Thirty years ago, I gave up fencing.
This wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the experience, because I most certainly did. There was just something about a martial art that dominated the battlefield for thousands of years, building or toppling empires and changing the very course of human history, that spoke to me ALL IN CAPS!
There was a problem in that I was interested in fencing as a martial art, while just about everyone else was dedicated to making it a non-violent sport. Electric jackets and swords with extension cords. Brush the tip across the garment and make a buzzer sound. Hey, you won! Never mind that there wasn’t enough force behind the attack to pop a soap bubble, the buzzer doesn’t lie! All hail the buzzer!
Oh, there were a few people around who claimed that they were recreating historical combat techniques, but the extreme use of padded rattan and duct tape in the construction of their gear clearly showed that such claims were tenuous at best.
That armor has some pretty serious gaps! Even so, it is perfectly suited to stop blows from wooden rods that were about an inch thick.
Not very martial artsy, is it? Still, it was the only game in town. So I dabbled in it until I grew weary of the dissonance, and then drifted away. I thought that Columbus, Ohio would forever be an empty and yawning void so far as Western martial arts were concerned.
Boy, was I wrong!
A comment left on this blog led me to the Royal Arts Fencing Academy on Wednesday evening. This is a place that specializes in traditional sport fencing. You know, the stuff that left me cold three decades ago.
But the owners are not at all adverse to allowing others to use their facilities, even if those others are dedicated to the preservation of the warrior arts.
The solidly built gentleman on the left is Frank Zamary, one of the instructors. The luckless fellow getting his shirt poked is Jaron Bernstein, another instructor. After talking to them, I can attest that they really know their stuff!
An illustration of an underarm bind from 1467. It is no accident that it looks similar to the previous picture, as both Jaron and Frank are meticulous when it comes to researching time-proven techniques.
They were both extremely welcoming, and very kind. I had mentioned an interest in the use of sword and buckler some months ago, and when they heard I was coming they decided to have a class on the use of those very weapons.
The swords used are blunt training versions, edgeless and dull yet still weighted and balanced like the real thing. Nylon swords are available in case someone has a problem with the clash of metal blades, no matter how dulled they may be.
I was extremely impressed with the way that Jaron and Frank conducted themselves. They are delighted by the interest shown by others in their art, and are dedicated to helping others realize their potential.
Unlike other martial arts dojos I have visited, the focus is on the development of skills instead of stroking egos. In fact, I am certain that they will be puzzled that I even brought this subject up. (“What does he mean by that? There can be no ego when one practices this art!“)
The class meets at 5770 Westbourne Ave., Columbus, Ohio every Wednesday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM. The exterior is somewhat less than impressive, as it is located in the back row of a cinderblock strip mall.
But don’t let the drab facade fool you, as there is a well equipped salle d’armes to be found inside.
Neither Jaron nor Frank accept money for their efforts, but the owners of the Royal Arts Academy charge each attendee $50.00 USD per month for the use of their facilities. Equipment is provided in case you don’t have any personal gear. If this sounds at all appealing to you, and you live in the Columbus, Ohio area, the first step would be to show up wearing exercise clothes and see if it aligns with your interests. Tell them Rummel sent you!
Does that mean I will be there? Wish that I could, but my job keeps me away. Hopefully something else will come along to pay the bills with a more amenable schedule.