As some of you may recall, we had a really positive response to the very early designs for the women’s “UWM Amazon” armour we released several months ago (see picture), and fielded enquiries from a number of experienced female weapons martial arts warriors at that time keen to join their male counterparts in early UWM test events.
While we still have some way to go in terms of producing a customised women’s Lorica, there may be an opportunity sooner rather than later for female weapons fighters to put the Lorica to a competitive test wearing a customised version of the male Lorica. We are also considering prize money for the winner in the area of USD$15-20,000 or even more.
If you’re an experienced female weapons martial artist and are interested in being a global pioneer for women in weapons martial arts, in a UWM event, could you please send us a message asap via Facebook, post a comment here or register your interest by email at [email protected]
Also, if you know of any great women weapons fighters we should reach out to, please let us/them know.
Thanks everyone.

Pugno, Ergo Sum
UWM

 

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With our “Meet the VTC1 Team” Series we get up close and personal with some of the key personalities behind VTC1 including the fighters, the referee, our technical controller and armour designer to get their thoughts on VTC1 – what worked well, what challenges they faced, the many “lessons learned” and the next steps on the journey to create the Formula 1 of combat sports.

We recently had a chat with Scott Brailey, a member of the UWM combat development team, who has previously battle tested the Mk I armour, and who worked closely with the six fighters to help them adjust to combat in the Lorica Mk II.

 

The Trainer

Tell us about your involvement in UWM.

Prior to VTC 1 my primary role was combat testing of the Lorica Mk I. Feedback from that experience was vital for the evolution of the current Lorica Mk II.

 

What was your role in VTC1?

Having combat tested the Lorica Mk I, I was in a unique position to act as a trainer for the six fighters. I also functioned as the “Master of Arms”, with responsibility for the safety checking and provision of the fighters’ weapons for each match.

 

You have worn the Lorica Mk I in a battle-test situation – could you describe the experience?

It was confronting! The Lorica Mk I was heavier, had no cooling system, and was built from different materials to the Lorica Mk II. The field of view was smaller and the airflow into the helmets was limited. The upside though was the feeling of safety when wearing the Lorica. You still dealt with the inertia of a blow but the initial impact force was dispersed exceptionally well throughout the armour.

 

Having gone through a rigorous test event with multiple weapons what are some of the challenges that the fighters need to contend with in terms of fighting in the Lorica?

The fighters have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. There is a sensory overload when you first wear the Lorica. You have to adjust to the weight distribution, your focal point has to change when looking through the visor to maximise peripheral vision. You get very hot, time seems to slow down and your breathing is somewhat restricted by the armour.

 

How do the fighters need to adapt their training style when wearing the Lorica?

Fighters need to adjust to their new dimensions, figure out their mobility restrictions and adapt or abandon techniques accordingly. In preparation to fight in the Lorica fighters need to train wearing extra weight, limit heat loss, restrict their vision and respiration rate.

 

As the VTC trainer how did you prepare the fighters for VTC 1?

My focus was fighter safety. All fighters were tested or trained on their break falls as they were now carrying an extra 18kg. We tested their conditioning in full armour to help determine the length of the rounds. Many of the styles represented by the fighters use weapon techniques based on the cutting edge, when weapon sparring without armour or with light armour you have to decelerate the weapon before impact, however, in the Lorica you don’t. As VTC 1 was a blunt trauma simulation I worked with each fighter adjusting cutting techniques into crushing blows.

 

What are some of the key observations you saw on the day as to how the different fighters reacted to their first time fighting in the Lorica?

Fighters who had worn armour (European and Japanese) before adapted faster to wearing the Lorica. The vision restriction really affected one fighter. It was much hotter in the armour than all the fighters expected. Every fighter gained a higher respect for the styles of the other competitors. Every fighter felt he was under conditioned. Most importantly they all left as friends.

Unified Weapons Master - Avalon Studios, Lower Hutt, New Zealand on Thursday 31 March 2016. Photo by Masanori Udagawa. www.photowellington.photoshelter.com.

