Monday, May 24, 2010


One of the obvious perks of being a World-Class knife-fighter is that you get paid to travel the globe, associate with other internationally-known individuals, train them and, if you are so moved (and why wouldn’t you be), learn from them as well. Apart from defensive tactics instructors in other lands who seek advanced training, there are innumerable members of the professional military, diplomatic corps, intelligence community, and “corporate expediters” who recognize that physical prowess is always limited and that firearms are unreliable within 21 feet.

Yet another perk of being an edged weapons training professional is that you do not have to put up with gawky tourists, snobby locals, or even embarrassing American liberals who travel unkempt, dress in Birkenstock sandals, Acorn T-shirts, and otherwise give us cosmopolitan New Yorkers a bad name. (Then again, for us that’s not so much a perk as it is a necessity.) Never underestimate the versatile and lasting value of our sharp and pointy companions.

Visiting the Mediterranean countries is especially gratifying because, while they now have very repressive knife laws in place, as a culture they nonetheless foster a knowing appreciation for the edged weapon. This is not only true in Spain, but throughout Portugal, Italy, France, Turkey, and Greece.

(Northern countries such as Britain and Germany tend to be significantly more – what’s the technical term – tight-assed when it comes to anything that might cut them (eek, eek), but this is slowly changing as martial artists continue to discover the importance of including edged weapons in their self-defense curricula. For the record, I’m not casting stones across the Pond; Americans too are quite pussified, that is, terrified, when one begins discussing the relative merits of edged and impact weapons – unless, of course, they’re being wielded by Matt Damon.)

In part, it was this innate Mediterranean appreciation for historical cut-and-thrust-arms that led Maestro Ramon Martinez, Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez, and me to begin leading intensive workshops in Europe in 2006. For one week in June of that year we traveled to the Loire Valley, in the company of 25 other fencers, and held daily training from dawn till noon. Foil, epee, saber, smallsword, and navaja were covered in exhaustive detail.

The 2008 workshop took place in Sicily where, appropriately, the long dueling stiletto was added to the curriculum.

And so, we will now be traveling to Arcos de la Frontera, one of the beautiful Pueblos Blancos on the Andalusian coast, bringing back to them the gentlemanly arts of Spanish steel that originated here centuries ago but which – like too many other venerable and once-indispensable pursuits – have been largely abandoned by the sedentary video-driven generations.

Tune back in; there's more to come…