Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Frequent travel, as I've written previously, is one of the nicer perquisites that come with being a World-Class knife fighter. (That, and never having to put up with other people's stupidity as long as there's a sharp blade within reach, are among the Top Five.) Conducting Acero Sevillano (Sevillian Steel) workshops on the West Coast is always an exciting proposition because of the sharp contrast between the pace and lifestyle there and here, in NYC. Moreover, workshop participants from Arcata and Seattle are very dedicated to their edged weapons skills, approaching their training with the same academic rigor that they approach their livelihoods and professions.

The salle sponsoring the workshop is the Academia della Spada in Seattle, a classical fencing venue where Cane fighting, French dagger, and Pugilism are taught alongside the more historical combat disciplines of Italian rapier, French smallsword, and, of course, Spanish rapier. I first met these fun-loving but hard-working martial fencers through my association with the Martinez Academy of Arms. In recent years, the members of the Academia have become major navaja enthusiasts and, together with the members of the Destreza Pacifica salle in Arcata, are well on the way to becoming responsible representatives of the weapon (navaja sevillana) on our western shore.

The navaja, however, in not the only dish on the menu for this weekend's activities. In keeping with the two salles' focus on historical but practical forms of combat, we will also be conducting training in French savate and chausson. Savate, of course, is the traditional martial art that almost exclusively uses the feet as weapons, with a few punches thrown in (pardon the pun) for good measure. Chausson is the original version of this combat, a quick and dirty style of street fighting practiced around the docks and bars of 18th century Marseille. As this style was gradually introduced to the French capital in the early 19th century, it was cleaned up and dignified in keeping with Parisian sensibilities. Ironically, the request by the west coast students to learn this kicking art is actually quite fitting for savate was often referred to by its documentarians as ... "fencing with the feet."