VTC 1 Trainer Scott Brailey with Jim ‘Fierce’ Campbell (right) and Josh ‘Ironheart’ Bekker (left).
Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

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With our “Meet the VTC1 Team” Series we get up close and personal with some of the key personalities behind VTC1 including the fighters, the referee, our technical controller and armour designer to get their thoughts on VTC1 – what worked well, what challenges they faced, the many “lessons learned” and the next steps on the journey to create the Formula 1 of combat sports.

The Armour Designer

What considerations did you need to bear in mind when designing the Lorica Mark II? 

One of the key things was the scale ability of production levels.  The ability to produce in reasonable low volumes and then, if required, extend to higher volume is often impossible or over-looked in design particularly with prototyping. Many great products have failed as they were unable to meet early high production demand. We are very aware, from the feedback of our growing fanbase, that we need to be able to move to production quickly.

How did the Lorica Mark II differ from the Lorica Mark I and how did this impact on the design? 

Our first suit was built very much as a prototype. We outsourced production within Wellington’s film industry and used rubber as a base material to help absorb shock.

The suit was heavier and somewhat cumbersome so restrictive for fighting. The electronics were generally an installed addition after suit production so the level of tech was limited by the mass of the suit.

Our second suit draws from my motorsport design and engineering background, specifically borrowing from Formula 1 and aerospace technologies. Most of the production took place in our new specialist Wellington workshop, with some outsourced to motorsport manufacturing stalwarts in Europe.

The suit is made of a carbon fibre composite and is a much lighter, stronger suit than the Mark I. While the design seeks to retain and progress the aesthetic and successes of Mark I, it is far more complex. Essentially, to protect the electronics, we’ve designed and built two suits in one – the outer layer and inner chassis layer working to encapsulate the electronics.  Under that we have a purpose-built technical suit, harnessing the layers to the fighter.

The shape of the armour takes in to consideration the hard armour material and the current sensor technology requirements. I compare the Mark II to a car in terms of its total complexity, while the Mark I was more our starting point – critical costume prototyping.

How is the Mark II superior to the Mark I design? 

The weight and density of the materials means we have a lighter more mobile suit.

It works with the fighter and affords improved dynamic performance. The suit is stronger and protection is far superior. We have also improved the thermal control. All this ensures comfortable fighters and exciting, faster, lengthier combat events.

What changes will you incorporate into the next iteration of the suit as a result of VTC1 and feedback from fighters? 

Across the business we are looking at numerous options for refining and adding to our electronics. These changes should give us a reduced suit profile, ultimately eliminating bulk and extending coverage beyond vital areas. Very exciting times!

As the designer how do you balance off safety, functionality and weight while designing the Lorica armour? 

The first priority is always safety. This is a difficult part of a triangle of design – encompassing safety, weight and mobility in the Lorica.  We combine extensive consultation with very experienced fighters and sound engineering principles to bias the triangle to suit the needs of our sport. This is a standard dilemma in motorsport and aerospace industries.

We are lucky to have access to cutting-edge light, strong materials and, with materials and fabric technologies rapidly advancing, our options for achieving safety, weight and mobility are only growing!

What was the greatest challenge in designing the Lorica Mark II?  

The greatest challenge when designing the Mk II suit was making very rigid technical armour that worked with the fighter.

This of course has already been done very successfully for centuries, however what has not been done before is to make hard armour that satisfies the needs of high impact sensor technology as well as protecting against weapons-based martial arts.

Ancient armour was designed to protect the wearer from existing relevant combat styles and weapon technologies. Our armour must protect against pan-global weapon combat styles of any era and has the additional design challenges of requiring secondary armour layers (to protect the vital electronic systems and sensors).

These challenges mean we have developed and implemented many world-first technologies within the armour. Excitingly, there are many more new technologies to come out over the next few years as we roll out new designs and improve current solutions based on our real combat testing.

So the greatest challenge was designing armour that protects both our precious fighters and sensor tech, with a profile slim enough to ensure mobility and so give us great entertaining combat action!

