübeck, June 2009

Grandmaster Of Swordplay Live In Lübeck

Please don't try this at home. These are trained professionals: Grandmaster Bill Newman (2nd left) and Michael Welge from Lübeck (2nd right) presenting swordplay techniques.

Lübeck - Escrima is a sport and an art - in Lübeck Michael Welge is teaching the triad of self-defense, tournament and medieval weapons. Injuries are hard to find. This time, a VIP payed a visit.

It was a mild and cosy summer's day in Lübeck. Maybe a stroll through the town or simply sitting outside a nice café would be a good idea - not for some guys from Lübeck. At the courtyard of the Remise where cold beverages are served, a constant hammering noise can be heard. Up on the 3rd level with windows wide open, there's hard work going on. 30 men and women preferred the athletic challenge instead of a relaxing chill-out.

Host of the Wing Tsun-School is Michael Welge, a local from Lübeck and today's examiner for the student's and teacher's graduations. But first, there is a special presentation, held above the rooftops of Lübeck. The beautiful view to the Marienkirche is not really honoured by those four guys, armed with real but edgeless swords. Grandmaster Bill Newman (10th Master's grade), Michael Welge (3rd Teacher's grade) and their comrades-in-arms Bernd Hoyer (5th Master's grade) and Sascha Böhringer (3rd Teacher's grade) are demonstrating a little sample of their skills on medieval weapons. The accomplished performance shows one- and two-handed swords, battle swords and even the glaive. The main focus is on countering aimed attacks. Grandmaster Bill Newman comments: "Everything we show here has been trained intensively. We are very concerned about our own safety. That's why I never had any serious injuries." Given the drive and speed at which the sword blades clash, the bodies of the combatants move and turn handily, this is hard to believe. Still, every single action is accurate and precisely down to the point.

Back to reality, back to the basics of Escrima, back to the students which are not armed with swords but rattan sticks instead, performing various techniques and movements, and constantly guided and corrected by Michael Welge and most notably "Master Bill". It is a great honour that Bill Newman, a 69-year-old Englishman with expressive features, is here for a visit. "Master Bill is the head of our Escrima, he's a true pioneer in these regards. We owe him so much.", explains Michael Welge, who's in real life a teacher for sports and English at the Katharineum. Just like Grandmaster Bill Newman, his role model and teacher, who developed this versatile sport to become a complex system to be tought (focus on self-defense, tournament and handling of medieval weapons), he too is very active mainly in the northern parts of Germany. His wide range of activities include workshops at schools, women's self-defense, general education, Escrima presentations (like the ones at the Langenzell castle in Heidelberg) and even team educations for police officers (like in Lübeck and Eutin) and special forces like SEK, GSG 9 or Cobra (Austria). And it was him, Michael Welge, who founded the very first Wing Tsun school in Belfast (North Ireland) in 1989, which is still run today by someone else in charge.

Many years later, that 42-year-old guy has become a teacher, a knight above the rooftops of Lübeck, using his skills and art to inspire and captivate students.

Original text and pictures by Peter Mantik Lübecker Nachrichten
Translation by: The Navigator