VTC 1 The Armour Designer.

VTC 1 The Armour Designer. Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

 

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With our “Meet the VTC1 Team” Series we get up close and personal with some of the key personalities behind VTC1 including the fighters, the referee, our technical controller and armour designer to get their thoughts on VTC1 – what worked well, what challenges they faced, the many “lessons learned” and the next steps on the journey to create the Formula 1 of combat sports.

The Technical Controller

What did your role involve?

My role was to ensure that the technology in the Lorica suits was operating correctly and to manage the operation of the scoring system. With the Lorica suits it involved bringing all of the eight independent sensor systems in each suit online, ensuring that they had power and were operating correctly and communicating with the scoring system. I was also responsible for the communications network that the suits operate on and ensuring that there was no interference from other devices on the network. The control desk operator is also responsible for communication with the referee and the fighters and with the lighting director, and for operating the scoring software.

What did you learn from being the controller?

I learned that that there are many interdependent parts in the Lorica suit and the importance of the integration of the mechanical and electronics sides of the suits. A great learning was the importance of extensive testing and that the best way to learn is by doing. That is what the test event was about – finding out about how the sensor tech and Lorica suits performed in a full contact combat environment, what areas worked well and what areas require further refinement or improvements.

What was the most difficult thing about the role as controller?

One of the most difficult things was due to the location and setup of the pit crew area and the distance between that and the control desk. It meant a lot of running back and forth across the arena when there were technical issues such as flat batteries or loose connectors. It also meant there was a lot of traffic between the pit crew area and the control desk. For future events we learned the importance of locating these areas more closely together.

What did you learn from VTC1 in your role as controller?

That we have come a very long way in the eight or so years that we have been working on this business. The event proved that we have developed the suits and tech sufficiently far to successfully hold a full contact combat event, which was a major milestone for us. There are many areas where we can still improve, but the event showed me what a talented group of people we have working with us and the extraordinary things that can be achieved when talented people collaborate and work closely together to achieve a goal. All of us learned a lot about working crazy hours as well but we came through with some amazing content and some exciting fights and a clear plan on what work remains for us to continue to improve the suits and the technology.

What will you do differently next time?

I would make sure that we spend more time in pre-event briefing on the technical side for the pit crew so everyone has a really clear understanding of the importance of ensuring that all parts of the suits are set up exactly as they need to be to perform at their optimum levels.  This was very much a function of time pressure with the first event. Also any issues with sensors going offline had to be investigated and rectified and sometimes it wasn’t obvious where the problem lay, so we are developing better diagnostic tools in the software to help to isolate the causes of any issues for future events. There were a significant number of documented learnings from the event and we are already applying a prioritised list of those learnings to enhancements to the suits and the sensor tech and software.  It was amazing how well the event ran given the huge time constraints that we had.

VTC 1 The Technical Controller.

VTC 1 The Technical Controller. Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

 

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With our “Meet the VTC1 Team” Series we get up close and personal with some of the key personalities behind VTC1 including the fighters, the referee, our technical controller and armour designer to get their thoughts on VTC1 – what worked well, what challenges they faced, the many “lessons learned” and the next steps on the journey to create the Formula 1 of combat sports.

The Referee

Why do you need a referee at all in UWM?   Doesn’t the tech determine the scoring?

VTC1 was our very first UWM multi-warrior test event in which we put to task our new carbon fibre armour, the Lorica Mark II.  We had already conducted a range of full impact safety tests but were not sure how the armour and tech would hold up under full combat conditions and with different body shapes.  So, my primary role as referee was to focus on warrior safety, then to ensure the UWM Laws of Combat were complied with, and then to keep the fight flowing as much possible.  People want to see weapons in action, but when kills are recorded the ref has to jump in and indicate a life has been taken.  To do that, the ref gives a “throat-slitting” gesture to the warrior who had just lost a life or had otherwise been determined by the force measurement tech to have been “incapacitated”.

Why did you have an axe and shield?

That was a bit of an experiment and we will continue to experiment with different formats.  HEMA refs use staffs, but Asian weapons refs do not, so we wanted to try our own thing and be style neutral.  Also, the ref was not wearing carbon fibre armour but less protective softer commercially available armour.  Given some of the weapons we used are more than the weight of a baseball bat the composite UWM shield, which includes a layer of Kevlar, was chosen to help protect the ref against wild swings and weapon throws.  I remember taking a really big hit on the shield in the Wolf vs Ronin fight.  The shield can also be used to smother warriors, especially when they are locked for too long against the wall or have gone to ground for too long and need to be broken up.  A short bearded axe (tabarzin style) was also chosen as its beard can be used to hook arms and weapons if needed to help control a situation.

When were you required to intervene?

In addition to indicating a life being taken by using the “throat-slitting” gesture, and also to get the action moving again when the warriors were locked up for too long either against the wall or on the floor, we had a few safety moments where the armour came loose.  For example, one pauldron got ripped off and one of the side plates came loose too, so I had to jump in, call time halt, and summon the Pit Crew to make fast repairs – safety first.

In addition, we had a rule that warriors had to pick up any dropped/lost weapon within a time period or forfeit it, so I picked one up to enforce the rule.  But afterwards, we asked why did we have that rule at all?  Just leave it there, if they trip over it, tough shit, if they pick it up later on, great, if the other warrior picks it up and uses it against its owner, great!

What did you enjoy most about being a VTC1 ref?

First up, it was a real honour to be the first ever UWM referee.  Working out how to interface with cutting edge technology and its application to an ancient combat format – it’s really different and you have to improvise.  While this was a BETA test event, the tech worked better than expected, but there were still a number of tech glitches, and overcoming those and learning how we will do it all better next time was a brilliant experience.

However, the real highlight for me was working with the VTC1 UWM Warriors, the “Original Six” weapons fighters who travelled a long way internationally to put themselves on the front line for a combat format, harness of armour and technology system that they had never experienced before, because no one had.  I have huge respect for them and their pioneering spirit.  Plus, when you are in the arena with them and during each break you can see them pissing sweat and totally exhausted, you know they are giving it everything they’ve got. Each one of them is a true ambassador for the real spirit of martial arts, and it was a privilege to work with them and listen to their feedback.  I hope they will be back for VTC2, though I think we will be opening up a couple of extra places to the wider public, not just members of our Gladiator Program.

What did you learn from VTC1?

As a team we recorded numerous “lessons learned” from the VTC1 test event.  We are prioritising those for VTC2.  They are gold.

Next time the referee will need to try to create more combat flow, speed up the action and encourage other formats.  I was disappointed we did not try fights where our warriors were given one life only, or other weapon mixes like staff vs bokken, or staff vs twin kali sticks, (short vs long) or projectiles.

In addition, we had issues with the two way microphone in the referee’s helmet so had to revert to old school comms tech and visual cues to determine when the kills took place. We definitely have a range of tech improvements we will need to continue to make not only to the armour but the whole format.  However, that is precisely why we ran VTC1.

Finally, the warriors are so keen on winning they forget to showcase their skills sometimes.  In Gladiator, Maximus declares to Proximo “I am required to kill so I kill, that is enough.”  However, Proximo explains to Maximus “Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom”.  UWM warriors will need to win, but also entertain.

How do you think the role of the referee will change as UWM evolves?

As the UWM tech continues to be enhanced and we add better and better CGI, fight formats will have to adopt and so will the referee.  Microphones and helmet cams inside the helmet will add new dimensions.  The ref will be able to speak to the warriors in the helmets during a fight and the audience may be able to hear that.  Team events and/or mixed terrain formats will add to referee complexity.  It will definitely be interesting!

VTC 1 The Referee.

VTC 1 The Referee

 

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With our “Meet the VTC1 Team” Series we get up close and personal with some of the key personalities behind VTC1 including the fighters, the referee, our technical controller and armour designer to get their thoughts on VTC1 – what worked well, what challenges they faced, the many “lessons learned” and the next steps on the journey to create the Formula 1 of combat sports.

The Fighters – Josh “Ironheart” Bekker 

How long did it take to adjust to wearing the Lorica?

I’m not sure to be honest. All the fighters had up to two weeks prior to VTC1 of dedicated training to help prepare for the Lorica but more time is always better. I still think I would like some more time in the suit to become 100% familiar with it.

What was the most difficult thing about fighting in the Lorica?

There are a few things that certainly make the Lorica more difficult to fight in. First is the weight, I feel that Jim (The Fierce) and I may have possessed an advantage in this area; with more experience fighting in armour given our HEMA background. Also your peripheral vision is somewhat reduced which makes it harder to determine where your opponent’s weapon is coming from.

What was the best thing about fighting in the Lorica?

For me the best thing is definitely the ability to objectively determine the strength of the strikes and the winner. This is something that is missing in the current format within the majority of weapons based tournaments. Also knowing that both my opponent and I are 100% safe whilst able to fight at 100% intensity is absolutely awesome.

What suggestions do you have for improving the Lorica for future events?

If the Lorica had a lower profile with reduced weight that would be fantastic. Obviously you don’t want to compromise the high level of safety that the Lorica currently offers.  I think it’s about finding a good balance.

What changes would you like to see to the fight format for future events?

I think the community has had some fantastic suggestions. One idea that I particularly like is the introduction of a shock or movement restriction in areas where damage has occurred; although getting the tech right might be a bit tricky. Full body sensors would also be great. However, I personally wouldn’t want limbs to be scored as highly as vital targets – as this can encourage “sniping” of the hands for example and would reduce the viewer’s enjoyment.

How do you think you adapted your fight techniques as a result of wearing the Lorica?

Well in terms of cuts, they have to be a little bit wider than one would usually strike, as your profile is increased due to wearing the armour. I also noticed that I needed to block incoming strikes higher, due to the helmet being larger than what I’m used to. Furthermore, in regards to the blunt trauma scoring, you also want more follow through with your strikes, so there’s probably a little less flow between cuts as a result.

Having reviewed the fight footage how do you think you would adapt your fight strategy/techniques differently in future events?

I’m definitely one of those people that beats myself up and looks at the footage saying “You should have done this” or “Why’d I do that?”.  I thought that my fight with Rory was a little on the scrappy side, for a weapons bout. Although, I know a lot of people kind of liked that. But from a technical perspective ultimately I think I should have worked on my footwork and circling more to maintain the distance better; which is definitely something I’ll work on for my next fight.

How have you changed your training as a result of UWM – wearing the Lorica?

I have upped my physical training by adding body weights to my normal training regime. I identified endurance as an area where development was needed, given the additional weight of the Lorica suit. I have also included restricting oxygen intake to simulate the closed helmet environment of the Lorica suit to improve breathing and VO2 capability for the next UWM event.

 

Josh "Ironheart" Bekker

VTC 1 Fighter Josh “Ironheart” Bekker. Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

 

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With our “Meet the VTC1 Team” Series we get up close and personal with some of the key personalities behind VTC1 including the fighters, the referee, our technical controller and armour designer to get their thoughts on VTC1 – what worked well, what challenges they faced, the many “lessons learned” and the next steps on the journey to create the Formula 1 of combat sports.

The Fighters – Rory “Redrock” Trend

How long did it take to adjust to wearing the Lorica?

It took me until about the 6th round to become remotely relaxed in the confined space of the helmet and to become used to the massive increase in heart rate and body temperature. Add to this a completely foreign opponent, with different weapons and techniques, this all contributed to the initial stress of the opening rounds. What was the most difficult thing about fighting in the Lorica?

The most challenging aspect is that your peripheral vision and depth perception are reduced.  This makes it more challenging to anticipate precisely where the strikes are coming from and where they are going to land.

What was the best thing about fighting in the Lorica?

Being able to hit my opponent with full power without fear of harming him. It is a very realistic way to train full contact to the head and torso. 

What suggestions do you have for improving the Lorica for future events?

Introduce a visor that increases the field of vision, maybe something that pulls down.

What changes would you like to see to the fight format for future events?

I’m more than happy with the options available. I think with more time in the suit including training and practising instead of fighting will help to improve the flow when fighting.

How do you think you adapted your fight techniques as a result of wearing the Lorica?

This was what I was most disappointed with, I personally did not adapt very quickly or effectively.  I am confident within my style but not used to competing wearing armour. Like all things practise is critical so I’ll be focused on practising hard with the added challenge of wearing armour.

Having reviewed the fight footage how do you think you would adapt your fight strategy/techniques differently in future events? 

I think like most styles there are back foot fighters not willing to commit to the fight and waiting for counter attacks.  I think this is a much easier way to fight but if you have two people using the same strategy, it makes for a very hesitant and uninteresting battle. Setting the pace of a fight is more exciting but is less effective in the conditions where weapons are exacting quick kills. In short, in future I will not be over committed but will look to approach with a more balanced attack and defensive strategy.  

How have you changed your training as a result of UWM – wearing the Lorica?

I have purchased full contact training equipment with more restrictive vision.

 

Rory “Redrock” Trend

VTC 1 Fighter Rory “Redrock” Trend. Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

 

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Last week six leading weapons martial artists took to the UWM Arena in Wellington, New Zealand to compete in the first-ever Vital Target Combat (VTC) Underground Test Event.

The event was a great success and feedback from the fighters and attendees, as well as our own observations from the event will be used to continue to improve the Lorica armour and the fight format.

Check out the exclusive video in the link below from Stuff.co.nz and stay tuned as we put the finishing touches on our own content, which will include UWM commentary, slow-motion replays and interviews with all six fighters. http://bit.ly/VTC16

Weapons martial artist Fierce takes a break in between battles. Image: Kevin Stent/Fairfax NZ

Weapons martial artist Fierce takes a break in between battles. Image: Kevin Stent/Fairfax NZ

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Our six weapons martial arts have spent the last few days familiarising themselves with the Lorica Mk II armour. They have participated in pre-fight training sessions, armour fittings, pit crew rehearsals and interviews with our visiting film crew, who are creating footage that we will share with you over the coming months.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of the action.

One of the six VTC fighters, Ironheart, gets suited up for a pre-fight strike test.


 

The Wolf corners Redrock during a fight.


War Demon debriefs with UWM chairman Justin after a training session in the Lorica.


Ronin getting suited up for the first fight of the day.


Wolf Lorica Fitting

The pit crew make adjustments to the Wolf’s Lorica as he prepares for his fight.


Sixth Dan kendo master Martin Lee training with one of the 6 VTC fighters, HEMA expert Fierce.

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Not only will our fighters be competing in the high-tech Lorica Mk II suits for our  VTC events, they will be duelling with high-tech weapons made of a high impact composite material specially designed by our weapons master John Harvey. John was the lead armourer on the team who produced the original Lorica Mk 1 prototype and has spent many months developing and producing the training range of UWM branded weapons.

Here is a sneak peek at the weapons that will test the endurance, stamina and skill of our six chosen warriors.


BOKKEN

A wooden sword that originated in Japan, it is designed to lessen the damage caused by fighting with steel swords but nevertheless remains just as deadly in skilled hands.

Bokken


ZWEIHANDER

A hallmark weapon of the Middle Ages, the Zweihander is a German two-handed sword that requires strength and skill to wield.

Zweihander


LONG STAFF

A staple in Japanese martial arts, the Long Staff is used as the extension of one’s limbs with thrusting, swinging and striking techniques often resembling empty hand movements.

Staff


 

KALI STICKS

Being of Filipino origin, the Kali sticks are designed for defending against or reacting to certain angles of attack, bringing in a technical aspect the to use of this weapon.

Kali Sticks

 

 

 

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